Happening Today

Union ratification vote, SJC hearings, MBTA Control Board

— Unions representing 1,250 natural gas workers locked out by National Grid have scheduled a ratification vote for today on a tentative contract agreement announced last week by the company and the unions.

— The Supreme Judicial Court hears six oral arguments, John Adams Courthouse, Courtroom One, Second Floor, Pemberton Square, Boston, 9 a.m.

— The Department of Public Utilities holds an evidentiary hearing on the petition of Eversource Energy, National Grid and Unitil for approval of two long-term contracts for procurement of offshore wind energy, DPU, 5th Floor, Hearing Room A, One South Station, Boston, 10 a.m.

— Both legislative branches plan sessions, Senate chamber, 11 a.m.

— The MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board meets to discuss positive train control, Fairmont line improvements, parking fee charges and other topics, Transportation Board Room, Second Floor, 10 Park Plaza, Boston, 12 p.m.

— Gov. Charlie Baker meets with House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Karen Spilka for their first semi-regular closed-door huddle of the new legislative session, Senate President’s Office, 2 p.m.

— Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito joins Leominster Mayor Dean Mazzarella to participate in a ceremony celebrating his 25th year as mayor, City Hall, 25 West St, Leominster, 6:30 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

From surplus to deficit in one month? State revenues plunge in December by half billion dollars

Well, the surplus was nice while it lasted. From SHNS’s Michael Norton at the Salem News: “Add plunging state tax collections to a list of concerns that has recently grown to include a volatile stock market, rising interest rates and increasing talk about when the next recession may hit. Tax receipts for the month of December alone missed the monthly benchmark by more than half a billion dollars, erasing months of above-benchmark collections and leaving collections $108 million behind their targets midway through fiscal 2019, according to data released late Friday by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue.”

Salem News

Media circus alert: Spacey to be arraigned today in Nantucket

There will be no red carpets. Just a gauntlet of media types outside Nantucket District Court as actor Kevin Spacey is officially arraigned on sexual-assault charges today. The Herald’s Sean Philip Cotter has the details on the worldwide media horde that was already descending yesterday on Nantucket.

Meanwhile, the Globe’s Matt Rocheleau reports that Spacey’s lawyers apparently tried, and failed, to get the case settled within the state’s secretive clerk-magistrate system. Hey, they had to try. It’s previously worked for others trying to keep cases out of the limelight.

Boston Herald

T unveils new North Station pedestrian tunnel

No more long slogs through wind, cold and snow for T commuters transferring from commuter rail to the subway system at North Station. MBTA general manager Steve Poftak, via Twitter, officially announced yesterday the opening of the long-awaited “North Station Pedestrian Passageway” that will allow rail passengers to connect to the Orange and Green Lines without having to go outside. The Globe’s Sean Smyth and Universal Hub have more. UH even has an action video.

Warren barnstorms through Iowa

U.S. Rep. Elizabeth hit the presidential trail over the weekend in Iowa and, depending what media outlet you read, she emphasized and/or was hit by a number of issues. The Boston Herald and the Washington Post and USA Today emphasized the “ancestry” angle in their initial coverage. But, wait, the Washington Post was also struck by Warren’s emphasis on populist economics. The Globe’s Jess Bidgood focused on the gender issues raised by Warren’s candidacy. The New York Times generally played it down the middle.

But you can also just read Adam Reilly’s “five takeaways” piece at WGBH on Warren’s Iowa trip. It’s a good summary of her swing through Iowa. He’s definitely right about this: “It’s Way, Way, Way Too Early To Start Handicapping The Caucuses.”

Hillary’s Ghost, Part II

The folks at WGBH’s Beat the Press on Friday went at it over the “likeability” issue that often confronts female candidates for office, like U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren. The Globe’s Yvonne Abraham and Renée Graham are also chiming in on the subject, defending Warren against the double-standard so often applied to women candidates.

But here’s the odd thing: The recent controversy over likeability and comparisons to Hillary Clinton started, in part, over these articles at Politico and at McSweeney’s. But when you actually read the pieces they’re largely sympathetic to, or at least respectful of, Warren’s plight in general as a female candidate. There’s a little bit of a media echo chamber at work here. Just pointing it out. 

Drinks are on them: Bigwigs foot the bill for Baker’s inaugural festivities

Shira Schoenberg at MassLive has the details on who paid what for Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito’s inaugural festivities last week in Boston, Springfield and Worcester. We’re talking $25,000 a pop here (from Blue Cross Blue Shield, Tufts Health Plan, DraftKings, Cumberland Farms etc.) and $10,000 a pop there (PhRMA and Fallon Community Health Plan). The Globe’s Matt Stout has his own bigwig tally.


Nevada judge: Steve Wynn’s alleged sexual peccadillos will remain secret

Where this leaves state gaming regulators – and the fate of the Everett casino license — is anyone’s guess. From Mary Markos at the Herald: “A Nevada judge says documents about allegations of sexual misconduct against former casino mogul Steve Wynn will stay secret, at least for now, despite the Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s efforts to make them public.” The BBJ’s Catherine Carlock (pay wall) has more.

Statewide election watch: Is Walsh trying to cement his ‘progressive bonafides’ for higher-office bid?

This is interesting. From Brooks Sutherland at the Herald: “Mayor Martin J. Walsh is unveiling a legislative package on housing that extends its focus beyond the City and targets statewide issues — a move one political pundit said is ‘a great way to jump from mayor to a higher office.’ … The 14-bill package focuses on economic mobility and housing security, and is the first of four packages the mayor will send to the state legislature in the new year.”

The Herald’s Joe Battenfeld writes that Walsh is clearly “cementing his progressive bonafides” and “seems like he’s raising his statewide profile in preparation for another campaign.”

Boston Herald

A return to rent control in Boston?

In particular, this mayoral idea should make for an interesting debate on Beacon Hill. From Jonathan Ng at the Herald: “Property owners are gearing up for a fight against what they say is a return of rent control as Mayor Martin J. Walsh files legislation he’s touting as a way to protect elderly renters in the city. If passed, the legislation prepared by Walsh would ‘limit rent increases to 5 percent per year to prevent landlords from using large rent increases to get around just cause protections,’ according to a description of the proposal.”

Boston Herald

Welcome back: Costs of education, health care await new legislative session

Speaking of the legislative session: New year, same issues? As lawmakers gear up for the new session in 2019, , the all-too familiar issues of educational funding and health care financing loom over Beacon Hill, Mike Deehan reports at WGBH. And as Deehan points out, even if lawmakers are champing at the bit to get to work, most of the substantive debate will likely wait until after the governor and lawmakers iron out a budget.


Airbnb hosts on new regulations: ‘It’s just chaos’

New state and city regulations on short-term rental companies, i.e. Airbnb et gang, are causing “chaos” and forcing individual and corporate hosts across the state to scramble to comply with new rules, the Globe’s Tim Logan reports.

And more rules and confusion are definitely on the way. From the Daily Gazette: ‘Municipal leaders see opportunity to better oversee Airbnb properties.’ From the Cape Cod Times: ‘Cape towns adapt to new short-term rental law.’

Councilor: Enough with out-of-state pot retailers parachuting into our neighborhoods

Boston City Counciler Lydia Edwards is frustrated with the overall pot-shop licensing process in Boston – and she’s even more frustrated that “less than stellar proponents have parachuted into Massachusetts and sought approval in neighborhoods like East Boston.”


Woman who threatened to kill a reporter is in trouble again

From Norman Miller at Wicked Local: “The woman accused of telling a GateHouse Media reporter last year that she was going to shoot him is once again accused of violating the conditions of her release. Westfield Police arrested Amy Zuckerman, 64, on Thursday … Authorities say Zuckerman, or someone on her behalf, sent a letter to someone who works at GateHouse Media, which owns several papers in the state.”

Wicked Local

In Somerville, it’s good-bye Board of Alderman, hello City Council

The city of Somerville has gotten the state’s OK to change the name of its legislative body from “Board of Alderman” to “City Council,” after Gov. Charlie Baker last week signed a home-rule petition calling for the change, reports the Globe’s Steve Annear. Supporters says “aldermen” was an antiquated and patriarchal title for the governing board.

Boston Globe

Pressley and Trahan are no political novices, that’s for sure

Political columnist Peter Lucas at the Lowell Sun writes that the newest members of the state’s Congressional delegation, Ayanna Pressley and Lori Trahan, are landing in Washington with plenty of experience – and ideas.

Meanwhile, the Globe’s Matt Stout reports on how Trahan generally “hews to moderation, in politics and tone,” as the Globe’s Abbie Matheson reports Pressley is already co-sponsoring legislation that would end the fiscal measure known as “pay as you go.” Re other delegation members, U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark, the House’s new the Democratic caucus vice chair, is pumped about the state’s new clout in Congress, now that Dems control one of two chambers, reports Shannon Young at MassLive.

Lowell Sun

Malleable Mitt

Count the Globe’s Adrian Walker among those who aren’t exactly confident that Mitt Romney will be a reliable foe of President Trump in the U.S. Senate: “He’s still the man we know from his many years at the center of public life in Massachusetts: brilliant, occasionally eloquent, a tad self-righteous, and, most of all, malleable.”

Boston Globe

Pointed request: Arlington asks state to remove anti-homeless spikes from under Route 2 bridge

From the Globe’s John Hilliard and Aimee Ortiz: “Town officials were unhappy to discover that the state transportation department had installed two rows of metal spikes underneath a Route 2 bridge to keep homeless people from sleeping under the structure and have asked they be removed, said a top official Sunday.”

Boston Globe

Yes, they’re ‘open for business’ in the Merrimack Valley, post-gas-line disaster

Jessica Valeriani at the Eagle-Tribune reports that Gov. Charlie Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera and others visited a number of businesses impacted by this past fall’s gas-line explosions and fires in the Merrimack Valley, as part of a “Open for Business” promotional campaign to help firms still struggling to recover from the disaster.


Federal shutdown casualty: NTSB’s gas-line investigation put on hold

Speaking of the gas-line debacle, from Christian Wade at the Eagle-Tribune: “The partial shutdown of the federal government has put the brakes on the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation into the Merrimack Valley gas disaster. With the impasse over funding for a wall on the Mexican border entering its third week, hundreds of thousands of federal workers have been furloughed or are working without pay, as funding to run agencies has dried up. That includes investigators and other employees at the NTSB, which probes natural gas explosions as well as transportation accidents.”

Low pay and strong economy are causing substitute teacher shortages

From Scott O’Connell at the Telegram: “Substitute teachers are increasingly hard for local districts to find, as low pay and a healthy economy dry up the pool of potential applicants in the region. Across Central Massachusetts, subs generally can expect to be paid under $100 to teach a full day of classes in most districts, even if they have a college degree and are certified to be a teacher.” 

Less than $100 a day? That’s minimum wage territory – for people with college degrees.


Bad week for Boston-area restaurants (except for owner of Amrheins)

Durgin-Park wasn’t the only well-known eatery to announce last week that it was shutting its doors. Santoro’s Sub-Villa, the popular Route 1 sub shop in Saugus, is also closing,reports the Globe. The Herald’s Marie Szaniszlo reports that small restaurants in general are feeling the heat across the region due to high rents and other costs – and stiff competition from chains.

But it’s not all bad news for local restaurateurs — if your establishment happens to be located in a red-hot real estate market, like South Boston, where the owner of the iconic Amrheins restaurant reportedly has his property under agreement for a whopping $18 million, reports the Globe’s Danny McDonald. The restaurant will remain open for the next year and a half, but its fate after that isn’t clear.

The riddle of rural public transit: How to make it work

The Globe’s Adam Vaccaro has a piece on how state and local officials are tackling yet again the challenge of trying to provide adequate public transit in large and sparsely populated areas of the state – and at a time when a greater number of elderly people need rides.

Towns fear loss of solar-farm revenue as tax board grants exemptions

Two central Massachusetts towns could lose up to $1 million in expected tax revenue if the state’s Appellate Tax Board grants exemptions from local property taxes to major solar farms that have been installed in the region, Debbie LaPlaca reports in the Telegram. Activists are pushing communities to prepare for bad news.


Meehan laments loss of Tsongas’ bipartisan approach in Congress

Writing in CommonWealth Magazine, UMass Presiden — and former Congressman — Marty Meehan says former U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas leaves Capitol Hill with a legacy of bipartisanship and urges new and existing members of Congress to follow the example she set. 


Roots of Migration: US Immigration Policy Past and Present

Join us this year as we present workshops on essentials issues in nonprofit management such as supervision, financial management, fundraising, communications, and more! We have trained more than 3,000 nonprofit professionals on the skills needed to take the lead in their work and their careers.

Better Nonprofit Management Training Series

A Community Conversation: The Power of Public Monuments & Why They Matter

In conjunction with the $2.8 million restoration of the Robert Gould Shaw and 54th Regiment Memorial (Shaw 54th), the Partnership to Renew the Shaw 54th, comprised of four organizations– the National Park Service, the City of Boston, Friends of the Public Garden, and the Museum of African American History– will host a panel discussion about the role of monuments and memorials in our society.

the National Park Service, the City of Boston, Friends of the Public Garden, and the Museum of African American History

2019 Leadership Institute

The goal of the NAIOP Massachusetts Leadership Institute is to develop the practical knowledge and leadership skills that are necessary to advance the careers of mid-level commercial real estate professionals with 10+ years of experience. This is a 12 week program (January 15 – April 4).

NAIOP Massachusetts

Power Breakfast: Economic Outlook

Join the BBJ for a panel discussion looking into 2019!

Boston Business Journal

Today’s Headlines


Marty Walsh to file elderly tenant protection bill with state lawmakers – Boston Herald

Let adult immigrant high schoolers in Boston graduate – Boston Globe


Public forum planned on Falmouth needle exchange – Cape Cod Times

Attleboro COA takes aim at financial abuse of elderly – Sun Chronicle

Union contract costs add to Lowell schools’ fiscal worries – Lowell Sun


Why Isn’t Trump Talking About the American Jailed in Russia? – Foreign Policy

Trump offers a ‘steel barrier’ but Democrats are unmoved – New York Times

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