GIC health-plan hearing, Gaming Commission reviews Wynn allegations, ‘WPI Seaport’
— Gov. Charlie Baker travels to the Park City area in Utah for a family vacation with First Lady Lauren Baker and their children, returning to Massachusetts on Saturday.
— Attorney General Maura Healey urges the Legislature to pass two automatic voter registration bills at a press conference to kick off a lobby day, Room 428, 10 a.m.
— Auditor Suzanne Bump meets with the Regional Schools and Rural Caucuses to discuss recommendations from her office’s October 2017 report on updating the structure and finance of Massachusetts regional school districts,’ Room 230, 10 a.m.
— Boston Mayor Martin Walsh joins local officials, civic, faith, non-profit and business leaders and approximately 400 volunteers to canvass Boston for the annual ‘Point in Time’ homeless census, Boston City Hall, 10 a.m.
— Rep. Paul Donato and the Safe Roads Alliance host a legislative information session on the ‘distracted driving epidemic’ and a bill requiring the use of hands-free devices, House Member’s Lounge, 10 a.m.
— The Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security reviews Gov. Charlie Baker’s bill to double the minimum daily pay for soldiers and airmen performing active state duty in the National Guard, Room A-1, 10 a.m.
— Governor’s Council holds a hearing on Gov. Baker’s nomination of attorney Susan Sullivan as an associate justice of the Superior Court, Council Chamber, 10 a.m.
— Sen. Mike Barrett and Rep. Jen Benson hold a press conference announcing ‘two major developments in the campaign to put a price on carbon in Massachusetts,’ Room 222, 10 a.m.
— The Senate Ways and Means Committee along with the Senate chair of the Joint Committee on Public Service and the Senate chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing will hold an oversight hearing to review the GIC health-plan changes, Gardner Auditorium, 11 a.m.
— Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Auditor Suzanne Bump, Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash and Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty are expected to attend the grand opening ribbon-cutting at ‘WPI Seaport,’ Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s new Innovation and Collaboration Space in the Seaport District, 303 Congress St., Boston, 11 a.m.
— The House has a formal session, starting at 11 a.m., with House Speaker Robert DeLeo expected to make remarks on health care, early education and no new broad-based taxes at 2 p.m.
— Boston Police Commissioner Bill Evans is a guest on ‘Boston Public Radio,’ WGBH-FM 89.7, 12 p.m.
— Doctors who oppose medical aid in dying, sometimes referred to as assisted suicide or death with dignity, hold a press conference to discuss their stance before meeting with legislators, Grand Staircase, 12 p.m.
— U.S. Rep. Richard Neal holds press availability focused on President Trump’s State of the Union address, U.S. Federal Courthouse, 300 State Street, Springfield, 12:15 p.m.
— Gaming Commission meets for an update on recent sexual-misconduct allegations against Wynn Resorts chief executive Steve Wynn and the next steps in the regulatory review process, 101 Federal Street, 12th floor, Boston, 2 p.m.
— Governor’s Council holds its weekly assembly with votes possible on nominations of attorney Thomasina Johnson to the Suffolk County Juvenile Court bench and attorney Paul Sushchyk as a circuit judge in the Probate and Family Court, Council Chamber, 2 p.m.
— An initiative petition backed by the Retailers Association of Massachusetts to lower the state sales tax will have a hearing before the Revenue Committee, Room B-2, 2 p.m.
Trump delivers a non-Twitter style State of the Union address
Sure, the normally combative President Donald Trump last night called for national unity and bipartisan action on overhauling the immigration system and rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, as dutifully reported by the New York Times and the Washington Post.
But the real story, as we all know, is that his address last night was distinctly more presidential than his usual barrage of bombastic presidential tweets – and that’s why we liked Matt Viser’s analysis at the Globe, where Viser notes that the “stylistic image” conveyed by the president last night was “starkly different from the reality of his first year in office.” But it’s not just about style. It’s about his whole approach to the presidency … until last night. The Boston Herald has more on the speech. WGBH has the full video of the address.
So how did Kennedy do last night?
Unless you consider what appeared to be a little drool coming out of the side of his mouth an unmitigated disaster, as Politico reports, U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III’s Democratic response to the president’s speech last night appeared to go OK. Among other things, he attacked President Trump’s first year in office and bemoaned the “fault lines of a fractured country,” as reported by Liz Goodwin at the Globe and O’Ryan Johnson at the Herald. There was one local critic of Kennedy’s speech: The Herald’s Joe Battenfeld, who says Trump looked presidential while Kennedy “looked like he was running for student council.” You decide. WGBH also has the full video of Kennedy’s response.
One thing is clear: They’re bursting with pride in Fall River, where Kennedy delivered his response at the Diman Regional Vocational Technical High School, reports Will Richmond at the Herald News.
Dems fighting Dems (again): Pressley to challenge Capuano for U.S. House seat
Forget about running for Linda Dorcena Forry’s now-open state Senate seat. Ayanna Pressley has her sights set on another prize. From Benjamin Swasey at WBUR: “The first-ever woman of color on the Boston City Council is now seeking higher office — and taking on a fellow progressive in the process. Councilor Ayanna Pressley will run for Congress, challenging longtime U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano in the Democratic primary, she announced Tuesday.”
Besides their age, gender and racial differences, we’re not quite sure what the big political distinction is between the two, nor what this much-quoted battle cry from Pressley means: “This district and these times demand more than an ally, they demand an advocate and a champion.” Spencer Buell at Boston Magazine has more.
State pension fund saw impressive 17.7 percent gain on investments last year
Not bad. From SHNS’s Michael Norton at the BBJ: “A ripe investment environment in 2017 helped the state pension fund put a $11.1 billion dent in the state’s unfunded liability. The Pension Reserves Investment Trust (PRIT) ended the year with a 17.7 percent gain, beating the so-called core benchmark, which rose by 14.9 percent.”
North Andover says no to pot farm
North Andover residents, after a lengthy and heated hearing attended by thousands of residents, voted to ban recreational pot facilities in the town, effectively killing a $100 million plan to turn a former Lucent Technologies plant into a giant pot farm, reports the Globe’s Dan Adams.
Is Partners trying to game the GIC system via Neighborhood Health?
As lawmakers today prepare to grill Group Insurance Commission officials about a controversial proposal to change public employees’ health plans, Paul Hattis, an associate professor of at the Tufts University School of Medicine, says he’s glad the new rules will likely be rescinded. But he has some issues he thinks the GIC still needs to address, including whether Partners HealthCare effectively gamed the GIC system via insurance prices quoted by its Neighborhood Health Plan subsidiary.
Region already feeling impact of big Amazon-JPMorgan-Warren Buffett health-care move
Speaking of health-care issues: Shortly after Amazon, JP Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway (aka Warren Buffett) announced yesterday that they were forming a new company aimed at reining in health-care costs for their U.S. employees, the shares of CVS Health, which wants to get into the insurance business, and other health care companies tanked, as Mark Reilly at the BBJ reports.
But let’s look further into the future: What if the cost-cut scheme works and Amazon opens a second headquarters in Boston with 50,000 workers and then starts putting the price squeeze on MGH, Brigham’s & Women’s, Beth Israel, Tufts Medical, etc.? You get the idea. So this could be big. But first the new company’s business plan has to work – and we’re not so sure it will. Even without details, it sounds pretty far-fetched. The New York Times has more.
County’s bill to guard inmate at prison hospital approaches $2 million
One more post on health-care prices (and it’s a whopper): Essex County Sheriff Kevin Coppinger’s office has spent nearly $2 million to provide around-the-clock guards for an inmate who has been in a state prison hospital since he was shot trying to escape in 2013, Julie Manganis of the Salem News reports. The inmate has not yet been medically cleared to stand trial on charges connected to the escape.
SJC to weigh whether to toss all cases tied to Sonja Farak
We’re talking all cases, not just some, and there’s thousands of them. From the Globe’s Shawn Musgrave: “The state’s highest court will consider whether to dismiss all cases touched by former state chemist Sonja Farak, and whether egregious misconduct in the prosecution of Farak and subsequent appeals warrants any measures to guard against similar misdeeds in future cases.” Fyi: The “egregious misconduct” part has to do with a Springfield judge’s scathing assertion last year that two state prosecutors intentionally withheld documents from defendants who sought to challenge Farak’s analysis of drug samples, as Musgrave writes.
Legislative leaders rip Eversource over solar charges
From Bruce Mohl at CommonWealth magazine: “House and Senate energy leaders made clear on Tuesday that they aren’t happy with the way Eversource Energy and state regulators have implemented legislation requiring homeowners with solar installations on their property to be charged for their use of the power grid.”
A ‘Blessing of Journalists’ church service set for western Massachusetts
Pay attention, all you non-believers. From Anne-Gerard Flynn at MassLive: “With the media increasingly under fire in some quarters, the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts is offering a Blessing of Journalists service on Feb. 20 at Christ Church Cathedral. … The service is open ‘to all who support the work of the free press and value this fundamental element of our democracy,’ as well as ‘all members of the press in Western Massachusetts,’ according to a statement from the diocese.”
Judge, citing accuracy, clears Berkshire Eagle in $50M defamation suit
Another media blessing: A $50 million libel suit filed by a former Pittsfield city council candidate against the Berkshire Eagle has been tossed out by a judge who said the newspaper “accurately reported the events” in question, Bob Dunn reports. Craig C. Gaetani claimed the article, which described him as smelling of alcohol and being told not to drive home after a candidates’ forum, cost him votes.
Non-blessing: Latino commission listening session bars media
They’re not blessing journalists in Holyoke, where reporters were not welcome when the Latino Advisory Commission formed by Gov. Charlie Baker held what was billed as a statewide listening session in Holyoke Tuesday night, Elizabeth Roman of MassLive reports. The media was barred to “promote authentic sharing.”
‘GE no longer wants a helipad, but Suffolk Construction does’
Suffolk Construction wants to build a new helicopter landing pad on a parking lot across the street from its headquarters in Roxbury, but it had to postpone a hearing yesterday because it was “still engaged in discussions with nearby residents and civic groups about the proposal,” reports Universal Hub. As it turns, residents, lawmakers and civic leaders are upset and say they’ve been kept in the dark about the plan, reports the Herald.
Any over-under predictions on when the application might be yanked now that the neighborhood is alerted and up in arms?
Editorial: Kerry for president? Are Democrats trying to corner the over-70 vote?
In an editorial, the Springfield Republican isn’t impressed with news that former U.S. Sen. and Secretary of State John Kerry might be eyeing another bid for the presidency in 2020, when he would be 77. Noting the over-70 ages of other Democratic leaders, the newspaper says a potential Kerry candidacy doesn’t “constitute good news for a party that is aging before America’s eyes.” To be fair, many Dems are not exactly enthused by a Kerry run either, as the Herald recently reported.
Murder victim’s mother testifies on Aaron Hernandez conviction bill on Beacon Hill
From Marie Szaniszlo at the Herald: “The emotional mother of Odin L. Lloyd yesterday called for the passage of a law that would have prevented Aaron Hernandez’s murder conviction from being vacated by his prison suicide. Testifying before the Legislature’s Joint Committee on the Judiciary, Ursula Ward said the former New England Patriots tight end stole whatever peace she had found in his 2015 first-degree murder conviction and life sentence when he hanged himself in prison last April, effectively overturning his conviction because it was under appeal.”
Bills would let AG go after serial harassers
From SHNS’s Katie Lannan: “The Massachusetts attorney general would have enhanced powers to go after serial harassers under a bill recently filed by a state lawmaker with experience representing sexual harassment victims in legal proceedings. … ‘I want to give the AG the same authority to investigate and potentially prosecute people who are serial harassers that they have for people who get engaged in consumer protection issues or financial fraud issues,’ Rep. Ken Gordon, an employment lawyer, told the News Service.” Fyi: Gordon and Sen. Cynthia Creem have filed similar bills dealing with serial harassers.
Is Healey using Trump as a punching bag or launching pad?
David Bernstein at Boston Magazine takes a look at all the lawsuits filed by Attorney General Maura Healey against the Trump administration and has some questions: “Is Healey using Trump as a convenient political punching bag to raise her profile for higher office? Is she standing up to the White House to protect the citizens of the state? Or is she merely advancing her own ideological and political agenda? And, perhaps most important of all, is there some reason it can’t be a little of all three?” We can’t think of a reason. Can you?
American Express’s Chenault named head of Cambridge VC firm
He will instantly become one of the region’s most influential African-American business leaders. From Kelly O’Brien at the BBJ: “Ken Chenault, the outgoing CEO of American Express Co. (NYSE: AXP), is joining Cambridge-born venture capital firm General Catalyst as chairman and managing director. The appointment comes as General Catalyst is in the process of raising $1 billion for its next investment fund.” Chenault, btw, has strong regional ties via Bowdoin College, Harvard and Bain & Company. Here’s his full bio at Wikipedia.
The Riley appointment: Missed opportunity or the best choice?
The debate is on over at WBUR about whether the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education made the right choice of Jeff Riley as the next commissioner of education. Keri Rodrigues, founder of Massachusetts Parents United, thinks the pick represents a missed opportunity for diversity and a fresh perspective. But Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera, whose city’s state-operated schools have been overseen by Riley, thanks Riley is the “right leader at the right time.”
Former Globe HQ to be turned into ‘innovation center’ and rebranded ‘The Beat’
It doesn’t look like the former Globe headquarters on Morrissey Boulevard will be turned into another luxury condo development. Instead, Nordblom Co., the new owner, wants to redevelop the property into a primarily office and light industrial or warehouse space, with an “innovation center” and swanky food hall, according to reports by the Herald’s Donna Goodison and the Globe’s Tim Logan. In a nod to its newspaper past, the complex would be called ‘The Beat.’
Amtrak to increase North-South rail service in Western Mass.
This is interesting. From Richie Davis at the Greenfield Recorder: “A pilot rail shuttle is expected to launch between Greenfield and New Haven, Conn., sometime after May, with stops in Northampton, Holyoke and Springfield as well as Hartford and connections to New York and potentially Bradley International Airport.” Makes perfect sense. But there are some concerns. Davis explains.
Idling trains at MassDOT rail yard have residents steamed up
Speaking of trains, Middleboro residents living near the MassDOT Railroad Yard in Middleboro are fed up with idling trains they say are spewing unhealthy pollutants, reports Eileen Reece at Wicked Local. “There is a severe health risk currently in this town,” Adam Bond, the Planning Board chairman and a former selectmen, told town leaders, noting that anywhere between two to five locomotives have been left to run idle “some for days at a time.”
All quiet on the Lynn development front …
Two years after Gov. Charlie Baker formed the Lynn Economic Advancement and Development team to foster redevelopment in the North Shore city, planned projects remain in limbo and few developers have stepped forward with new ones, Thomas Grillo reports in the Lynn Item. A bus tour of the city’s available waterfront land for would-be developers failed to yield any new ideas.
Oysters vs Quahogs: The shellfish battle of the century
Which will be as the official shellfish of Massachusetts — the oyster or the quahog? Two competing bills on the matter are now being heard on Beacon Hill. SHNS’s Katie Lannan at Wicked Local has all the mollusk-competition details. But we want to know: Why aren’t scallops under consideration? They’re practically bankrolling New Bedford these days. They deserve a little more respect.
Film Screenings: “Big Sacrifices, Big Dreams” – Bishop Connolly High School
STEAM Your Child at Nahant Library
The New Shape of Boston’s Historic Neighborhood
Author Talk and Book Signing with Rosalyn D. Elder
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