Happening Today

Green Line meeting with feds

Federal Transit Authority and state officials meet about a risk assessment on the stalled Green Line Extension project, which would bring trolley service into Somerville and Medford. 

Clean power lobbying

Mass Power Forward coalition will meet at an office on Beacon Hill before visiting the State House to urge lawmakers to support clean energy and fund a decommissioning of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, Appalachian Mountain Club, 5 Joy St., 10:30 a.m.

House in formal session

The House plans a formal session at 11 a.m.

Veterans’ Service luncheon

Gov. Charlie Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Secretary of Veterans’ Services Francisco Urena, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, Senate President Stan Rosenberg, Auditor Suzanne Bump and Treasurer Deborah Goldberg attend the Veterans’ Service Officers Legislative Luncheon, Grand Staircase and Great Hall, 11 a.m.

Governor’s Council

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito chairs a meeting of the Governor’s Council for a possible vote on confirming Concord attorney C. William Barrett to the Superior Court bench, Council Chamber, 12 p.m.

Baker’s 2018 fiscal budget

Gov. Baker announces the administration’s fiscal 2018 budget proposal, Room 157, 2:30 p.m.

Re-opening of Neely House

Gov. Baker participates in the re-opening of the Neely House at Tufts Medical Center, 800 Washington Street, Boston, 6:30 p.m.

GOP Party chair election

Republican State Committee chairwoman Kirsten Hughes will seek to retain the party leadership position, facing a challenge from activist Steve Aylward, Newton Marriott, 2345 Commonwealth Ave., Newton, 7 p.m.

Today’s Stories

Baker: I am not Donald Trump

He never explicitly distanced himself from Donald Trump, but Gov. Charlie Baker, during his State of the Commonwealth address last night, made clear he was indeed distancing himself from the combative president and the entire Washington establishment, for that matter, reports the Globe’s Laura Krantz and Joshua Miller and the Herald’s Matt Stout. By and large, his bi-partisan message received a warm welcome last night on Beacon Hill, prompting Rep. Patricia Haddad, a Somerset Democrat, to say the speech was “uplifting” and appropriate, reports SHNS’s Matt Murphy (pay wall). “It just makes me feel good that — I’m going to say something really crazy but — there’s no Democrat or Republican.”

Fyi: Baker did talk about other issues, such as the MBTA, education, taxes, mental health reforms, veterans’ tax credits and other topics, as reported by Shira Schoenberg at MassLive. Here’s the full text of the speech via the Globe.

Would-be mayor arrested at council meeting despite his very ‘special’ status

About the same time Gov. Baker was preaching the politics of cooperation on Beacon Hill, nearly all the way across the state, police led a former mayoral candidate out of a Pittsfield City Council meeting in handcuffs after he refused to stop speaking, Carrie Saldo of the Berkshire Eagle reports. In between the disruption and being escorted from the meeting—a moment captured expertly in a photo by Saldo—Craig Gaetni said he couldn’t wait two weeks for the next public comment period to speak.  “Plus I think I’m a little bit more special than most people in the city of Pittsfield,” he said. 

Berkshire Eagle

Dems and Republicans find common ground: Repealing the medical device tax

By the way, there are indeed rare occasions when Democrats and Republicans cooperate in Washington. Example: Even though Dems are vowing to protect ObamaCare, members of the state’s Congressional delegation – led by Reps. Seth Mouton, Stephen Lynch and Katherine Clark — are practically falling all over themselves to support repeal of a key funding component of the Affordable Care Act: the multibillion-dollar medical devices tax that’s despised by the state’s influential biomedical industry, reports the BBJ’s Max Stendahl. Moulton and other sophomore House members are even urging House Speaker Paul Ryan to fast-track a bill killing the tax, the BBJ reports.


Markey wants Trump’s finger off the nuclear button

It doesn’t stand a chance of passage. Still, U.S. Sen. Edward Markey is hoping, via a bill he filed yesterday, to strip President Trump of his presidential power to launch a nuclear first strike without a declaration of war by Congress, reports the Globe’s Tyler Page.  “President Trump has suggested that he would consider launching nuclear attacks against terrorists,” Markey said in a statement. “Unfortunately, by maintaining the option of using nuclear weapons first in a conflict, U.S. policy provides him with that power.” Read the whole story – and Trump’s recent comments about nuclear weapons. They don’t exactly engender confidence in his temperament and judgment.

Boston Globe

Who says Bob and Stan can’t get along?

House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Stan Rosenberg have had their share of Beacon Hill spats over the years. But the pair found behind-the-scenes common ground when it came to the controversial pay raises lawmakers are poised to ram through the Legislature this week, even submitting a draft bill of the plan to the state’s ethics commission before it was publicly announced, reports CommonWealth’s Jack Sullivan. Gotta hand it to them: The controversial pay-raise legislation was brilliantly planned, timed and popped.


But what will Baker do on the pay raises?

The Herald’s editorial board seems to be holding out hope that Gov. Charlie Baker can/will veto the planned pay raises lawmakers are expected to vote on later this week for legislators, constitutional officers and other public officials. But the Herald’s Howie Carr isn’t expecting much from Baker, based on his not mentioning the pay-raise issue during his State of the Commonwealth speech last night (“not one single word”). So how many people will actually get raises, expected to cost a total of about $18 million? The Globe’s Frank Phillips found “hidden deep” in the pay-raise legislation “a slew of salary increases for court clerks and assistant clerks — and even for an old political hand, Steve Murphy, the Suffolk County register of deeds.”

Takeover of T retirement fund, rainy-day funding boost, and other budget goodies …

Following up on the speech last night, Gov. Baker today plans to unveil his fiscal 2018 budget, details of which are starting to dribble out. The Herald’s Matt Stout reports the budget may include a provision allowing the state to take over the MBTA’s troubled pension system, but Matt notes there’s a big caveat: The T Retirement Fund itself would also have to OK the move. That’s a big caveat indeed. Meanwhile, the Globe’s Joshua Miller is reporting that Baker, in an effort to boost the state’s rainy day fund before the economy possibly heads south, will propose automatically placing funds in the emergency account every year. 

With no cap, six-figure cash-outs continue for state employees

Sixty-nine workers received more than $60,000 in payouts when they left state jobs in 2016 and four departed with golden parachutes worth $100,000 or more, Shira Schoenberg of MassLive reports, citing a review of data from the state comptroller’s office. Gov. Baker tried to cap the amount of sick and vacation time workers could sell back to the state last year and intends push legislation to do so again this week. 


Green light on Green Line extension?

Federal and state transportation officials powwow today and tomorrow about the stalled Green Line extension project amid optimism that the new Trump administration will OK federal funding for the over-budget transit project, reports the Globe’s Travis Andersen. In other T news, the MBTA has given the-ahead for a new $16.9 million station in Mattapan along the Fairmont commuter rail line, reports John Element and Andy Rosen at the Globe.

Boston Globe

Walsh on cousin’s promotion: ‘It’s not nepotism’

From the Herald: “Mayor Martin J. Walsh is defending his Boston cop cousin’s promotion to a top command post from her prior job as his driver — a move that is drawing fire from watchdogs. ‘It’s not nepotism. … She should not be penalized because her cousin is the mayor of Boston,” Walsh told the Herald yesterday, citing Sgt. Detective Winifred Cotter’s 31 years of experience.” Glad that’s cleared up.

Boston Herald

Slew of bills target Pilgrim safety issues

Cape Cod lawmakers have filed or refiled a number of bills aimed at requiring the operators of the troubled Pilgrim Station Nuclear Plant to step up public notification of issues at the facility, Christine Legere of the Cape Cod Times reports. Some legislation also looks ahead to the process of closing the plant, which is now scheduled to begin shutting down in mid-2019. 

Cape Cod Times

Healey: State will ‘vigorously defend’ assault weapons ban

Attorney General Maura Healey is vowing to “vigorously defend” the state against a gun-rights group’s lawsuit that seeks to overturn the Bay’s State’s assault weapons ban, reports SHNS’s Katie Lannan at the Milford Daily News. “This has never been about grabbing guns from people,” Healey said on WGBH radio yesterday. “I respect the Second Amendment, but we have a law on the books, and it’s an important law. It says that civilians can’t walk around with or be in possession of military-style assault weapons, weapons that were made for military use to kill.”

Milford Daily News

Institute sounds the alarm over METCO’s future

METCO, the state’s voluntary school desegregation program that recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, deserves credit for closing racial education achievement gaps and opening education and career doors for minorities. But the Pioneer Institute is worried about complacency: “Despite its proven track record, METCO receives inconsistent funding from the state and districts. The program has a waiting list of approximately 10,000 students, due in large part to its demonstrable academic success. We must expand and reform this program.”

Pioneer Institute

They like you Charlie but …

Steve Koczela, president of the MassINC Polling Group and a contributor to WBUR Politicker, notes that people are generally happy with the state’s economy, education system and their Republican governor. But a recent WBUR poll also shows deep dissatisfaction with Donald Trump and with rising health-care and housing costs in Massachusetts, all of which pose unique challenges for Baker moving forward, he notes. 


Warren, Markey target of protests of a completely different kind in Springfield

Dozens of people yesterday demonstrated outside the Springfield offices of U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey. Did the duo say or do something wrong that upset people? Just the opposite. The rally was to thank the lawmakers for speaking out against President Trump’s cabinet nominees and to urge them to continue the fight, reports Dan Glaun at MassLive.


See you in court: Healey seeks more legal power to go after employers over pay

From Greg Ryan at the BBJ: “Massachusetts Attorney General Maura has proposed legislation that would enable her to sue construction firms and other employers accused of stiffing workers on pay, a move that her office said would allow it to seize monetary penalties from businesses more quickly.”


Has Harvard Kennedy School lost its way?

Writing at Boston Magazine, Malcolm Burnley says the Harvard Kennedy School is losing relevancy just when it’s needed most: “When the Kennedy family bestowed its name on Harvard’s school of government more than 50 years ago, HKS was supposed to inspire and produce the next generation of political lions. But as we venture deeper into this era of hyper-contentious politics in DC, it remains to be seen whether the school is going to play a relevant role and provide much-needed leadership and solutions.”

Boston magazine

Judge tosses taxi drivers’ Uber suit

A federal judge ruled Tuesday that taxi operators suing the state over its regulation of ride-hailing services failed to demonstrate that cabbies are being hurt by the new law, Travis Andersen of the Globe reports. U.S. District Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton tossed out the suit, which was filed by the Boston Taxi Owners Association in September. 

Boston Globe

Hunger, homelessness up at state colleges

A third of the state’s public colleges and universities are seeing increases in homelessness and hunger among their students, the state’s higher education board was told on Wednesday. The president of North Shore Community College said a third of students on her campus reported sometimes going without food and 20 percent self-reported as not having a permanent home, Louise Kennedy of WBUR reports. 


The ‘GE C’s’?

General Electric is expected to announce today that it will become a major sponsor of the Boston Celtics, David L. Harris of the Boston Business Journal reports. The deal will reportedly include putting GE logos on the team’s home jerseys. 


Today’s Headlines


Who isn’t thinking of running for City Council in Roxbury? – Universal Hub

Mayor Walsh endorses legislative pay raises – WGBH

General Electric, Celtics to announce sponsorship deal – Boston Business Journal

Pay package includes raise for Suffolk register of deeds – Boston Globe


Former mayoral candidate arrested after disruption at council meeting – Berkshire Eagle

McGovern files amendment to overturn Citizens United – Hampshire Gazette

Worcester unemployment increased in December, declined in 2016 – Worcester Business Journal

Discrimination lawsuit against Brockton Police Department moves forward – Brockton Enterprise

Baker ‘ absolutely’ should have been at the women’s march, Moulton says – Boston Globe

Senate going on the road again – CommonWealth Magazine

State’s public colleges see rise in hunger, homelessness – Boston Globe

Taxi owners lose challenge of law on ride-hailing operations – Boston Globe

What did Massachusetts spend on employee buyouts last year? Nearly 70 state workers cashed out more than $60,000 – MassLive

WMass reps praise Gov. Charlie Baker’s speech for talk of opioids, broadband, homelessness – MassLive

In A Thematic Speech, Gov. Baker Decried The Politics Of Insult, Urged Dialogue To Keep Mass. Moving Forward – WGBH

Worcester city council backs larger police recruit class, more command staff – Telegram & Gazette

Cape legislators target Pilgrim safety – Cape Cod Times


Zuckerberg says he is not planning presidential bid – Politico

Trump to order building of wall, crackdown on sanctuary cities – Washington Post

Citing ‘carnage’ in Chicago, Trump threatens federal intervention – New York Times

The sorest winner of all time cannot stop whining – Washington Post

Markey wants to curb Trump’s power to launch nuclear weapons – Boston Globe

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