Happening Today

Governor’s housing bill, State of Union address, Kennedy response

— A group of protesters appear before a judge for a hearing on civil charges related to pipeline protests in Otis State Forest, 9 Gilmore Ave., Great Barrington, 9 a.m.

— Gov. Charlie Baker, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash and Undersecretary of Housing and Community Development Chrystal Kornegay testify at a hearing before the Committee on Housing in support of the administration’s housing bill, Room B-1, 10 a.m.

— PRIM Investment Committee meets with Treasurer Deborah Goldberg attending, 84 State St. – 2nd floor, Boston, 9:30 a.m.

— Gov. Charlie Baker joins Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack and local leaders at the groundbreaking ceremony for Phase I of the Fenway Center Development Project, 771 Beacon Street, Boston, 11:30 a.m.

— The Committee on Labor and Workforce Development reviews two citizen-backed initiative petitions that would establish a paid family and medical leave program in Massachusetts, Room B-2, 1 p.m.

— The State Administration and Regulatory Oversight Committee hears arguments by fans of gingham, Bell’s seasoning, Boston cream pie cupcakes, oysters and quahogs to make them official state emblems; a total of 39 various other bills will be heard by the committee, Gardner Auditorium, 1 p.m.

— The Judiciary Committee reviews a bill that would create a suicide carve-out to the legal principle known as ‘abatement ab initio,’ which wiped the murder conviction off former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez’s record because he had not exhausted his legal appeals before committing suicide, Room A-2, 1 p.m.

Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies holds a hearing on bills that would authorize the establishment of a Massachusetts Robotics Center and another that deals with the local aid stabilization fund, Room 437, 1:30 p.m.

— The five candidates seeking to earn a spot on the ballot in the race to succeed former state Rep. Paul Heroux in the House must submit their nomination papers today to Secretary of State William Galvin’s office, 5 p.m.

— Public sector employees and retirees from several labor unions rally to push for greater representation on the Group Insurance Commission and to protest against reductions in current benefits, Boston Teachers Union Hall, 180 Mount Vernon St., Dorchester, 5 p.m.

— Rep. Dave Rogers appears on ‘Greater Boston’ to discuss his bill that would bar state and local law enforcement officials from cooperating with federal officials in cracking down on people engaged in state-sanctioned marijuana business, WGBH-TV, CH2, 7 p.m.

— President Donald Trump delivers his first State of the Union address before Congress, 9 p.m.

— U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts delivers the Democratic Party’s response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech, 10 p.m.

Today’s Stories

Going with the insider: Riley tapped as education chief

From Max Larkin at WBUR: “It’s official: Jeff Riley will be the state’s next education commissioner. Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted 8-3 to recommend Riley for the post. Among his supporters, Education Sec. James Peyser, who will make the official appointment.”

By appointing Riley, the board passed over two female candidates — and the Globe’s Shirley Leung isn’t impressed: “Another day and another white male insider climbs to the top of the state education system. Tell me something I didn’t already know was going to happen.” Then again, is Riley a bad pick? Far from it, reports Michael Jonas at CommonWealth magazine: “To helm the unfinished work of education reform to close persistent achievement gaps, the state tapped someone with a track record of being able to do it.” Before yesterday’s board’s action , WBUR’s Max Larkin had a piece in which Riley, the state-appointed receiver of the troubled Lawrence school system, is described as an “unconventional innovator.” Gintautas Dumcius at MassLive has more on the appointment.

Filings point to possible deal on Berkshire Museum art sale

With all sides agreeing to push back key court deadlines, there are signs an agreement could be in the works to end the multiple legal actions blocking the Berkshire Museum from selling art works – including Norman Rockwell paintings — from its collection, Larry Parnass reports at the Berkshire Eagle. The office of Attorney General Maura Healey was due to report on its own inquiry into the sale by Monday, but the museum’s attorneys agreed to a “brief postponement” while talks continue. 

Berkshire Eagle

The great pot compromise? Feds and state focusing on marijuana ‘black market’

The feds and state officials seem to be at loggerheads over legalized marijuana in Massachusetts, but maybe the two sides can find common ground on one marijuana-related matter. From SHNS’s Andy Metzger at the Globe: “Gov. Charlie Baker plans to meet with U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling next month and the governor thinks state and federal law enforcement priorities could converge on cracking down on the illicit marijuana market.”

The governor will never say it, but the proposal appears to be a face-saving way for Lelling to back off the feds’ strident anti-pot policies. Then again, Lelling may merely respond: The federal government views all pot activity as illicit pot activity, governor. Then we’re back at square one.

Baker: Wynn isn’t suitable for casino license if sexual-harassment charges are true

Though he says a final decision is ultimately up to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, Gov. Charlie Baker said yesterday that casino mogul Steve Wynn is unsuited to hold a state casino license if charges of sexual misconduct against him are true. “No. God, no,” Baker responded on WGBH when pressed whether Wynn was suitable to hold a license if it’s shown Wynn has sexually harassed and assaulted women. SHNS’s Matt Murphy at CommonWealth magazine and WGBH’s’ Tori Bedford have more. 

As for the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, it’s now planning to investigate the whole matter. Count the Globe’s Joan Vennochi as among those not impressed with the commission’s original background check of Wynn. Two Democratic gubernatorial candidates – Jay Gonzalez and Setti Warren – are urging the commission to cut its ties to Wynn, pronto, reports SHNS’s Katie Lannan (pay wall). In an editorial, the Herald says the issue is not whether or not the commission originally conducted a thorough investigation – but rather whether Wynn should remain CEO of Wynn Resorts (and he shouldn’t, the Herald says). 

Baker: Wynn’s campaign cash is also unsuitable

He’s distancing himself fast on this one. From Frank Phillips at the Globe: “Governor Charlie Baker has asked the Republican Governors Association to return funds it received in the last three years from Steve Wynn and his firm, Wynn Resorts Limited, following allegations of sexual misconduct aganst the gambling mogul that surfaced last week.”

Boston Globe

The latest turn in state’s bizarre energy politics: Russian LNG

The Russians are not only coming, they’ve already arrived, in the form of a giant tanker of liquefied natural gas that’s been unloaded in Everett over the past few days – and some of the gas is coming from a Russian company under US sanctions, the Globe’s Jon Chesto reports. From a Boston Globe editorial this morning: “As an unintended result of restrictive shipping laws on the federal level, combined with efforts by local officials to block gas pipelines, Bay State customers will now instead burn gas extracted from the delicate Arctic ecosystem by a firm linked to one of Vladimir Putin’s cronies.”

That pretty much summarizes our energy policies of late: Dumb and getting dumber.

Meanwhile, Baker talking to other governors about opposing offshore drilling

This isn’t dumb, since the state’s energy problems are not tied to whether or not we find new oil reserves off the coast. From SHNS’s Matt Murphy: “Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday he’s working to build a coalition of eastern seaboard governors in opposition to the Trump administration’s plan to open the North Atlantic to offshore oil drilling. …‘I would like to see if we can’t bring some of the other Republican and Democrat governors and maybe, with them, their delegations along, up and down the East Coast, so that’s really been our focus over the last few weeks,” Baker said during an interview on WGBH’s Boston Public Radio on Monday.”

SHNS (pay wall)

Senators to push for carbon pricing in omnibus climate-change bill

Another non-dumb idea, as long as the final bill doesn’t get swamped by dogma: Senate Democrats are planning to have an omnibus bill ready by next week that will deal with greenhouse gas reductions, including proposals for new carbon pricing and climate change adaption proposals, reports SHNS’s Michael Norton at the BBJ.


The T’s whack-a-mole policy

Every time the T seems to solve a problem, another rears its head. CommonWealth magazine’s Bruce Mohl has a policy name for it: “Whack-a-mole” and he reports that T and Keolis officials seem to be playing the whack-a-mole game almost on a daily basis.


Meanwhile, spike in rail deaths has T officials searching for solutions

This doesn’t fall into a whack-a-mole category. It’s about life and death. From Matt Stout at the Herald: “Two dozen people were killed on MBTA commuter rail tracks last year, doubling the death toll from 2016, in a worrisome trend that’s sending ripples through the system and left officials trying to craft a plan to answer it. Dan Grabauskas, the T’s executive director of rail, said yesterday that T and Keolis officials are at least a month to two months away from presenting the agency’s board with details of a new initiative aimed at stemming the spike.”

Boston Herald

Special election dates set to fill Forry’s Senate seat

Let the signature gathering commence. From Adam Gaffin at Universal Hub: “The state Senate decided (Monday) to set an April 3 primary and a May 1 final election to select a replacement for Linda Dorcena Forry, who resigned on Friday as the senator for the 1st Suffolk District (South Boston and Dorchester). Whoever wins will then have to decide whether to run for re-election in the regular primary and general election this fall.” One thing is clear: John Barros, Boston’s chief of economic development and former mayoral candidate, won’t be gathering any signatures. He said yesterday he won’t be running for the Senate seat, the Globe reports.

Universal Hub

Joyce’s former accountant charged with helping ex-senator cheat the taxman

John. H. Nardozzi, a longtime accountant for former state Sen. Brian Joyce, who the feds have accused of laundering more than $1 million in kickbacks and bribes, was charged yesterday with helping Joyce and his family in defrauding the government out of almost $800,000 in taxes over four years, reports Erin Tiernan at the Patriot Ledger.

Patriot Ledger

What can we possibly learn from Montana?

Under the controversial FCC ruling that gutted the Obama administration’s net neutrality policies, states can’t pass laws demanding net neutrality from Internet providers. But they can make life miserable for Internet providers by tying state contracts to net neutrality – and that’s why Gov. Charlie Baker wants to talk to Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, who recently signed an executive order that makes a “preference for a free and open internet clear” in the state’s purchase of Internet services, reports SHNS’s Andy Metzger at the Greenfield Recorder.

Greenfield Recorder

More hospitals are banning patient visitors due to flu fears

You can now add Baystate Health in Western Massachusetts to the growing list of hospitals across the state that are imposing visitor restrictions in an attempt to limit the spread of the flu, reports Anne-Gerard Flynn at MassLive. Baystate joins MGH in Boston, Mercy Medical Center in Springfield, Cooley Dickinson in Northamption and Berkshire Health Systems, among others, in slapping restrictions on patient visitors.


For heaven’s sake, use the damn ramp

Ari Ofsevit, a member of TransitMatters and a graduate student at MIT, is once again trying to patiently explain the negative consequences of the Silver Line’s refusal to use a Ted Williams ramp that he says was specifically designed to provide better customer service. At CommonWealth magazine, he has all sorts of maps and documents and newspaper clippings showing the ramp was indeed meant for mass-transit purposes – but isn’t being used for mass-transit purposes.


Miracles do happen: Western Mass gets its rail study

Peter Pan Bus Lines must have been asleep at the switch when this got slipped into the DOT’s long-term rail plan. From Dan Glaun at MassLive: “State Sen. Eric Lesser praised MassDOT’s newly unveiled plans for a Springfield to Boston rail study on Monday, saying the development is a large step forward for Western Massachusetts’ economic future. ‘This is a major, major breakthrough,’ said Lesser, who was joined at a press conference at Springfield’s Union Station by Sen. James T. Welch, Rep. Brian M. Ashe, Rep. Bud Williams and a representative from the office of Rep. Jose F. Tosado. On Friday, MassDOT released a draft of its 2018 rail plan, which among other priorities includes a feasibility study of expanded rail service between Springfield and Boston.”


Actually, the GIC’s health-care plan wasn’t totally without merit

The Group Insurance Commission’s decision to cut back on the number of health-plan options available to public employees and retirees across state may have stirred up a hornet’s nest of opposition and forced the agency to “reconsider” its decision. But the GIC’s goal, which wasn’t explained very well, was ultimately aimed at saving millions of dollars a year in administrative costs, reports CommonWealth magazine’s Bruce Mohl, who obtained a slide presentation to board members prior to its controversial vote earlier this month.


Dems’ secret mid-term weapons: Three female Annapolis grads running in swing states

Forget progressive platitudes and moderate-liberal pragmatism. Dems now have three formidable candidates sending a different sort of message in key swing states this fall: A former US warship commander, a former Marine F-18 fighter pilot and a certified Navy helicopter pilot, all female graduates of the United States Naval Academy and all running for Congress this year, the NYT reports. One of them could face off against a former Navy SEAL Repubican, who probably wasn’t expecting this type of Democratic opposition.


‘It’s cold. It’s callous. It’s heartless. … It’s un-American’

From Antonio Planas at the Herald: “Illegal immigrants married to U.S. citizens are being swept up by ICE agents on their first attempts to gain residency in a ramp-up of the crackdown on migrants, according to Bay State lawyers. ‘It’s cold. It’s callous. It’s heartless. It’s noncompassionate. It’s un-American — there is no need for it,” said immigration attorney Jeffrey B. Rubin.”

Boston Herald

Council president wants non-citizens to vote in city elections

By its very definition, this idea is distinctly un-American. From Dan Atkinson at the Herald: “City Council President Andrea Campbell wants to let noncitizens vote in Boston’s municipal elections — possibly including illegal immigrants — and she’s planning to hold a hearing on the issue. ‘I want to have conversations about how noncitizens can fully participate and come out of the shadows to do so,’ Campbell said.”

Boston Herald

SEC investigating ‘highly suspicious’ trades before last week’s sale of Waltham firm

From Max Stendahl at the BBJ: “The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission claims in a new lawsuit that an unknown group of traders earned $4.9 million by making ‘highly suspicious’ trades in the stock of Bioverativ before the Waltham-based drugmaker was acquired by Sanofi last week for $11.6 billion. The agency filed the suit on Friday against ‘one or more unknown traders’ while it seeks to identify the perpetrators. “


Former state Sen. Wolf won’t challenge Baker

This comes as no surprise, but still needs to be noted because he would have made a good candidate. Cape Air owner and former state Sen. Dan Wolf says he won’t be among the Democrats vying to challenge Gov. Charlie Baker in the fall, saying the timing is not right, Geoff Spillane reports in the Cape Cod Times. Wolf says Cape Air needs his full-time attention as he rebuilds parts of the business impacted by a devastating hurricane season. 

Cape Cod Times

Fundraising surge boosts Lindstrom in GOP race to face Warren

Beth Lindstrom raised more than $400,000 in the last three months of 2017, outpacing the two other Republicans in the race to challenge U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren in November. Joe Battenfeld of the Herald reports Lindstrom’s haul is being seen as a solid vote of confidence for her campaign against GOP rivals Geoff Diehl and John Kingston. Whoever emerges will face a massive financial disadvantage, however, with Warren sitting on a $14 million war chest of her own. 

Boston Herald

Baker budgets seek $30 million to educate Puerto Rico evacuees

The state’s bill for educating children who fled Puerto Rico after last year’s hurricanes continues to rise. Shira Schoenberg of MassLive reports that Gov. Charlie Baker included a request for $15 million in his supplemental budget for the current fiscal year to help impacted districts. That comes on top of $15 million already in his 2019 budget blueprint. 


Indoctrinating Our Youth: How a U.S. Public School Curriculum Skews the Arab-Israeli Conflict and Islam


Film Screenings: “Big Sacrifices, Big Dreams” – BC High School

Pioneer Institute

Legal Considerations for Blockchain Innovations and ICOs

MIT Enterprise Forum

ADL Breaking Barriers Speaker Series With Judy Shepard

The Anti-Defamation League

Today’s Headlines


State sets April 3 and May 1 elections to replace Dorcena Forry – Universal Hub

Top Walsh economic aide won’t run for state senate – Boston Globe


Framingham Mayor Spicer hires policy advisor, external relations chief – MetroWest Daily News

Recreational marijuana could come to Nantasket Avenue – Patriot Ledger

Overdose calls, deaths dip in Northampton in 2017 – Hampshire Gazette

Mass. economic development secretary talks downtown Brockton – Brockton Enterprise

MassDOT 20-year plan includes South Coast rail – Standard-Times


FEMA to end food and water aid to Puerto Rico – NPR

Trump declines to implement new Russia sanctions – The HIll

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