Happening Today

Affordable housing funds, Democratic presidential debate, and more

— Gov. Charlie Baker today attends the National Governors Association Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C., where he along with First Lady Lauren Baker plan to attend a private lunch hosted by Vice Presideent Mike Pence.

Tax Expenditure Review Commission, which reviews state tax expenditures every five years to determine their purpose and effectiveness, meets, with Auditor Suzanne Bump attending, Saltonstall Building, 100 Cambridge St., Boston, 9 a.m.

— Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announces new and recommended funding from the Department of Neighborhood Development, the Neighborhood Housing Trust and the Community Preservation Fund to create and preserve affordable housing in the city, Urban Edge, 1542 Columbus Ave., Roxbury, 10 a.m.

— Seven Democratic presidential hopefuls, including U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, convene in New Hampshire for the eighth debate of the primary season, four days before the N.H. Democratic primary, St. Anselm College, Manchester, N.H., 8 p.m.

For the most comprehensive listing of calendar items, check out State House News Service’s Daily Advances (pay wall – free trial subscriptions available), as well as MassterList’s Beacon Hill Town Square below.

Today’s Stories

‘Sticker shock’: East-West rail could cost $2B to $25B, report says

MassLive’s Tanner Stening has an excellent overview of the state Department of Transportation’s new cost estimates for linking Boston to western Massachusetts by regular train service. Needless to say, the option linking Boston all the way to Pittsfield, via high-speed rail, doesn’t exactly look feasible, with an estimated price tag of $25 billion (for starters). But the numbers for the five other options are intriguing.

Bruce Mohl at Common Wealth magazine has more on the DOT report – which, as he notes, may have underestimated the costs, if anything. U.S. Rep. Richard Neal admits some might suffer “sticker shock” looking at the numbers, but he says it’s time to get the debate rolling over statewide rail – and he’s already planning to contact various fed officials about potentially helping out with future costs, reports Jim Kinney at MassLive.


Entire Green Line branches to be shut for repairs this summer

We’re not talking about closing a few MBTA stations for weekend repair work. We’re now talking about closing entire branches of the Green Line for a month at a time for repair work. The Globe’s Adam Vaccaro and SHNS’s Chris Lisinski (pay wall) have the details on the Green Line and other planned closures later this year, as the T pushes ahead with its ambitious maintenance-and-repair program.

In New Hampshire, Warren ain’t giving up

A day before tonight’s Democratic presidential debate and only days ahead of next week’s primary election in New Hampshire, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth was busy barnstorming the state yesterday, holding a packed rally in Derry, downplaying yet more gloomy poll news and asserting that, yes, a woman can win the race for president.

Julie Huss at the Eagle Tribune has the Derry rally details, while the Globe’s Jeremy Fox has the latest poll numbers showing Pete Buttigieg surging in the Granite Sate while Warren languishes in third place. The Globe’s Victoria McGrane reports on Warren’s struggle on the gender-doubts front.

Meanwhile, the Herald’s Lisa Kashinsky report that former Gov. Bill Weld, who’s running in the Republican primary on Tuesday, thinks neither Sanders nor Warren can defeat President Trump in a general election. It’s that socialist thing, he says. And the Globe’s Shirley Leung reports that Diane Patrick, wife of late-entry candidate Deval Patrick, is all in with her husband’s quest for the presidency, starting with the campaign in NH.

Btw: Is it a campaign mutiny in the desert? Politico reports on Warren’s staff problems in Nevada.

‘Thank you, Mitt Romney’

The Herald’s Rick Sobey reports on President Trump’s vitriolic “victory lap” yesterday following his impeachment-trial acquittal and release of a new Russiagate report. It’s a vitriolic victory lap the Herald’s Howie Carr is absolutely loving.

But over at the Globe, they’re praising Mitt Romney, the Utah senator and former Massachusetts governor, for his lone Republican vote to convict Donald Trump on an impeachment charge. From the Globe’s Michael Cohen: ‘Thank you, Mitt Romney.” From the Globe’s Kevin Cullen: “Mitt Romney, latter-day statesman.” From the Globe’s Scot Lehigh: “Kudos to Mitt Romney, Bill Weld, for standing up.” And SHNS’s Chris Lisinki (pay wall) reports that Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, says he respects Romney — and respects his conviction vote.

Far worse, II: State Police OT scheme was devised decades ago by commanders, trooper says

We all know that they knew about the OT scandal at State Police. But the Globe’s Matt Rocheleau reports that the higher-ups at State Police were the ones who actually implemented the institutionalized theft of overtime money by putting pressure on rank-and-file troopers to write up ever more traffic tickets, or so claims one trooper in court filings. And the practice, allegedly, started 20 years ago.

Hmm. So how’s that recently proposed State Police reform bill faring? You know, the one that would overhaul the way State Police hire and promote and jettison the mandate that its commander be appointed from within? 

Boston Globe

Senate unveils sweeping mental health-care bill

The Massachusetts Senate yesterday unveiled details of its sweeping mental-health parity bill – and the legislation is on the fast-track for consideration, with debate on the bill set for next week. SHNS’s Matt Murphy (pay wall) has the details of the bill that “seeks to improve access to care by identifying gaps in the mental health system, enforcing equity laws and requiring insurance coverage for many emergency services.”

Steph Solis at MassLive has more on the bill, which includes measures on tele-psychiatry, emergency care coverage and licensing changes.

Never mind: State cancels insurance program once touted as a cost saver

Chalk up another victory for a health-care industry seemingly impervious to any and all efforts to rein in costs. From the Globe’s Matt Stout: “Citing ‘untenable’ price increases, state officials are scrapping a program that was intended to save the state’s Medicaid program tens of millions of dollars and offer better health care options to thousands of poor college students.”

Boston Globe

Now it’s Everett exploring gondolas …

Forget Seaport. Now it’s Everett officials who are exploring the possibility of building aerial gondolas to relieve traffic in the home city of the Encore Boston Harbor casino, reports the Globe’s Jon Chesto.

Congressional delegation: Why the ‘double standard’ on fossil fuels versus wind energy?

They probably already know the answer, but they’re asking anyway, i.e. the majority of the state’s congressional delegation is asking the U.S. Government Accountability Office to launch an inquiry into how/why the Trump administration treats fossil fuel projects differently than renewable energy projects like Vineyard Wind, as SHNS’s Colin Young reports. We’ll leave it to you to guess which one often gets more favorable treatment.

SHNS (pay wall — free trial subscription available)

State’s largest city finally gets a legal pot shop

Universal Hub reports that, finally, the Cannabis Control Commission has approved a retail pot-shop license for the city of Boston, so move over Montague, Lee, Uxbridge, Millis, Oxford, Wareham etc. The state’s largest city will soon be competing with you for pot shoppers.

Universal Hub

Is it time for Massachusetts to also legalize Magic Mushrooms?

Speaking of legal marijuana, is this proof that Reefer Madness was actually right that weed was a gateway drug to other drugs, at least from a legalization standpoint? Yes, Spencer Buell at Boston Magazine writes that, following the legalization of marijuana in Massachusetts, the next logical step is to decriminalize natural psychedelics like Magic Mushroom, as other cities around the country have already done.

Boston Magazine

SJC deals surprise tax blow to software companies

File under: ‘Tech tax, II’? From the BBJ’s Greg Ryan: “Massachusetts’ highest court ruled Wednesday that subscriptions to online software products are subject to sales tax, rejecting Citrix Systems Inc.’s argument that state tax collectors had overstepped their authority. Universal Hub’s Adam Gaffin has more on court ruling effecting popular online software products such as GoToMeeting and GoToMyPC etc.


Simmons University names first African American president

The BBJ’s Hilary Burns reports that Boston’s Simmons University has selected a new president, Lynn Perry Wooten, the private school’s first African-American leader. Wooten most recently served as the David J. Nolan Dean at Cornell University’s Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management.


Pie company looks to table all the talk it’s leaving Worcester

Amid concern that Table Talk Pies would leave the city of Worcester if a proposed tax increment financing deal isn’t approved, the company’s president says the iconic company is inded in Worcester to stay. Thomas Grillo atthe Worcester Business Journal reports Table Talk President Harry Kokkinis made his comments shortly after the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce warned the company could decamp and urged members to pressure city councilors to back the TIF deal.


Banning apartment broker fees: If New York can do it, why not Boston?

New York just did it. So why not Boston? The Globe’s Tim Logan and Universal Hub’sAdam Gaffin report on the early-stage push by some on Beacon Hill and at Boston City Hall to eliminate one of the most despised aspects of apartment hunting in the region: Hefty real estate broker fees.

Two prison guards charged in connection with assault on FMC Devens inmate

Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center isn’t the only prison with problems these days. From the Herald’s Marie Szaniszlo: “A senior correction officer and a lieutenant at the U.S. Bureau of Prisons’ Federal Medical Center in Devens were arrested Thursday, one for injuring a ‘vulnerable inmate’ in a mental health housing unit and the other for trying to cover up the assault, U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said.”

Boston Herald

Odyssey’s end? Deal on GE’s Housatonic River cleanup could come soon

Is the end finally in sight? A mediated agreement covering the final phases of the cleanup of contaminants dumped into the Housatonic River by GE in decades past could be revealed in coming days, Nancy Eve Cohen of New England Public Radio reports via WBUR. A group of communities and GE went to mediation some 18 months ago after coming to loggerheads over whether river dredgings that contain PCBs can be disposed of in the Berkshires or must be hauled out of state. 


Relocation of Worcester state offices to remote location sparks outcry

Maybe the administration is trying to help the struggling shopping mall and plaza industry? From Kay Lazar at the Globe: “The Baker administration is preparing to relocate a vital welfare and housing aid office in downtown Worcester to a shopping plaza miles away, with few public transportation options nearby. Advocates and local public officials are furious about the planned move, which they said came with little discussion or warning.”

Boston Globe

Like clockwork: Lawmakers once again reject Baker’s child rape bill

From Christian Wade at the Salem News: “A Democratic-controlled legislative committee has, once again, rejected Gov. Charlie Baker’s proposal to limit the release of child sexual predators from prison. The proposal sought to increase the penalty for rape of a child with force by someone who has already been convicted of sexual offenses to life without parole.”

Salem News

Sunday public affairs TV: Marty Walsh, Maura Healey and more

Keller at Large, WBZ-TV Channel 4, 8:30 a.m. This week’s guest: Mayor Marty Walsh, who talks with host Jon Keller about his recent call for more home rule, new spending in the BPS budget, and his take on the Democratic presidential primary elections.

This Week in Business, NECN, 10 a.m. Patrick Sullivan, CTO of security strategy for Akamai, discusses the Iowa caucuses’ app problems and the lessons to be learned; Bob McAlpine, New England Boat Show manager, and Matt O’Connor, co-owner of Freedom Boat Club, on the business of boating; and Jon Chesto of the Globe on Boston’s first recreational cannabis shop, jobs figures and more.  

CEO Corner, NECN, 10:30 a.m. David Winston, co-owner of Winston Flowers, and Theresa Larivee, the firm’s head floral designer, discuss the business of flowers and floral design as Valentine’s Day approaches.

On The Record, WCVB-TV Channel 5, 11 a.m. This week’s guest: Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who talks with hosts Ed Harding and Janet Wu, followed by a political roundtable discussion with political analysts Analyst Mary Anne Marsh and Rob Gray.

CityLine, WCVB-TV Channel 5, 12 p.m. With host Karen Holmes Ward, this week’s topic: Oscar 2020,

Campaigns 101: Resources for Candidates and Campaign Managers

Whether you’re a first time candidate or a seasoned candidate, you’ll benefit from this workshop about how to run for office in Dedham.

Women in Democracy Dedham

Thomas Pickering: U.S.-Russia Relations: What Can We Do About It?

Please join the Russia and Eurasia Program at The Fletcher School for a conversation with Ambassador Thomas Pickering about the current state of U.S.-Russia relations. The event will be followed by a reception in the Hall of Flags.

Fletcher Russia and Eurasia Program

Our Shared Work: Lifting up Democracy from Grassroots to Grass Tops

During challenging times in the socio-economic and political landscape, how does and can the university work with communities to engage individuals in efforts to lift-up democracy through grassroots organizing, public policy and institutional reforms, and civic engagement?

UMass Boston Office of Community Partnerships

Boston Speaker Series: Peter Diamandis

Fortune named Diamandis one of the “World’s Greatest Leaders.” A space entrepreneur turned innovation pioneer, he founded the XPRIZE Foundation to fund big money competitions to inspire groundbreaking developments in science and technology, and to solve some of the planet’s most pressing challenges.

Lesley University

Being a Republican on College Campuses

Come and hear Jamie Gass of the Pioneer Institute who will present 2019 Math and English Common Core disappointing results and explain why, as well as Kaila Webb from Wellesley College present her non-profit which aims to bring diversity of thought on college campuses.

Wellesley Republican Town Committee

Boston Speaker Series: Peter Diamandis

Fortune named Diamandis one of the “World’s Greatest Leaders.” A space entrepreneur turned innovation pioneer, he founded the XPRIZE Foundation to fund big money competitions to inspire groundbreaking developments in science and technology, and to solve some of the planet’s most pressing challenges.

Lesley University

Getting to the Point with Richard Blanco

Presidential inaugural poet Richard Blanco will visit the Institute to discuss the themes in his poetry collection, How to Love a Country.

Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate

ADL’s Breaking Barriers Speaker Series Presents: An Evening with Andrea Campbell

Please join us on Thursday, March 5, 2020 to hear from City Councilor Andrea Campbell.

ADL New England

Today’s Headlines


Firefighters union files suit against Walsh administration – Boston Globe

Braintree, Quincy Red Line stops to close nights and weekends for 6 months starting in March – Patriot Ledger


Mansfield looks to boost town meeting attendance – Sun Chronicle

Petition to save Chelmsford town manager is circulating – Lowell Sun

Voc-Tech schools facing scrutiny over admissions policies – CommonWealth Magazine


The Billion-Dollar Disinformation Campaign to Reelect the President – The Atlantic

Sanders and Buttigieg in dead heat with 100 percent of votes of caucus results reported – The Hill

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