Happening Today

Merrimack Valley recovery update, GOP state committee and more

— The Mass. Gaming Commission holds agenda-setting meeting, 101 Federal Street, 12th floor, Bosto, 10 a.m. — Massachusetts Partnership on Responsible Gaming, in coordination with Rep. Joseph Wagner, gives a briefing on its Holiday Lottery Responsible Gambling Campaign, Great Hall, 10 a.m.

— Massachusetts School Building Authority Board meets with Treasurer Deb Goldberg chairing, 40 Broad St., Boston, 10 a.m.

— Environmental Protection Agency’s regional administrator Alexandra Dunn announces a partnership initiative with regulated sectors focused on achieving better environmental outcomes, Harpoon Brewery, 306 Northern Ave., Boston, 11 a.m.

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— Individuals newly elected to the state Legislature have been invited to the Academy for New Legislators at UMass Amherst, an educational program offered by the UMass Donahue Institute that is scheduled to run through noon Friday, UMass Amherst, 12 p.m.

— Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito chairs a weekly meeting of the Governor’s Council, Room 360, 12 p.m.

— Former Boston Globe reporter Dick Lehr gives the State Library’s monthly author talk about his new young adult novel ‘Trell,’ inspired by the true story of wrongfully-convicted Bostonian Shawn Drumgold who was released in 2003 after 14 years in prison, Room 341, 12 p.m.

— MassEcon’s annual holiday lunch features Dr. Charles Steinberg, president of the Pawtucket Red Sox, who will share why Worcester became the location of choice for the Red Sox AAA affiliate, UMass Club, One Beacon Street, 32nd floor, Boston, 12 p.m.

— Gov. Charlie Baker joins Chief Recovery Officer Joe Albanese, Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera, North Andover Town Manager Andrew Maylor, Andover Town Manager Andrew Flanagan and others for a press conference to provide an update on the substantial completion of restoring gas service to residences and businesses in the Merrimack Valley, Columbia Gas, 55 Marston Street, Lawrence, 1:15 p.m.

— JP Progressives host U.S. Rep.-elect Ayanna Pressley, state Rep. Liz Malia, state Rep.-elect Nika Elugardo, Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, District Attorney-elect Rachael Rollins and City Councilors Annissa Essaibi-George and Matt O’Malley, 3484 Washington St., Boston, 7 p.m.

— The Republican State Committee meets for the first time since the announcement that Chair Kirsten Hughes will step down from her post after leading the party for six years, Boston Marriott Newton Hotel, 2345 Commonwealth Ave., Newton, 7 p.m.

For more calendar listings, check out State House News Service’s Daily Advances (pay wall – free trial subscriptions available) and MassterList’s Beacon Hill Town Square below.

Today’s Stories

For first time, a doctor is charged with manslaughter in opioid overdose death

Combined with U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling’s recent warning letters to physicians about opioid prescriptions (WBUR), this is a big deal, via the Globe’s Felice Fryer: “A Dracut physician has been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the 2016 death of a woman who overdosed on opioids that he had prescribed, the first such indictment in the state, authorities announced Tuesday. Dr. Richard Miron is accused of continuing to authorize large doses of opioids and other drugs even though he knew the victim had overdosed in February 2016 on opioids he had prescribed.”

Shira Schoenberg at MassLive has more on Attorney General Maura Healey’s latest action on the opioid-crisis front. Bottom line: Both federal and state prosecutors now have doctors in their crosshairs. And can you blame them after last month’s federal plea deal involving allegations of opioid-prescription kickbacks to doctors?

Revolving door: T appoints its fifth GM in four years after ousting Ramirez

From Bruce Mohl at CommonWealth magazine: “Louis Ramirez is out as general manager of the MBTA after just 15 months on the job and the Baker administration is replacing him with Steve Poftak, a member of the T’s oversight board who filled the GM’s seat for two months before Ramirez took over.”

But here’s the graf we found most interesting: “While (secretary of Transportation) Pollack tried to put a positive change on the switch, the move to ditch Ramirez was an embarrassing acknowledgement by Pollack and Gov. Charlie Baker that they picked the wrong man for the job.  His departure means more executive suite turmoil at an agency that has been battered by it for years; Poftak will become the fifth general manager under Baker.”

Gintautas Dumcius at MassLive reports that Ramirez is leaving the T with a payout of $152,400. The Herald’s Sean Philip Cotter takes a closer look at Poftak, the outside watchdog turned insider at the T. The Globe’s Adrian Walker wonders if Boston will ever be comfortable with a true outsider in any public-service leadership job.

CommonWealth

Under grilling by lawmakers, executives agree to more oversight of natural-gas work

Natural-gas executives got a grilling on Beacon Hill yesterday – and Shira Schoenberg at MassLive and Milton Valencia at the Globe report that utility leaders, under pressure, basically endorsed Gov. Charlie Baker’s bill that would require more oversight by engineers of natural-gas pipeline work in the wake of the September gas explosions and fires in the Merrimack Valley.

Fyi: A former Columbia Gas employee tells Karen Hensel at NBC10 Boston he repeatedly raised warnings about staffing and policy changes that posed a risk to public safety in the Merrimack Valley long before the natural gas disaster that struck the region. 

‘The longest running tragicomedy on the Boston area political stage’

We can think of more than a few candidates for the longest running political tragicomedy in Boston. But Michael Jonas at CommonWealth magazine has a very solid nominee: The seemingly never ending struggle to get suburban towns to allow more housing in communities. 

CommonWealth

As Moulton nears deal with Pelosi, is the political damage already done?

The Washington Post reports that Nancy Pelosi is on the “cusp of securing her election as House speaker” under a term-limit deal that she’s close to striking with insurgent Democrats. The Post reports that U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton is among those who have tentatively agreed to back Pelosi if a deal is finalized on long-sought changes to the House’s ossified leadership structure. 

But is the deal too late to help Moulton back in his home district, where progressives (particularly progressive women) aren’t happy with his taking on Pelosi? The Globe’s Matt Stout has a follow-up story to Alison King’s piece the other day on how activists are vowing to run a primary challenger against Moulton in 2020. Outgoing state Sen. Barbara L’Italien, who just lost a primary bid in the Third Congressional District, is signaling she’s interested in switching districts to take on Moulton.

With more women legislators, it’s time for more women leaders on Beacon Hill

As Seth Moulten gets you-know-what for trying to shake up the ossified leadership structure in the U.S. House – and with some women threatening to run a primary challenger against him for doing so – it’s somewhat ironic to see a Globe editorial calling for, well, a shake-up of the ossified leadership structure in the Massachusetts House in order to make room for more women.

Boston Globe

Will Warren and other Dems forgo big-money PACs in 2020?

The New York Times says Democratic presidential wannabes are facing a big decision over whether or not to accept big campaign money from PACs. Among others, the Times reports: “If she runs, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is likely to reject the assistance of a super PAC, according to two people familiar with her thinking.”

NYT

MoveOn.org straw poll: Beto now leads the Democratic pack, with Warren trailing in second-tier territory

In other Dem presidential-race news, from NBC News: “An early straw poll of members of the progressive group MoveOn.org shows a wide-open competition for liberal voters in the 2020 Democratic presidential contest, with Rep. Beto O’Rourke narrowly beating out former Vice President Joe Biden.” After O’Rourke and Biden come U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, who picked up only 6.4 percent. But some good news for Warren (sort of): 29 percent said they were undecided or might vote for someone else. Plus, and this can’t be stressed enough: It’s so damn early.

NBC News

GOP consultant: Biden-Romney ticket could make third-party history

We can’t tell if this idea is crazy like a fox or just plain crazy, but GOP operative Julieanne Glover argues at Politico the ideal dream team for the 2020 presidential race would be a cross-party “unity” ticket featuring former Vice President Joe Biden, a Democrat, and a Republican centrist such as former Massachusetts Gov. and Utha Sen.-elect Mitt Romney. Glover argues that breaking the grip of the two-party system may be the best chance both parties have of moving past the Trump era. 

Politico

By appointment only: Salem pot shop to open Saturday, but walk-in customers not welcome

The first legal pot shop in eastern Massachusetts will open in Salem on Saturday. But don’t rush to get there. Alternative Therapies Group says it will sell weed to customers only by appointment, at least for the time being. Ally Jarmanning at WBUR has the details on ATG’s unique retail and, apparently, traffic-control model.

Meanwhile, the BBJ’s Jessica Bartlett (pay wall) reports that the Cannabis Control Commission will vote on final licenses for yet four more marijuana dispensaries on Thursday.

WBUR

Springfield Y apologizes after vowing to rat out any parent ‘smelling of marijuana’

From Dan Adams at the Globe: “The Greater Springfield YMCA is apologizing to its members after a senior staffer posted a notice threatening to call the authorities on parents who smell like marijuana. In a letter displayed at several of the group’s Springfield-area facilities last week, Uriah Rodriguez, the YMCA’s executive director of youth development, said he had received complaints about parents and guardians ‘smelling of marijuana’ while dropping off and picking up children.”

Boston Globe

High demand: State’s two pot shops now rationing how much weed they sell

Some warned that the state sooner or later would run into a marijuana supply problem. That moment has already arrived. The BBJ’s Jessica Bartlett reports that business is so brisk at the recently opened pot shop in Leicester that the firm, Cultivate, is now limiting purchases of marijuana to a half ounce per retail customer, down from the legal limit of one ounce, in order to preserve its supplies. New England Treatment Access in Northampton, meanwhile, has been engaging in a form of rationing from the get-go.

BBJ (pay wall)

Sign of times: Norwood marijuana firm is poised to be state’s biggest stock gainer in 2018

One more pot item: If share-price trends hold up through the end of the year, Norwood-based MariMed Inc., a cannabis consulting firm, could be the biggest stock gainer in Massachusetts in 2018, with share price growth currently running at about 474 percent, reports the BBJ’s Don Seiffert (pay wall). Granted, its share prices are growing from a tiny base. But still …

The Wayfair wait: Employees literally have to stand in lines hundreds of yards long to get into offices

How fast has Boston’s Wayfair Inc. grown? This is how fast, via Kelly O’Brien at the BBJ: “Wayfair has been on such a hiring spree lately that there’s often a line of employees in the morning waiting to get into the company’s offices, located in the towers above the Copley Place shopping center. On one morning last week, the line snaked hundreds of yards through the mall, down escalators, past store fronts, around corners, and down more escalators.” The story is accompanied by photos.

But, wait, the Globe’s Jon Chesto reports that state is poised to provide Wayfair with yet more incentives to grow in Massachusetts, via possible new state tax breaks. 

BBJ (pay wall)

If Elugardo doesn’t tone down the rhetoric, ‘she can kiss those earmarks goodbye’

Political columnist Peter Lucas at the Sentinel & Enterprise writes that state state Rep.-elect Nika Elugardo, who has accused the Democratic Party, the Massachusetts House under Robert DeLeo and corporations of being racist institutions, better learn how to get along or her district will suffer. “Elugardo, so far, has chosen to represent herself,” Lucas writes. “And if she keeps on calling DeLeo and everybody racist, she can kiss those earmarks goodbye.”

But Elugardo and other newcomers to the House didn’t come across as political bomb-throwers on WGBH the other night, as Antonio Caban reports. Elugard, as well as Liz Miranda and Tram Nguyen, sounded, well, well grounded.

Sentinel & Enterprise

But Elugardo isn’t the only newcomer rocking the Democratic ship these days …

Count incoming U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley among those offering a “sharp rebuke” to the Democratic Party, saying the party needs to change and promote more women of color, reports Darren Sands at Buzzfeed.

BuzzFeed

Is Harvard trying to corner the market on water in California?

Kirk Carapezza at WGBH reports that a local environmentalist is blasting Harvard’s investment decisions in general after the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week that the university has quietly amassed thousands of acres of vineyards and farmland in California – with a focus on the precious water underneath them in parched areas of the state. The value of Harvard’s investments have nearly tripled in value to $305 million since 2013, the WSJ reports.

WGBH

SJC: A pimp by any other name is still a pimp

From John Ellement at the Globe: “The state’s high court Tuesday upheld a law making it a crime to profit from prostitution, ruling that a man caught in a human trafficking sting by police with $250 in cash in his shoe was a pimp and should be prosecuted as one. In the 7-0 ruling, the Supreme Judicial Court noted a historical oddity: While ‘pimp’ is commonly understood to mean a person who profits by exploiting others, the word itself has never appeared in the state laws targeting them.”

Boston Globe

Is God dead in Massachusetts?

Erick Trickey at Boston Magazine has a provocative piece about the declining importance of God and religion in Massachusetts – and, no, it’s not about the Catholic Church sex scandals. It’s all religions – and Trickey has the survey stats to prove it. Noting how religious leaders are trying to shore up the faithful here, Trickey asks: “But can God make a comeback in the capital of education, tech, and science? And if we’ve given up on God, what did we get in His place?”

Boston Magazine

In Berkshires, regional transit strike strands the mobility-impaired

As a strike by paratransit drivers employed by the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority stretches into its second week, mobility-impaired residents say spotty service by replacement drivers is limiting their ability to remain independent, Haven Orecchio-Egresitz reports at the Berkshire Eagle. 

Berkshire Eagle

Talk about a documents dump …

Maybe this is why the lead defense attorney and judge magistrate have bailed from the case? From Jo C. Good at the Herald News: “Federal prosecutors have handed Jasiel Correia II’s defense team over 18,000 pages of discovery related to its investigation and the eventual indictment of the second term mayor, according to federal court filings.” That’s a lot of court filings.

Herald News

Remains of Brookline pilot killed in WWII now accounted for

It’s always sad, and yet heartening at the same time, to see news like this. From the AP at MassLive: “A U.S. Army Air Forces pilot from Massachusetts whose plane crashed during World War II has been accounted for. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced Tuesday that 1st Lt. Allen R. Turner, of Brookline, was accounted for in September. The 25-year-old Turner was the pilot of a C-109 aircraft on July 17, 1945, flying from India to China over what airmen called ‘The Hump, an area of the eastern Himalayas.”

MassLive

Business groups launch campaign to reduce costly trips to ER rooms

From the Globe’s Priyanka Daval McCluskey: “On Tuesday, a coalition of business groups representing thousands of employers kicked off an ambitious new effort to reduce these potentially avoidable emergency room visits, and in the process lower health care costs by up to $100 million.” SHNS’s Katie Lannan (pay wall) has more on the campaign.

Is Friendly’s plotting a comeback?

Even as it continues to close restaurants, the private equity firm that now owns the Friendly’s chain has bought back a dozen former and current locations across the state, Jim Kinney reports at MassLive, citing property transaction records. Sun Capital Partners isn’t saying what’s behind the purchases, which have cost the firm $12.2 million so far. 

In other iconic restaurant news, Bridgett Turcotte of the Lynn Item reports a new eatery, the 110 Grill, will soon open at the former Hilltop Stakehouse site in Saugus.

MassLive

JP Progressives Holiday Event with our Sheros

Time to celebrate all our work during the past year! Please join us at our community fundraiser on December 12 at 7:00 pm at Doyle’s (where else) with our progressive Sheros we helped to elect and re-elect this year.

JP Progressives

Diversity & Inclusion in Legal Practice Summit!

The 2018 Diversity and Inclusion Legal Practice Summit offers world-class professional insights for the Greater Boston legal community.

COLOR Magazine

Why are Muslim Americans Democrats?

Come see social policy, racial and ethnic politics and Immigration expert Peter Skerry discuss why Muslim Americans vote for Democrats and more!

Young Americans for Freedom @UMB and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute

Ugly Sweater Party at ZooLights!

ZooLights at Stone Zoo promises to dazzle visitors of all ages this season.

Zoo New England

Getting to the Point with Congresswoman-elect Ayanna Pressley

Congresswoman-elect Ayanna Pressley will participate in a moderated discussion at the Institute where she will preview the issues she will be fighting for in the 116th Congress, share insights from her longstanding commitment to community-based policy reform, and reflect on her most recent history-making campaign.

Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate

Can We Bridge the Political Divide? Better Angels Red/Blue Workshop

Please join us for an intensive workshop that will bring together Republican-leaning and Democratic-leaning citizens for a day of structured conversations, with a focus on listening and reflecting rather than debating and persuading.

Better Angels

Across the Aisle: Finding Common Ground in Congress

A bipartisan panel of Members of Congress will gather at the Kennedy Institute to discuss the state of affairs in Washington, opportunities for common ground in the 116th Congress, the political challenges they face, and how to foster a vibrant civic dialogue. This program is hosted in partnership with the United States Association of Former Members of Congress.

Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate

Today’s Headlines

Metro

Environmentalist questions Harvard’s investment in vineyards and water – WGBH

Cambridge startup to work with TSA to help recover devices forgotten at airport – Boston Globe

Massachusetts

Agawam farm family protests Tennessee Gas pipeline land-taking – MassLive

Worcester city council again sides with residents on tax rate – Telegram & Gazette

Framingham voters approve new $98.3 million Fuller Middle School – MetroWest Daily News

Lowell school department audit to be released – Lowell Sun

Nation

Charlottesville jury recommends 419 years plus life for Neo-Nazi who killed protester – NPR

Sprawling 2020 field creates wild early-state scramble – Politico

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