Happening Today

Budget hearing, prescription drug pricing, campaign finance and more

— The Board of Higher Education holds a meeting of its Academic Affairs Committee to hear motions to officially revoke the degree-granting authority of Atlantic Union College, Mount Ida College and the University of Phoenix, all of which either have closed or plan to close, and the board’s Fiscal Affairs and Administrative Policy Committee later meets to possibly vote on fiscal 2020 tuition rates for community colleges and state universities, One Ashburton Place, 21st Floor, Conference Room 1, 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., respectively.

— As lawmakers start to review multiple bills dealing with prescription drug prices, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America hosts a ‘Researcher Day’ at the State House, while MASSPIRG unveils new report on prescription drug prices and plans to rein in costs, State House, 10 .m. and 12 p.m., respectively.

Joint Committee on Ways and Means convenes first hearing on the fiscal year 2020 budget, Gardner Auditorium, 11 a.m.

— A month after publishing a draft rule change that would curtail a union’s political giving power, the Office of Campaign and Political Finance has a hearing planned to solicit feedback, One Ashburton Place, 21st floor, Boston, 2 p.m.

— Gov. Charlie Baker will be presented with an excellence in leadership award at the annual legislative reception hosted by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston and the Massachusetts Association of Jewish Federations, UMass Club, 32nd floor, One Beacon St., Boston, 6 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 defense to offense: UMass’s Meehan proposes new online college

Watch out, Southern New Hampshire University. From Kirk Carapezza at WGBH: “University of Massachusetts President Marty Meehan announced on Monday plans to launch a new online college solely for adult learners. In his third annual State of the University address, the former Democratic congressman said the new online college, which is still being developed, would preserve the university’s mission as the number of college-aged high school graduates in the northeast drops.”

Gintautas Dumcius at the BBJ and Deirdre Fernandes at the Globe have more. As Fernandes notes, “It remained unclear how much such an enterprise would cost, what types of classes UMass would offer, and who would teach them. Meehan suggested that the system would likely have to borrow millions of dollars to launch this college, with the expectation of a return over the long term.”

Re Southern New Hampshire University: The school has emerged as one of the national powerhouses of adult online education. Its commercials are all over cable TV, in case you haven’t noticed.


Southern Vermont College the latest to announce it’s closing

Needless to say, UMass’s Marty Meehan isn’t exaggerating the market pressures on colleges today, especially small private colleges (see first item in our Happening Today section above). The latest higher-education casualty: Southern Vermont College, which announced yesterday it will be closing after conclusion of this spring semester, citing dire financial problems, reports Jim Kinney at MassLive.


Amid mounting public criticism, MBTA members balk at fare hike for all riders

From Bruce Mohl at CommonWealth magazine: “Facing pushback from the public and transportation advocates on a proposed 6.3 percent average MBTA fare increase, some members of the transit agency’s oversight board signaled on Monday that they may not rubber-stamp the increase. Brian Lang, a director of the Fiscal and Management Control Board, said the T shouldn’t be raising its fares in isolation from the rest of the transportation system.”

Meanwhile, the Globe’s Adam Vaccaro reports that “bus riders, senior citizens, and students may yet see a reprieve from the MBTA fare hike, after members of the transit system’s board of directors asked it to consider keeping rates stable for those riders.”


Senate slips family-cap measure into mid-year spending bill

From SHNS’s Colin Young: “The Senate is proposing to eliminate a state limit on family welfare benefits as part of a $144 million mid-year spending bill that is poised to become the first significant piece of legislation passed this session by the Senate later this week. New Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Michael Rodrigues proposed a new version (S 2181) of the supplemental budget bill passed last week in the House (H 3506) and the Senate teed it up for consideration at a full formal session this Thursday.”

SHNS (pay wall — free trial subscription available)

Fall River agrees to amend pot host agreements after complaints they exceeded state law

This is a rarity: A local government, in this case the city of Fall River, actually backtracking on sweetheart “host community agreements” with pot companies, after the city was warned that its shakedown of the firms exceeded state law. Peter Jasinski at Wicked Local has the details.

Wicked Local

Ten times the fun: Pot shop milestone to be reached Wednesday

Then there were 10. It took longer than expected but as of Wednesday morning, Massachusetts will have 10 adult-use cannabis shops up and running after Sanctuary Medicinals kicks off sales in Gardner, Craig Semon reports at the Telegram. Although the city’s mayor says the fact that so many stores are already open for business should reduce any traffic impacts, Sanctuary says it will use an appointments-only system, at least initially.


The Thing That Ate Springfield: MGM set to take over city’s Symphony Hall

MGM Springfield has a new answer for the joke about how to get to Symphony Hall: The casino operator has struck a short-term deal with Springfield to take over management of the city’s concert hall, Peter Goonan reports at MassLive. The city will pay MGM $110,000 to cover associated costs for the remainder of the current fiscal year while a longer-term contract is finalized.


Is Harvard Law aligning itself with Spanish Grand Inquisitor Tomas de Torquemada and the Pope’s Index of Forbidden Books?

Harvey Silverglate at WGBH is going after Harvard Law School for its “dis-invitation” to Washington lawyer Bruce Fein to speak at the school. The problem? Fein’s views on whether the Armenian people were victims of genocide in the early 20th Century. After the dis-invite, Fein urged Harvard Law to review its speech policies and expressed hope the school doesn’t ever graduate students “philosophically aligned with Spanish Grand Inquisitor Tomas de Torquemada or the Pope’s Index of Forbidden Books.”


Mothers of opioid victims to Harvard: Remove Sackler name from campus

The company in question, of course, is Purdue Pharma, and the opioid drug it aggressively peddled was OxyContin. From Jonah Berger at the Harvard Crimson: “Dozens of mothers who lost their children to opioid overdoses are calling on Harvard to remove the Sackler family’s name from its campus, in light of recent allegations that the family was deeply involved in perpetrating the national opioid crisis.” Bacow is reportedly refusing the request.

Harvard Crimson

Meanwhile, Purdue Pharma says Healey’s lawsuit is ‘sensational and inflammatory’

Speaking of Sackler family, Purdue Pharma and the peddling of opioid drugs, the company is firing back at Attorney General Maura Healey’s lawsuit against the drug firm, filing for dismissal of the case and accusing Healey’s office of engaging in “sensational and inflammatory” rhetoric, reports the BBJ’s Jessica Bartlett.

File under: Small violin – very small.

Btw: Did you read the Globe story the other day about the former Insys Therapeutics executive who urged his sales team to watch ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ to get pumped up to sell the firm’s Fentanyl spray to doctors and patients? He testified last week at the landmark federal racketeering trial in Boston against former Insys executives, who are accused of, among other things, bribing doctors to prescribe its opioid product.


Convicted killer of mother and two children asks SJC to order his parole eligibility

Daniel LaPlante, who was convicted of shooting a mother and drowning her two children when he was 17 years old in 1987, is asking the Supreme Judicial Court to move up his parole eligibility date, arguing his sentence decades ago was unconstitutional. The Globe’s Laura Crimaldi has more on the controversial case – and request – amid a shifting legal landscape when it comes to life-in-prison punishments for juveniles. 

Boston Globe

Suicides in county jails dropped last year to lowest level since 2011

Chris Burrell and Hannah Schoenbaum report at WGBH that the number of inmate suicides in the state’s county jails dropped to three last year, the lowest level since 2011. The possible cause? Fewer county inmates. But jails in general have also been under increased legal pressure over jailhouse suicide rates, they note.


Robert Restuccia, health care advocate, RIP

Robert Restuccia, 69, a long-time advocate of universal health care and health care reform in general in Massachusetts, has passed away after battling pancreatic cancer. The Globe’s Priyanka Dayal McCluskey and SHNS’s Michael Norton (pay wall) have more on Restuccia’s huge impact over the years on health care in Massachusetts.

Manhunt: Police investigating latest graffiti incident at State House

Police believe the “same suspect” is responsible for recent graffiti incidents at the State House and the surrounding neighborhood, the latest tagging having occurred over the weekend on the backside of the State House and on private home on Beacon Hill.

One of the scrawled messages as shown at Universal Hub: “Class warefare xx sick.” Are we dealing with commie taggers? Get ‘em! Aviva Luttrell at MassLive has more.

Universal Hub

AIM questions whether state’s family-and-medical leave program can start on July 1

Citing the financial burden on small businesses, the state’s most powerful business group, the Associated Industries of Massachusetts, is suggesting, though it’s not requesting, that the state delay implementation of the new family and medical leave law until after July 1, reports the BBJ’s Greg Ryan.


Ware fire chief who was put on paid leave asks AG to fine selectmen

It’s not clear why the chief was put on paid leave, but it’s pretty clear it’s dominating town politics these days in Ware. From Jim Russell at MassLive: “Fire Chief Thomas Coulombe, who has been on paid leave since last month, has filed an Open Meeting Law complaint against the Board of Selectmen. Coulombe has requested that Attorney General Maura Healey’s office impose monetary fines on each of the board members.” 


The elderly housing squeeze: It’s getting worse

As part of a series on the housing crisis in Massachusetts, Eli Sherman at Wicked Local takes a look at how senior citizens are getting crushed by rising rents and the cost of living in general in Massachusetts. Not even reverse mortgages or selling off their homes at premium prices are covering rising costs.

Wicked Local

Compressor station plan will get stepped-up environmental review

State officials will conduct their own review of potential hazardous material in the ground at the site of a controversial natural gas compressor station in Weymouth, after lawmakers and others slammed a consultant’s report on the issue. Jessica Trufant at the Patriot Ledger reports the state will essentially re-do the so-called 21E assessment of the site, which Weymouth Mayor Robert Hedlund says could delay the time frame and cost of the project. 

Patriot Ledger

Judge tosses one of 10 charges against Hefner

From the Globe’s Matt Stout: “A Superior Court judge has tossed out one of the 10 sexual assault and misconduct charges prosecutors brought against Bryon Hefner, the husband of former Senate president Stanley C. Rosenberg. But the judge denied Hefner’s request to dismiss a more serious count alleging Hefner forcibly kissed another man.”

Boston Globe

After explosions, a different reception for an inspection plan in Lawrence

What a difference a major catastrophe makes. A plan submitted three years ago by Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera to increase the frequency of city inspections of rental units — which in the past has been shelved by the city council — has new life in the wake of last fall’s natural gas explosions and fires, Keith Eddings reports at the Eagle-Tribune. Rivera’s budget includes funding for three new inspectors, though officials say even that may not be enough.  

Eagle Tribune

NOVA “Addiction” Film Screening & Panel Discussion

The WGBH science series NOVA on PBS and Wayside Youth & Family Support Network’s Multi-Service Center invite you to a screening of the documentary “Addiction” followed by a panel discussion about the deadliest drug epidemic in U.S. history and potential solutions. To register, visit bit.ly/waysidescreening

Wayside Youth & Family Support Network

The Breakfast Club

Please join us for this event which features a speaking program, salutes to area businesses and a networking breakfast. More than 300 area professionals attend.

Worcester Chamber of Commerce

Author Talk and Book Signing with Dina Vargo

Author Talk and Book Signing with Historian Dina Vargo, Author of Hidden History of Boston

State Library of Massachusetts

Today’s Headlines


Tito Jackson: Cannabis shops would ‘lift communities that have been left behind’ – WBUR

Quincy Center deal would net $25M in taxes over 40 years – Patriot Ledger


Amherst town council backs possible changes to state flag, seal – Daily Hampshire Gazette

Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus in line for contract extension – Telegram & Gazette

Fall River police: Property crime, violent crime down in 2018 – Herald News


Senate Republicans leave Kashoggi briefing unsatisfied – Politico

Pelosi says Democrats to introduce bill to bring back net neutrality this week – The Hill

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