House and Senate formal sessions, hospital mergers, DREAM Act
— The House holds a formal session to ceremonially kick off the second year of the two-year session, with Speaker Robert DeLeo offering general remarks about the upcoming legislative agenda, 11 a.m.
— The Senate plans a formal session, primarily to hold a ceremonial swearing-in of Sen. Dean Tran, who has already taken the oath of office, with Gov. Charlie Baker expected to attend; former Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, now a member of the Cannabis Control Commission, will also give remarks, Gardner Auditorium, 11 a.m.
— The Health Policy Commission meets to discuss the final cost and market impact review report on the proposed merger between Partners Healthcare and the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, 50 Milk St., 8th Floor, Boston, 10 a.m.
— U.S. Sen. Edward Markey joins Eva Millona of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition for a press conference calling for immediate passage of the DREAM Act, JFK Federal Building, 9th floor, 15 New Sudbury Street, Boston, 10:45 a.m.
— Treasurer Deborah Goldberg chairs a meeting of the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust Board, Treasurer’s Office, Room 227, 11 a.m.
— Department of Public Health holds a hearing to accept public comments on the planned hospitals merger of the Beth Israel Deaconess system, Lahey Health, New England Baptist Hospital, Mount Auburn Hospital and Anna Jaques Hospital into a new system that would include 13 hospitals, Newburyport City Hall auditorium, 60 Pleasant St., Newburyport, 5:00 p.m.
So what is a ‘bombogenesis’? You’re about to find out. Or you can read about it beforehand via the Globe’s Martin Finucane. Anyway, long story short: The region is about to get socked with up to a foot of snow, in addition to the ridiculous cold weather that’s only expected to get worse this weekend, as WHDH-TV reports. The Herald’s Joe Dwinell has more on the coming ‘bombogenesis,’ a true Herald word if there ever was one. And expect lots of school and other delays/cancellations over the next 36 hours, as the Globe reports.
Fyi: Universal Hub’s French Toast Alert System has been elevated to ‘high.’ UH also reports that, as of 9:07 p.m. last night, the Jackson Square Stop & Shop was running low on eggs, but milk supplies were OK. That will change during the course of today, of course.
Cold spell putting pressure on oil-fired power plants
First it was natural-gas pipeline constraints and spot-market price spikes. Now it’s oil-fired power plants feeling the frigid-weather squeeze. From Bruce Mohl at CommonWealth magazine: “New England’s power grid operator said on Tuesday that the system is ‘operating under normal conditions,’ but warned that the prolonged cold snap is driving up wholesale electricity prices and putting a squeeze on power plants that run on oil.”
Meanwhile, cold spell putting the T to the test
It’s sort of the Massachusetts equivalent of watching a train wreck, except it’s watching for a possible system-wide train wreck. From Mike Deehan at WGBH: “Massachusetts’ aging transit infrastructure doesn’t mix well with cold temperatures. Icy tracks, frozen locomotives and the inevitable crush of snow will cause delays for commuters, in spite of Gov. Charlie Baker’s effort to winterize the T. The MBTA has been advising riders to add 20 minutes to their planned commute this week because of delays caused by the cold. Ferry service from Hingham has been suspended because of damage to a dock and the Red Line has been forced to slow down along a stretch in Dorchester to prevent air valves from freezing up.”
SHNS’s Katie Lannan at the Enterprise has more on how all eyes are on the T – and the Baker administration. Meanwhile, a fed-up Jamaica Plain man is challenging Gov. Baker and legislators to ride the T for five consecutive work days to see what passengers have to endure on a daily basis, reports Adam Vaccaro at the Globe.
‘Keeping outside contractors in line’
Speaking of the T, the transit agency has run into a small problem as it moves to privatize services: It’s not very good at overseeing private-sector contractors. It’s not just the Keolis rail-service contract, but also the private vendors running the Ride, parking garages etc. The Globe’s Adam Vaccaro has more.
Not so fast: Quincy mayor opposes Walsh’s plan to rebuild Long Island Bridge
So much for one of Mayor Walsh’s inaugural-speech ideas. From the Patriot Ledger’s John Philip Cotter at Wicked Local: “A proposal to rebuild the connection to Long Island is a bridge too far for Quincy officials. Mayor Thomas Koch and other local lawmakers are calling for Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to rethink his plans to rebuild the bridge to Long Island, and for Boston to consider ferry service instead.” The ferry-service idea is a no-go for Boston officials, reports CommonWealth’s Jack Sullivan, who adds Boston is also facing funding hurdles if it wants to rebuild the bridge.
Mitt’s Utah Moment
Former Massachusetts Gov. and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney was officially mum yesterday about whether he would seek the seat to be vacated by Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, who announced yesterday he won’t be running for re-election. But most people surrounding Romney say his candidacy is a foregone conclusion, although others say he’s still weighing the pluses and minuses of a Utah bid, as the Globe’s Matt Viser and the Herald’s Kimberly Atkins report. One tea-leaf sign Mitt is running: He suddenly changed his Twitter location to Utah yesterday, CNN reports.
The Herald’s Joe Battenfeld says it’s just a matter of time before Romney and President Trump go at it: “Now that Hatch is leaving, Trump is likely to try to find a crony who has the guts to challenge Romney in his home state.” Susan David at WBUR reports the White House yesterday wouldn’t commit to the president campaigning for Mitt. Meanwhile, the Herald’s Howie Carr makes a good point: Why is everyone assuming that Mitt, if elected, will emerge as the Republican “voice of opposition” to Trump, when it was only a year ago that he was groveling to be Trump’s secretary of state?
Galvin eyes ballot-handling in contested Leominster election
The office of Secretary of State William Galvin is investigating whether the city of Leominster violated any state laws when it mishandled ballots on election night in November, Peter Jasinski of the Sentinel and Enterprise reports. The city clerk acknowledges that some boxes of ballots arrived at City Hall from voting precincts unsealed. The election was the focus of a recount in the mayoral race, with incumbent Dean Mazzarella—the state’s longest-serving mayor—eventually prevailing.
Civil War soldier’s Medal of Honor nomination to get new review
Attention history buffs: A Massachusetts Civil War soldier’s role in the capture of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s son during the Battle of Sailor’s Creek in Virginia in 1865 is getting a new Medal of Honor review, after the descendants of Cpl. David D. White, a soldier from Berkshire County, accused Army officials of recently “mishandling the case and being unwilling to admit they were wrong after the fact,” reports Dan Lamothe at the Washington Post. Among others, U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, as well as U.S. Reps. Richard Neal and Niki Tsongas, had previously recommended that White receive the Medal of Honor. They appear to have a good case.
Finally: Baker releases earmarked funds
This is real government insider stuff, but it’s mighty important to many constituents, advocates and lawmakers, to wit: The Baker administration has finally decided to release tens of millions of dollars in withheld earmarks for various state programs, after determining that the state’s fiscal outlook has improved a bit over recent months. The Globe’s Frank Phillips and SHNS’s Michael Norton (pay wall) have the details.
The indignity: Rosenberg relegated to State House basement office
This doesn’t bode well for his Senate presidency comeback. From Matt Stout at the Herald: “Former Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg, who a month ago worked out of an ornate, third-floor State House suite, has resettled in a basement office amid an ongoing ethics probe. Rosenberg and four staffers now inhabit his new, nondescript digs in Room 70 of the State House’s east wing, which lacked a formal nameplate when a Herald reporter visited yesterday.”
Back for seconds: Pot firm now wants to open marijuana sales center in Palmer
From Jim Russell at MassLive: “A medical marijuana company, Altitude Organics Corp. of Massachusetts, already approved to grow the drug in (Palmer), is now seeking the planning board’s permission to open a sales center at the firm’s 8 Chamber Road location. The Palmer Planning Board will convene a public hearing at 7 p.m. Jan. 8 at Town Hall, 4417 Main St., to elicit comment from residents about the proposal.”
Second firm offers $5.75M for Herald, topping GateHouse’s bid
A bidding war for the bankrupt Boston Herald? It appears that way. From Brian Dowling at the Herald: “A Florida investment group is pledging a $5.75 million bid for the Boston Herald, the second public bid for the tabloid since it filed for bankruptcy in December. Revolution Capital Group in Tampa filed its bid yesterday with the federal bankruptcy court in Delaware. The company previously offered to buy the Herald in 2013.” GateHouse Media has already made an offer to buy the Herald for $4.5 million.
As the BBJ’s Greg Ryan notes, Revolution Capital, which used to own the Tampa Tribune, is led by Robert Loring, a Scituate native who once interned on the Herald’s sports desk and still has a house in the Boston area.
Worcester Telegram photographer quits, saying she can’t take GateHouse Media anymore
Normally, the resignation of a staff photographer or reporter at a newspaper wouldn’t necessarily be newsworthy. But with the Boston Herald poised to possibly be taken over by GateHouse Media, it’s suddenly news, as media critic Dan Kennedy notes.
Herald columnist Peter Gelzinis steps away from the keyboard after 45 years
Now this is definitely newsworthy and we don’t know how we missed it last week: Long-time Boston Herald columnist Peter Gelzinis has retired, writing his final column last week, as he prepares for the next stage of his life — just hanging out with his grandson Jack. David Boeri at WBUR has a nice send-off piece for Peter, an institution at the Herald. Great job and thanks, Peter.
GOP-tied advocacy group barred from ballot-question activity in 2018
You have to really screw up to get slapped with this sort of punishment. From Matt Stout at the Herald: “An obscure nonprofit with ties to Bay State Republicans is accused of disguising more than $1.2 million in donations from businesses, wealthy advocates, and even Mitt Romney’s federal committee before funneling them toward two failed ballot questions backed by Gov. Charlie Baker, state officials disclosed yesterday. The group, Strong Economy for Growth, was ordered to pay a $31,000 penalty and register with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance with the agreement it would be barred from all ‘election-related activity’ in 2018.”
New Bedford to expand police cameras in ‘distressed neighborhoods’
New Bedford officials say they will spend nearly $200,000 to expand a network of police cameras in the city, with a focus on ‘distressed neighborhoods,’ Aimee Chiavaroli of the Standard-Times reports. Officials plan to use crime reports and other data to map out where the cameras will provide the most value.
Markey: Trump is a dreamer all right — a border wall dreamer
From Shannon Young at MassLive: “U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, accused Republican leaders Tuesday of playing ‘political games’ with the futures of immigrants brought to the country as children, adding that the only ‘dream’ President Donald Trump cares about ‘is his empty one of a border wall. With Congress facing a March 5 deadline to pass a bill addressing those impacted by the Trump administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program phase out, Markey called on lawmakers to work together on a bipartisan solution.”
Businesses actually want stronger clean-energy mandates
Cynthia Curtis, a senior vice president of sustainability at commercial real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle and a member of Ceres, a sustainability nonprofit representing major investors and companies, says there’s more than a few local companies out there – including New Balance and Legal Sea Foods – that actually want to increase the state’s renewable portfolio standard, or the amount of clean energy utilities must purchase. She explains at CommonWealth magazine.
The Big Bucks Third
David Bernstein at WGBH looks at what’s shaping up to be a very expensive Third Congressional District race, far more expensive than previous U.S. House elections in 2007 and 2013, when a total of $4 million was spent in each race in Massachusetts. From David: “We could see many candidates raising enough money to compete—with one or more topping that $4 million figure on their own. That’s partly because those were short special elections, while this is a year-long marathon. But it’s also because many of the candidates appear to have separate potential donor pools—Rolodexes that don’t overlap, if you’ll excuse the pre-digital image.”
Baker is on the right track on housing, but more can be done
Andre Leroux, executive director of the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance, and Lisa Wong, former mayor of Fitchburg and deputy director of the Asian American Civic Association, praise Gov. Charlie Baker’s recent push to spur more housing in Massachusetts, but they add much more needs to be done: “Areas ripe for reform include: special permits, board training, master plans, appeals, and site plan review, to name a few.”
Former lawmakers take up new reins
Finally, it was another round of inauguration events for cities across the state Tuesday and among those swearing oaths were former lawmakers who recently gave up the State House for a local corner office. In Attleboro, George Rhodes of the Sun Chronicle reports that former state Rep. Paul Heroux, now mayor, called for a toning-down of social media rhetoric around city politics and gave his full-throated support to a plan to build a new $266 million high school, an issue voters will take up in the spring.
Meanwhile, to the north, former state Sen. Thomas McGee officially became the 58th mayor of Lynn, saying he would promptly tackle the city’s strained finances and work to make the city “the gateway to the North Shore again,” Gayla Cawley reports in the Lynn Item.
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