Retirees health care, Civics education, Florida students talk guns
— It’s a Newton showdown, Newton North High versus Newton South High, at the mock trial state finals held by the Massachusetts Bar Association, House Chamber, 10 a.m.
— Mass. Clean Energy Center Board meets, 63 Franklin St., Boston, 10 a.m.
— Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel joins Regional Center for Poison Control and Prevention Education Coordinator Cheryl Lang and Medical Director Michele Burns for a briefing on the importance of poison prevention, House Members’ Lounge, 3rd floor, State House, 10 a.m.
— The Committee for Public Counsel Services hosts a film screening to celebrate the 55th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that assured the right to counsel, with Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants and Sen. William Brownsberger planning to speak, Room 428, 10:30 a.m.
— The Joint Committee on Public Service plans to hold a hearing on a bill backed by Gov. Charlie Baker that would allow the Group Insurance Commission to consolidate retirees into a larger health insurance pool to reduce their costs, B-1, 11 a.m.
— House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Brockton Mayor Bill Carpenter are the special guests at a Metro South Chamber of Commerce legislative luncheon, Bridgewater State University, Rondileau Ballroom, 12 p.m.
— Auditor Suzanne Bump is the featured speaker at the Massachusetts Association of School Business Officers Spring Conference, 181 Boston Post Road West, Marlborough, 1 p.m.
— Senate President Harriette Chandler, Education Committee co-chairs Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz and Rep. Alice Peisch and others plan to unveil consensus House-Senate legislation on civics education, Massachusetts State Library, 3 p.m.
— Amalgamated Transit Union hosts a rally ‘against the level-funding of the 15 Regional Transit Authorities in Massachusetts,’ City Hall, 455 Main St., Worcester, 5 p.m.
— Trial Court Chief Justice Paula Carey speaks on a panel about diversity in the legal profession, sponsored by the Massachusetts Association of Hispanic Attorneys, Massachusetts Bar Association, 20 West St., Boston, 5:30 p.m.
— Raise Up Massachusetts, which is pushing for passage of ballot questions that would raise the hourly minimum wage to $15 and establish a paid family and medical leave program, holds community briefings today in Worcester, at Belmont Zion AME Church, 55 Illinois St.,5:30 p.m. and in Boston, at St. Paul’s Church, 138 Tremont St., 6 p.m.
— Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida participate in a conversation about ‘changing the conversation on guns’ after the Feb. 14 shooting at their school, Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School, 79 JFK St., Cambridge, 6 p.m.
For more calendar listings, check out State House News Service’s Daily Advances (pay wall) and MassterList’s Beacon Hill Town Square below.
And don’t blame us, either. From Universal Hub’s Adam Gaffin: “The National Weather Service has issued a winter-storm watch that goes into effect Wednesday morning and we’ve got at least one local forecaster begging people not to (blame) her for what could be up to ten inches of heavy, wet, power-line-snapping snow coming Wednesday into Thursday in what would be our fourth nor’easter of the month.” The Globe has more on the depressing forecast for tomorrow and Thursday.
Trump takes shots at Lawrence, Boston and other ‘sanctuary’ cities
There he goes again. From Aimee Ortiz at the Globe: “In a speech announcing a new national plan against the opioid epidemic, President Trump Monday called for a crackdown on sanctuary cities — cities that restrict their cooperation with federal immigration authorities. Tying his strict immigration rhetoric to the overdose crisis, Trump mentioned two Massachusetts cities by name — Boston and Lawrence. ‘Ending sanctuary cities is crucial to stopping the drug addiction crisis,’ Trump said in Manchester, N.H.”
Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera and Gov. Charlie Baker are pushing back against Trump, with Rivera accusing the president of “trafficking in pain and divisiveness” and Baker saying Trump’s remarks are just “plain wrong,” reports Keith Eddings at the Eagle Tribune. SHNS’s Colin Young (pay wall) has more.
‘Mayor Walsh, let’s build our own wall—to protect Bostonians from Trump’
As President Trump yesterday railed against sanctuary cities in Massachusetts, Kade Crockford, director of the Technology for Liberty Program for the ACLU of Massachusetts, says in a MassterList op-ed that it’s time Massachusetts officials, including Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, take a firmer stand against the Trump administration’s immigration policies. “If cities really want to guarantee ‘sanctuary’ for their residents, they must be willing to throw sand in the gears of the federal deportation machine – and progressive city leaders must back up their promises with policy.”
Baker: ‘We’re going to outlaw people from Wellesley from working in the administration?’
In an apparently testy exchange with reporters, Gov. Charlie Baker yesterday gave a “vigorous defense” of his budget chief’s past hiring of Wellesley pals, associates and country club members at the Department of Revenue, reports Matt Stout at the Globe. “Every single one of those people was qualified to do their job,” Baker said. “So we’re going to outlaw people from Wellesley from working in the administration?”
As Stout notes, the governor’s remarks yesterday were in contrast to his comments on the campaign trail in 2014, when he vowed “strong medicine” on patronage hirings, etc. The Democratic Party, typically, is calling for an investigation into the DOR matter. Why always an investigation? They should be just swinging away at the hypocrisy and having a political joie-de-vivre time on this one. SHNS’s Katie Lannan (pay wall) has more.
With ‘REAL’ driver licenses rolling out, you’ll now need more documentation for renewals – and expect long lines
The state officially adopts the new “REAL” driver’s license in Massachusetts, starting Monday, and it’s going to require motorists to provide much more documentation to prove their citizenship and legal status in the country, reports SHNS’s Andy Metzger (pay wall) and MassLive’s Jim Kinney. Over the next few years, the extra in-person procedures could lead to longer waits at RMV offices to renew licenses, state officials acknowledge.
Blame the feds for the switchover to ‘REAL’ licenses: “Starting Oct. 1, 2020, regular Massachusetts driver’s licenses will no longer suffice for people trying to fly domestically, enter federal buildings or access nuclear facilities.”
RMV going dark for a few days
As it prepares to roll out the new REAL IDs next week, the Registry of Motor Vehicles is also effectively shutting down starting Thursday at 7 p.m. through Monday morning, meaning people won’t be able to do online transactions, etc., reports Bruce Mohl at CommonWealth magazine. RMV is installing new software both for its general use and to comply with the new fed ID law. Motor vehicle inspections will also be suspended during the three days, according to other published reports.
Time for the feds to throw in the extortion-case towel?
Has a federal judge just wrecked the federal City Hall corruption case or has he merely called federal prosecutors’ bluff? We’ll soon see. From O’Ryan Johnson at the Herald: “The feds were dealt a blow in their case against City Hall yesterday when the judge refused to alter jury instructions which prosecutors claim ‘will preclude the government from proving its case.’ … Earlier this month, prosecutors told federal Judge Leo T. Sorokin that the jury instructions must change for their case to succeed. Yesterday, Sorokin declined to change the instructions.”
A tax on enjoying life? Charlemont could become first town in state to tax recreational activities
Legislation is winding its way through the State House that would allow the hilltop town of Charlemont, along the Deerfield River and Mohawk Trail, to tax skiing, zip lining, whitewater rafting, kayaking, river tubing, mountain coaster rides, mountain biking and guided fishing trips. If the bill becomes law, Charlemont would become the first town in Massachusetts authorized to impose a recreational tax, reports Shira Schoenberg at MassLive.
House offered non-disclosure pacts to laid off state workers, in addition to harassment complainers
Imagine getting handed a pink slip and a non-disclosure agreement at the same time. From the Globe’s Matt Stout: “As many as 15 former House employees who were laid off in 2009 signed nondisclosure agreements after being shown the door, Speaker Robert A. DeLeo’s office has disclosed. But the Winthrop Democrat did not address why the House sought the controversial agreements — which it has since waived — or why it did for some employees and not others. The disclosure came after DeLeo last week offered discrepant figures when asked about the House’s use of nondisclosure clauses .”
State approves $176M contract to rebuild North Washington Street Bridge
As workers finish up reconstruction of Boston’s Longfellow Bridge, the state is about to embark on another major bridge project: The North Washington Street Bridge connecting Charlestown and the North End. Officials yesterday approved a $176.8 million contract to replace the structurally deficient, 118-year-old span, reports SHNS’s Andy Metzger at the BBJ.
There’s a cool rendering of the new bridge over at CommonWealth magazine, where Bruce Mohl provides additional details on the project, including how the new bridge will have a dedicated southbound lane for buses, bike lanes and wider sidewalks.
Not a good day for Uber: Woman killed by self-driving car in Arizona, female passenger raped in Boston
The city of Boston has asked local self-driving car firms to suspend their tests in Seaport after a woman was killed on Sunday by an autonomous vehicle operated by Uber in Tempe, Ariz. Uber has already suspended its own self-driving tests. Adam Vaccaro at the Globe and Marie Szaniszlo at the Herald have more.
Meanwhile, an Uber driver has been charged with raping a female passenger, after Northeastern University police pulled over the car early Sunday and noticed that the female passenger appeared to be in distress and may have been a victim of sexual assault, according to a report at WBUR.
SJC to review nurse-staffing ballot question
From Bob McGovern at the Herald: “A ballot initiative that could have a drastic effect on how hospitals assign patients to nurses has come under fire, and next month the state’s highest court will consider whether voters should have a chance to consider the controversial proposal. Four voters have asked the Supreme Judicial Court to decertify the Patient Safety Act, arguing that Attorney General Maura Healey improperly certified it for the November ballot. The voters, who have received the backing of Steward Health Care System LLC, say it violates the Massachusetts Constitution.”
Howie Carr tried to test Elizabeth Warren’s DNA sample back in 2012 – and hopes to do it again
Howie Carr’s weekend challenge to U.S. Sen. Elizabeth to take a DNA test to prove her Native American heritage is gaining some minor media traction, first getting highlighted at the Drudge Report yesterday and then getting picked up, in various fashions, at the Washington Times, Roll Call and Newsmax. But the news the media outlets are zeroing in on is Howie’s revelation that he tried to trick Warren into giving him a DNA sample back in 2012 – and he’s not giving up.
Is no-bid pizza contract a slice of larger problem at BPS?
The Boston Public Schools says that a half-million-dollar contract to deliver pizza to students every Friday — via a pizza chain with a politically active owner—without competitive bidding was an oversight. But records and the recent, scathing audit of the district’s finances suggest it may be part of a larger problem, Isaiah Thompson reports at WBGH.
House advances bill that would tax and regulate Airbnb and other short-term rentals
The House yesterday advanced legislation that would tax and regulate short-term rental operations like those offered by Airbnb, reports MassLive’s Shira Schoenberg and SHNS’s Katie Lannan (pay wall). After winning initial approval yesterday, the House is expected to approve the legislation tomorrow. Airbnb is not happy, calling the House plan “onerous and overly burdensome” on those renting out their homes. Both Gov. Charlie Baker and the Senate have their own Airbnb tax-and-regulation bills and lawmakers are hoping final agreed-upon legislation can be passed this spring.
Inmate suicides spike in Massachusetts
From Chris Burrell and Jennifer McKim of the New England Center for Investigative Reporting, writing at WGBH: “Fourteen inmates died by suicide in Massachusetts prisons and jails in 2017, the highest such number of deaths since 2014, according to state and county data. Those who died include four who hanged themselves in state prisons and 10 who died in county jails that together house about 20,000 prisoners, according to data collected by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting.”
Amazon, Google, Facebook … and now Spotify
They all want to be in Boston. From Catherine Carlock at the BBJ: “A deal is imminent for the music-streaming software company Spotify to lease around 75,000 square feet at the former Federal Bureau of Investigation Boston Division headquarters at Center Plaza, according to multiple real-estate industry sources with knowledge of the deal. While Spotify lists five open positions in Boston, a 75,000-square-foot office could hold around 500 employees, if not more.”
River needle cleanup shelved as towns balk at cost
A plan to clean up thousands of used hypodermic needles caught in the current or hidden along the banks of the Merrimack River is in jeopardy of being put on the shelf because of the price tag, Meghan Ottolini reports in the Herald. A 15-town coalition sought bids for the cleanup duty and the lowest realistic offer—which suggested using inflatable booms to trap needles along with other debris—came in at more than $376,000, a cost that had communities backing away from the idea.
Worcester seeks a fresh start for mostly vacant Union Station
It’s back to the drawing board for Union Station in Worcester. Amid a massive redevelopment and new investment in the downtown, the historic train station, recently renovated and reopened, continues to suffer from largely vacant commercial spaces and its public owner is set to rethink how it markets the property, Nick Kotsopolous reports in the Telegram. At the behest of the local chamber of commerce, the Worcester Redevelopment Authority has commissioned a study to look at new approaches to revitalizing the downtown landmark.
In Stoughton, selectman candidate not backing down from 2012 Facebook photo
Will a six-year-old social media post matter in a 2018 election? The town of Stoughton may help answer that question after a candidate for selectman defended his 2012 posting of an image that the NAACP deemed “offensive” at the time. Joe Pelletier reports in the Enterprise that Peter Buckley says he felt the image was ‘humorous’ at the time — and still does — and is willing to talk to anyone offended about his decision to repost it. Buckley is one of four candidates seeking two seats on Stoughton’s select board; he also serves as legal counsel for the town of Arlington.
The sun shined on the solar industry in 2017
These are very impressive numbers. Mary Serreze at MassLive reports that last month the state surpassed 2,000 megawatts of installed solar power, or enough to power around 328,000 homes, and now nearly 8 percent of the state’s electricity is powered by the sun. Last year, total installed solar power increased by 30 percent. … Now if we can only find a way to increase battery storage capacity and solar (and wind) will really take off.
Bill would require students to complete civic-lessons project before graduation
From SHNS’s Colin Young at Wicked Local: “Completion of a student-led civics project after the eighth grade would become a requirement to graduate from high school in Massachusetts under a civics education bill the Senate plans to debate Thursday. Beginning with the graduating class of 2022, public school students in Massachusetts would be required to participate in two student-led civics projcts, one of which must be completed after grade eight in order for the student to graduate high school, under the Senate’s civics education bill (S 2306).”
Supporters plan to hold a press conference on the bill later today.
Ex-mayor joins Lively’s campaign to unseat Baker
From Shannon Young at MassLive: “Gregory Neffinger, a former West Springfield mayor and East Longmeadow town administrator, has joined Scott Lively’s 2018 gubernatorial campaign, the Republican hopeful announced this week. Neffinger will manage Lively’s bid to unseat incumbent Gov. Charlie Baker, according to a Friday campaign sent to supporters.”
After 50 years at the Patriot Ledger, Sue Scheible lists top 10 reasons why she stuck with the job
We suspect Sue Scheible’s eighth reason for sticking it out as a reporter at the Quincy Patriot Ledger for the past 50 years cuts to the heart of who she is and why she’s stayed so long, i.e. a good person sees a lot of good in many people. Read the story. The other nine reasons are quite valid too.
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