Happening Today

Student-driver decals, First Night security

— Members of the House Ways and Means Committee have until 10 a.m. to vote on a bill that would require student drivers and junior operators to display decals on their vehicles. A similar bill passed the House last session.

— Mayor Marty Walsh and Boston Police Commissioner William Evans hold a press conference to discuss public safety precautions ahead of New Year’s Eve and First Night Boston celebrations, Eagle Room, Boston City Hall, 1:30 p.m.

Today’s Stories

MEMA issues warning on potentially life-threatening cold

It was cold yesterday when the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency issued its warning about residents taking extra precautions both inside and outside their homes – and it’s going to be even colder today. One of the big fears: Improper use of indoor heating systems, from space heaters to old-fashioned pot-belly wood stoves, reports MassLive. Here’s a state web page on how to handle different heating systems.

Fyi: Six people were left homeless one day after Christmas after an early-morning fire destroyed a two-family home in South Quincy, the Patriot Ledger reports. The cause: A space heater. Fyi II, from the Herald: “Boston’s homeless shelters are overflowing thanks to this week’s vicious cold snap, with the city’s largest shelter, the Pine Street Inn, over capacity by nearly 100 people.”


Task force: Raise booze taxes, reduce liquor restrictions

From Dan Adams at the Globe: “The price of beer, wine, and liquor in Massachusetts would increase, but unpopular restrictions on the sale of alcohol would go away, under a radical proposed overhaul of the state’s byzantine booze laws that’s expected to be unveiled by a government-appointed task force Thursday. The proposals include increasing the state’s excise taxes on beer, wine, and liquor by about 50 percent and banning discounts for package stores and bars for buying bulk quantities from wholesalers.”

Reforms of the state’s rigged and antiquated liquor-control system are desperately needed, but we’re not sure the tax idea will fly on Beacon Hill, where memories of Question 1 are still fresh. The office of Treasurer Deb Goldberg, who convened the task force nearly a year ago, is already signaling the treasurer may move fast on some recommendations, slow on others and not at all on a few, according to the Globe report.

Boston Globe

Rep. Crighton headed to the Senate unless a write-in Republican steps forward

Another uncontested legislative race is in the offing, this time in the special election to replace state Sen. Tom McGee in Lynn. Tom Grillo at the Lynn Item reports that state Rep. Brendan Crighton, a Democrat, was the only candidate this week to file papers to run for the seat soon to be vacated by McGee, now the mayor-elect of Lynn. The result: Crighton will be the next Third Essex senator unless a Republican candidate mounts a write-in campaign.

For those who like contested elections, here’s some good news: Three candidates have already declared they’re running to replace Crighton in the House — Ward 6 City Councilor Peter Capano, City Councilor-at-Large Hong Net and Drew Russo, executive director of the Lynn Museum.

Lynn Item

Barnstable official drops gubernatorial bid, eyes running against Rep. Hunt

At least it will be a contested legislative race. From SHNS’s Andy Metzger: “Ending his prospective primary challenge against Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican elected to the Barnstable County Commission plans to mount a campaign against Rep. Randy Hunt, a Sandwich Republican. ‘He’s never faced a primary challenger,’ Ron Beaty told the News Service. He said, ‘As much as he would like to be nonchalant about it, I believe he is concerned.’ Beaty has publicly clashed with Hunt before and criticized the party’s establishment wing.”

SHNS (pay wall)

‘Project Rufus’: Baker administration compiled personal dossiers on Amazon execs for HQ2 bid

Though its approach toward the Amazon headquarters bid was questioned by some (i.e., pitching the entire state, not a specific site), it appears the Baker administration nevertheless threw itself into the HQ2 bidding wars with a vengeance, compiling personal dossiers on top Amazon executives and Gov. Charlie Baker making high-level calls before submitting a bid, reports Jordon Graham at the Herald. The behind-the-scenes code-name for the state’s bid campaign: ‘Project Rufus,’ named after an early Amazon employee’s dog who was an unofficial company mascot.

Boston Herald

Prepay Mania, Part II: IRS issues caution on prepaying property taxes

In case you’re thinking of rushing off to your local town hall with checkbook in hand, think again. From the Globe: “The Internal Revenue Service announced Wednesday that taxpayers could prepay their 2018 property taxes only if they have already received a tax assessment from their local government and they make payment by the end of the year.” 

 We’re not sure this clarifies matters much. And it will probably add to the confusion at town and city halls, where, we assume, officials will now be inundated with requests to clarify the IRS clarification. More on the IRS advisory at the NYT.

Meanwhile, Prepay Charitable Donations Mania breaks out …

Charities across the state are urging people to make tax-deductible donations before the end of the year – and before new charitable-deduction rules take effect, thanks again to the GOP tax overhaul plan. The Globe’s Andy Rosen and Jonathan Saltzman have more.

Boston Globe

Legislation calls for young drivers to display decal on car warning that they’re, well, young

From SHNS’s Matt Murphy at MetroWest Daily News: “Student and junior drivers would have to buy and display a decal or magnet on their car indicating that they are still learning to drive or subject to certain driving restrictions under a bill moving in the Massachusetts House. The House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday opened voting on legislation (H 2761) filed by Reps. RoseLee Vincent of Revere and Donald Wong of Saugus.”

MetroWest Daily News

WGBH’s top local commentaries of 2017

WGBH News has a roundup of its top five commentaries of 2017, including Harvey Silverglate’s mini-classic ‘How Robert Mueller Tried To Entrap Me.’ Other columns are by Callie Crossley, Dan Kennedy, Wendy Kaminer and David Bernstein. Check ‘em out.

Fyi: WGBH’s media critic Dan Kennedy has a separate list of his most-read columns in 2017, including his top piece “A Major New Study Shows That Political Polarization Is Mainly A Right-Wing Phenomenon.”


Frozen out at City Hall skating rink?

Natasha Ishak at CommonWealth magazine takes a look at the fees charged to lace up some skates and take to the ice at the Boston Winter festival on City Hall Plaza. While some think the prices are too steep—a family of four can spend more than $85 to glide around for an hour—the rates seem to match up with other city skating sites around the country. 


A synthetic marijuana-caused OUI arrest …

It’s true: A Bridgewater man was arrested on drugged driving charges in Abington earlier this week, after allegedly smoking synthetic marijuana, driving erratically and then nearly crashing head-on into another car, reports Tom Relihan at the Patriot Ledger. Frankly, we had to look up ‘synthetic marijuana,’ known as ‘spice’ on the streets, and we got our answer at Wikipedia.

Patriot Ledger

.. and Granby votes for one-year marijuana moratorium

Speaking of marijuana, of the real kind, from Jim Russell at MassLive: “(Granby) Town Meeting has approved a moratorium on retail marijuana sales that will be in effect until Nov. 30, 2018. Granby officials said the temporary ban will allow the planning board time to enact bylaws to appropriately regulate businesses that may choose to sell recreational marijuana in the community. They said it is also makes sense to wait for state regulators of the substance to enact rules prior to the town deciding what sort of bylaws might be needed.”


Cape Wind founder reflects on a ‘worthy’ – and expensive and futile – battle

The fight over Cape Wind seemed like it would never end. But it finally did end in 2017, after Cape Wind founder Jim Gordon officially called it quits earlier this month. He tells Mary Ann Bragg at the Cape Cod Times that it was a “worthy fight” against a “little over the top” opposition. So how much did the energy veteran spend on the Cape Wind campaign? A cool $100 million. Opponents spent $40 million .

Speaking of opponents, Audra Parker, head of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, says in a separate story by Bragg that she’s still “sleeping with one eye open” until the government paperwork is completed ending Cape Wind’s offshore lease. She says her group eventually plans to turn its full attention to its true mission, protecting the Sound and traditional uses such as recreation and fishing.

Cape Cod Times

The Prouty Garden saga that won’t go away …

The long battle over Cape Wind may have ended, but another protracted battle is still around, somewhat amazingly. From Max Stendahl at the BBJ: “Opponents of Boston Children’s Hospital’s decision to construct a building on the site of a beloved garden have appealed a court ruling that allowed the project to move forward. A group of advocates for the Prouty Garden filed a notice of appeal on Wednesday, challenging an October ruling in Suffolk Superior Court in favor of the hospital.”


Kinder Morgan prepped for pipeline protests well in advance

Kinder Morgan began working with Mass. State Police nearly a year before it began work on a controversial pipeline project, apparently anticipating activist protests that would accompany the work, Heather Bellow of the Berkshire Eagle reports, citing emails obtained by the newspaper. The company has paid $1 million to the agency for security work on the project, which some opponents say should not have been handled by a public agency. 

Berkshire Eagle

Union warns of hardships tied to nursing home closures

From SHNS’s Katie Lannan: “Health care workers are sounding the alarm over the state of the nursing home industry in Massachusetts, pointing to closures in Needham and Canton. In testimony to the Department of Public Health Tuesday, the union 1199SEIU called the anounced closure of two Kindred Health Care facilities “sudden, unexpected and deeply disappointing.”

SHNS (pay wall)

Faneuil Hall to close in January for renovations

From Kristin LaFratta at MassLive: “Historic Faneuil Hall, the meeting space which once hosted American revolutionaries and civil rights pioneers, will close for the month of January. The city of Boston will conduct repairs and renovations on the historic, 275-year-old brick building that sits adjacent to the Faneuil Hall Marketplace.”


Activist: The Safe Communities Act will actually save money, not cost money

Jonathan Cohen, an activist with Progressive Massachusetts, is taking shots at the conservative Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance for trying to block passage of the Safe Community Act, arguing the act will actually save communities money by not having to comply with burdensome federal immigration requests.


The report that never was …

The MBTA never produced a report sought by a top agency official looking into why its commuter rail service provider Keolis was not being responsive to requests for public-safety information, Matt Stout of the Herald reports. A spokesman tells Stout the T has had in-depth discussions with Keolis on public safety even though the formal report sought by Steve Adkins, the T’s director of maintenance for railroad operations, was never written. 

Boston Herald

Springfield continues to lag rest of state in jobs growth

The city of Springfield is seeing job growth but continues to lag well behind the eastern part of the state, Jim Kinney of MassLive reports. Springfield’s November unemployment rate of 6.3 percent is more than double Boston’s 3 percent rate and substantially higher than the state’s overall rate of 3.6 percent. Still, the city should see a significant boost in employment later next year when the MGM Springfield casino opens its doors. 


Hurry, while the deal lasts – Gardner Museum’s bonus $5M reward

Less than three days to go for a tipster to claim a $10 million reward for information leading to the recovery of the 13 pieces of stolen art from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. If no one steps forward by the end of Sunday, the reward reverts back $5 million. Camila Domonoske at WBUR has the details.


Stay tuned in 2018 for more Beacon Hill Town Square events!

Today’s Headlines


Boston’s homeless shelters overflow amid bitter cold snap – Boston Herald

Faneuil Hall to close for fix-up until spring – Boston Herald


School Committee to revisit Title IX policy in response to DeVos guidance – Telegram & Gazette

South Hadley to accept property tax payments early – Hampshire Gazette

Mass. alcohol laws need massive rewrite, task force concludes – Boston Globe


How the banks won over Washington again – Politico

Roy Moore sues to block Alabama senate result, citing ‘election integrity’ – Washington Post

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