Happening Today

SJC hearings, Gaming Commission, Cannabis Control Commission

— The Supreme Judicial Courts hears seven oral arguments, including a case pitting the Boston Globe against the state Department of Public Health over birth and marriage data of Massachusetts residents, John Adams Courthouse, Courtroom One, Second Floor, Pemberton Square, Boston, 9 a.m.

Gaming Commission holds a public meeting to discuss Wynn litigation updates from Nevada, Encore Boston Harbor and Horse Racing administrative matters, 101 Federal St. 12th Floor, Boston, 10 a.m.

— The MassDevelopment Board holds its monthly public board meeting, with Mike Kennealy, the new secretary of housing and economic development, expected to attend, 99 High St., 11th floor, Boston, 10 a.m..

— The Cannabis Control Commission will discuss a timeline to review and possibly revise the regulations that govern the adult-use and medical marijuana programs this year, Transportation Board Room, 10 Park Plaza, Boston, 12 p.m.

Massachusetts Water Resources Commission meets to hear an update on the state’s drought management plan and a ‘retrospective’ of the Drought of 2016/2017, 100 Cambridge St. – conference room 2B, Boston, 1 p.m.

Brandeis University hosts a special student forum as part of the Massachusetts Health Policy Forum’s programming, with Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders serving as the keynote speaker, Omni Parker House Hotel, Kennedy Room, Boston, 5:15 p.m.

— The city of Boston’s community engagement team hosts interim school superintendent Laura Perille and members of the executive cabinet to discuss BuildBPS, a facilities master plan, the English High School, 144 McBride St., Boston, 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

Judge bans use of breathalyzer tests pending reforms by state

Shira Schoenberg at MassLive and Danny McDonald at the Boston Globe report that District Court Judge Robert Brennan has banned the use in court of breathalyzer tests, at least in most instances, until state officials effectively get their act together and reform alcohol-testing procedures. The ruling came in a class-action case that’s challenging the accuracy of state breathalyzer tests, Schoengerg and McDonald write.

Education-funding buzzword of the day: ‘Momentum’

As expected, Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz and other lawmakers yesterday unveiled their latest legislation to revamp the state’s education funding formula, a move that could cost the state anywhere from $1 billion to $2 billion, as Shira Schoenberg at MassLive reports.

But what makes this bill different from previous funding-formula measures on Beacon Hill? In a world: “Momentum.” CommonWealth’s Michael Jonas and the Boston Globe’s Victoria McGrane report that there does indeed seem be more momentum this year to get a funding deal done, if only because Gov. Charlie Baker has already signaled it will be one of his top priorities this session. Max Larkin at WBUR also reports how the authors of the bill tweaked provisions in the legislation to make it more appealing to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, whose support is considered crucial for passage. Larkin explains the tweaks – and why they’re important to Boston.


Shutdown showdown: National emergency? ‘Martial law’? Really?

As you may have heard already, the ever-diplomatic President Donald Trump stormed out of a White House meeting in a huff yesterday after Democratic leaders said he couldn’t have his wall, as the New York Times reports. The Globe’s Liz Goodwin reports that even Republican senators are now getting nervous about the political fallout over the border-wall impasse that’s led a partial federal government shutdown.

And the shutdown continues to make headlines across the country and state. Some samples: “WMass lawmakers ask for more state food assistance money if federal shutdown continues” (MassLive) and “Food inspections, drug reviews at risk as shutdown slows FDA” (Globe) and “Neighborhood group helps clean up Bunker Hill Monument due to government shutdown” (NBC Boston) and “Shutdown may eat into school meals” (Telegram) and “Shutdown hooks fisheries” (Gloucester Times). You get the picture.

But what we found interesting are stories by the Globe’s Martin Finucane, on whether Trump really has the power to declare a “national emergency” and build the wall without Congressional approval, and the Herald’s Hillary Chabot, on how U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern has prepared a sort of “martial law” provision that would allow lawmakers to quickly approve a bill reopening the government if Trump and Democratic leaders reach a deal. It’s not as ominous as it sounds. But, still, just the terminology is crazy.

Legislative commission whiffs on public records report

Why are we not surprised? From the Globe’s Todd Wallack: “A Massachusetts legislative panel has been disbanded after failing for two years to reach an agreement on whether to expand the public records law to cover the Legislature, judiciary, and governor’s office.”

From SHNS’s Katie Lannan (pay wall): “After holding on to their public records law exemption in a landmark 2016 reform law aimed at making government more transparent, lawmakers assigned to come up with ways to open up the Legislature have now blown past two deadlines and are entering 2019 without consensus recommendations.”

Baker: Still the most popular governor in these Unites States

His landslide re-election victory in November seems to confirm these latest popularity-contest numbers. From SHNS’s Michael Norton: “Gov. Charlie Baker extended his run as the nation’s most popular governor to two full years but still hasn’t matched the streak that Vermont Sen. Bernie sanders is on, according to new poll results. Massachusetts voters approved of Baker’s job performance by a 72 percent to 14 percent margin, with his net approval rising 5 percentage points over his third quarter rating, Morning Consult reported Thursday.”

US. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s popularity numbers also rose, though not to the level of Baker’s numbers.

SHNS (pay wall — free trial subscription available)

Marijuana pedicures, massages and yoga classes?

The Globe’s Naomi Martin is reporting that the Cannabis Advisory Board is recommending that state regulators create licenses for both pot cafes and regular shops that want to provide a service or host an event involving cannabis – services and events such as pot pedicures, massages and yoga classes.

Here’s our question: Why aren’t there any beer pedicures, massages and yoga classes? Damn it, why this gross double-standard? Then again, we beer drinkers recently won our God-given right to throw axes while downing suds at bars. Btw: Mary Makos at the Herald reports that a recommendation on home delivery of pot is raising concerns among some.

Bourne latest Cape town in crosshairs of pot lawsuits

Speaking of marijuana, a second Cape Cod town is now being sued by would-be pot business owner who says its moratorium against recreational marijuana shops was unlawfully adopted. A land court suit filed by the Haven Center against the town of Bourne comes just three weeks after the same company sued the town of Brewster over its own ban, Beth Treffeisen reports at the Cape Cod Times.

Cape Cod Times

In wake of scathing fire department report, council president calls for overhaul of civil service hiring system

The firefighter “locker room talk” controversy isn’t going away. From the Globe’s Milton Valencia: “Boston City Council President Andrea Campbell called for overhauling and possibly eliminating the city’s use of the civil service system to fill public safety jobs, saying the process thwarts the hiring of women and people of color in police and fire departments.”

The Globe’s Emily Sweeney has a good story about a new fire-academy class on Moon Island – and there seems to be a little bit more diversity among cadets than in years past. Meanwhile, the Globe, in an editorial, is demanding reforms at a fire department that is overwhelmingly male, white and, let’s face it, foul-mouthed. 

Boston Globe

Ex-pharma chief pleads guilty to bribing docs to prescribe opioid medications

This is a story that should be getting national attention but isn’t getting national attention, to wit: The former chief executive of an Arizona pharmaceutical company has pleaded guilty in Boston federal court to giving kickbacks to doctors who wrote prescriptions for his firm’s fentanyl-based opioid drugs, as Jonathan Ng reports at the Herald. Herald columnist Jessica Heslam has a good companion piece on the Insys Therapeutics conspiracy/scandal.

The big unknown in all this: Who were the doctors who got the kickbacks? Any local ones? One suspects so, since the case is being heard in Boston.

Boston Herald

The Strangest Disaster: The Great Molasses Flood of 1919

As the 100th anniversary of the Great Molasses Flood of 1919 approaches, Mark Shanahan comes out of the starting gate strong: “Hollywood has made movies starring all manner of disasters, from rogue tornadoes and invading aliens to giant solar flares that fry the earth. But even the masters of make-believe haven’t conceived of anything as strange — or strangely devastating — as what happened that afternoon in January 1919.” It’s indeed a uniquely Boston disaster.

Boston Globe

Despite recent market scares, Rosengren remains optimistic about economy (somewhat)

Here’s some encouraging news: Federal Reserve Bank of Boston president Eric Rosengren is downplaying recent stock market volatility, saying that the economy remained strong throughout 2018 and that the momentum should carry forward into 2019, though he did note the “risk of a U.S. economic slowdown.” The BBJ’s Greg Ryan has more.

BBJ (pay wall)

Comparing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to … Sarah Palin?

Before you shout “double-standard” treatment of a female pol, the Globe’s Joan Vennochi lays out her arguments on why comparing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the new progressive wunderkind of Congress, to Sarah Palin is more than appropriate, based on Ocasio-Cortez’s own words and fuzzy math. “Over time, every fact-check or critique can’t be written off as misogyny,” Vennochi writes. She’s probably going to get you-know-what for writing this column, but, well, she happens to be right.

Warren to keynote New Hampshire Democratic dinner next month

SHNS’s Matt Murphy at MetroWest Daily News reports that U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who recently announced formation of her presidential exploratory committee, next month will keynote a major Democratic Party dinner in New Hampshire, the first-in-the-nation presidential primary state. She’ll speak at the 60th McIntyre-Shaheen 100 Club Dinner in Manchester on Feb. 22.

Metro West Daily News

Just wondering: If Elizabeth Warren becomes president, who would run for her U.S. Senate seat?

Speaking of Elizabeth Warren, Gintautas Dumcius at MassLive has the speculative story of the week, and perhaps even of the year: If Warren triumphs in her bid for the White House, who might run for her open U.S. Senate seat? All the usual suspects are there. No handicapping of potential candidates — yet.


Michael R. Deland, RIP

Michael R. Deland, 77, the former head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s New England office who played a critical role in cleaning up Boston Harbor, has passed away. The Globe’s Bryan Marquard has the obituary. Bottom line: Deland was one of those non-elected administrators who had an outsized role in the shaping of local public policy, similar to the legacy impacts of officials like William Callahan, Ed Logue, Fred Salvucci etc. Deland definitely left his mark here. RIP.

In Fall River, a push to take away power of future mayors

Throw ‘em all out. As Fall River ramps up for a March special election seeking to recall incumbent Mayor Jasiel Correia, some residents are agitating for the city to do away with its current strong-mayor form of government altogether, the Herald News reports. The city council (of course) has established a task force to look at alternatives, such as a strong city manager setup that would reduce the powers of the mayor and put day-to-day oversight of the city in the hands of a professional hired by (of course) the council.

Herald News

She finally did it: Althea Garrison, the perennial of all perennial candidates, takes office

From WBUR: “Althea Garrison, who has run in a number of city and state elections since 1982, and who once served a term as a state representative, was sworn-in Tuesday to the Boston City Council. The 78-year-old, who last year described herself as a Trump supporter and conservative with “some liberal ideas,” will now occupy the at-large seat U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley vacated after her election to Congress.” Universal Hub reports she’s vowing to fight for rent control and other housing issues.


Silver Line will soon debut sixty-foot long electric buses

The MBTA announced yesterday that the first of five very long electric buses is near completion, setting the stage for a demonstration of the battery-electric vehicles in action in actual city traffic. Universal Hub has the details and a photo of the 120-passenger behemoth.

Universal Hub

State Street Corp.’s new CEO to lay off 15 percent of senior executives

Only days after taking over as the new head of Boston’s State Corp., Ron O’Hanley is making his presence felt at One Lincoln Street, announcing he’s laying off 15 percent of the financial firm’s senior management staff, reports the BBJ’s Greg Ryan. But before you say, “Aha! Rosengren was wrong about the economy!” (see post above), keep in mind State Street has been struggling for a while now to find its financial footing.

BBJ (pay wall)

Charter school chair resigns after state starts asking questions about a six-figure payout to administrator

From Saraya Wintersmith at WGBH: “The chair of a Dorchester charter school’s board has resigned after state investigations of a controversial, six-figure payout to an outgoing administrator. Kevin A. Tarpley, a former Somerville alderman, had been board chairman of the Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy since 2010. His departure, effective this month, was announced in a brief letter released at the board’s meeting Tuesday night. Tarpley was not present.”


Coming to a shopping center near you: More Bitcoin ATMs

We’ve never seen anyone actually purchase something with Bitcoin, the non-government digital wonder currency. But there’s apparently a market out there for cryptocurrency transactions – and Arun Rath at WGBH has the details on a firm’s plan to increase the number of Bitcoin ATMs in the region.


Devens: ‘An economic-development powerhouse’

In an editorial, the Lowell Sun is singing the praise of development at Devens, the former Army base now shared by the towns of Ayer, Harvard and Shirley, and the paper is praising MassDevelopment for helping turn Devens into an “economic-development powerhouse.”

Lowell Sun

Activists ask state to allocate $30M for home heating programs

From SHNS at WBSM: “Human service activists and lawmakers rallied outside the State House Wednesday, calling for the state to help offset a cut in federal funding by allocating $30 million to help low-income families afford winter home heating bills.”


Signs of the times: New Bedford seeks to redirect panhandler donations

New Bedford’s latest effort in its year-long struggle to reduce downtown panhandling takes the form of four newly posted signs, Michael Bonner reports at the Standard-Times. The signs urge passersby to “contribute to the solution” by redirecting panhandler donations to a local housing nonprofit. It’s all part of a multi-pronged effort after previous proposed bylaws to ban panhandling ran into legal hurdles.


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

Faith and Justice in Society: Jewish, Christian and Muslim Perspectives

“Faith and Justice in Society: Jewish, Christian and Muslim Perspectives” will bring people from across Greater Boston together to learn about Jewish, Christian and Muslim perspectives on social justice from prominent religious leaders, deepening their awareness of our shared religious and social heritage.

A Faith That Does Justice

Live Webinar: Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Planning

Join AIM on a Webinar led by experts from Wolf & Company who will discuss best practices for achieving and maintaining safety, security, and compliance in times of trouble. In addition to providing ample time for your questions, you will also hear first-hand from one of Wolf’s clients, Kurt Shouse, AVP, Information & Cybersecurity Officer Florence Bank, about his recent experiences.

Associated Industries of Massachusetts

Power Breakfast: Economic Outlook

Join the BBJ for a panel discussion looking into 2019!

Boston Business Journal

Author Talk and Book Signing with Jim Hamilton

Author Talk and Book Signing with Jim Hamilton, Author of The Black Cats of Amherst

State Library of Massachusetts

Executive Forum – The State of Massachusetts Business 2019

Join us on January 25 as AIM presents the 2019 State of Massachusetts Business address and Economic Outlook Forum. AIM President Rick Lord and a panel of experts will discuss solutions to one of the most persistent challenge facing employers today: the shortage of qualified workers.

Associated Industries of Massachusetts

Get New Insight and Practices for Boosting Revenues

Are you ready to infuse your product, marketing and sales efforts with fresh ideas that work? Past Summits have won rave reviews. Learn more and register at StrategicMarketingSummit.com

MarketReach, Inc.

Today’s Headlines


Facebook expansion in Kendall Square has room for 600 employees – WBUR

Council president calls for overhauling civil service hiring system for public safety jobs – Boston Globe


Barnstable County sheriff: 79 inmates referred to ICE in 2018 – Cape Cod Times

Designer picked for new MassBay campus in Framingham – MetroWest Daily News

MBTA plans all-electronic fare collection – Salem News

Plastic bags banned in Attleboro – Sun Chronicle


Trump’s team had over 100 contacts with Russian-linked officials, report shows – USA Today

Poll: Biden, Sanders top Trump in North Carolina in potential 2020 match-ups – The Hill

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