Happening Today

Gaming Commission, Mental-health parity, and more

Health Connector board of directors meets to vote on recommendations for the 2021 affordability schedule and indexing deductibles for the Minimum Creditable Coverage, 50 Milk St., Health Policy Commission Offices, Boston, 9 a.m.

Supreme Judicial Court hears oral arguments for five cases, John Adams Courthouse, Courtroom One, Second Floor, Pemberton Square, Boston, 9 a.m.

Gaming Commission meets to review topics including Region C, MGM Springfield, Vendor Spotlight, Encore Boston Harbor, Plainridge Park Casino and Executive director Search, 101 Federal St., 12th floor, Boston, 10 a.m.

— The Massachusetts Senate meets in a formal session to consider legislation aimed at improving access to mental health care and enforcing existing laws on mental health parity, followed by a rally of supporters of the bill at the State House, with the Senate convening at 11 a.m. and the rally at the Grand Staircase at 12 p.m.

— U.S. Sen. Ed Markey holds a town hall to discuss the Green New Deal, Somerville High School, 81 Highland Ave., Somerville, 6:30 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

‘Vindication’: Judge tosses convictions of two ex-aides to Walsh

Is it finally over? After so many years, it’s almost hard to believe if true. From the Globe’s Milton Valencia: “A federal judge on Wednesday tossed the criminal convictions of two City Hall aides, a legal vindication for them and a political victory for Mayor Martin J. Walsh in a case that has shadowed the administration for four years.”

Most legal observers say US District Judge Leo T. Sorokin’s action was a clear legal rebuke and “slap in the face” to fed prosecutors, as the Globe’s Danny McDonald reports.

Boston Globe

Patrick calls it quits

MassLive’s Michelle Williams and the Washington Post report that former Gov. Deval Patrick, after barely registering a blip in NH’s poll results on Tuesday, has officially ended his campaign for the White House. Bottom line: Too little, too late. Quickie observation: We remain convinced Patrick would have done quite well, and would probably still be in the mix today, if he had launched his campaign much earlier. But he couldn’t and didn’t. And so … let the VP running-mate speculation commence!

Can Warren even win Massachusetts?

How bad is it for U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren in the wake of her disappointing fourth-place showing in New Hampshire on Tuesday? The Globe’s Matt Stout lays out the reasons why she may have trouble carrying her own home state come March 3. Among her obstacles: A certain billionaire who hails from Medford and other candidates now beefing up their campaign presence in Massachusetts.

Meanwhile, Benjamin Kail at MassLive reports that the Warren campaign is pulling back ads in Nevada and South Carolina amid an ongoing fundraising crunch. And from the Washington Post’s Annie Linskey: “Warren’s campaign at a crossroads as once-rising star confronts disappointing finishes.”

The Herald’s Joe Battenfeld isn’t saying Warren still has a chance at this point, but he does say that Bernie Sanders is a hell of a lot more vulnerable than he looks.

Governor’s Council members slam administration’s ‘disturbing’ clerk magistrate nominations

You mean … you mean … there might be actual patronage within the state’s court system? From the Herald’s Mary Markos: “Governor’s councilors are blasting the Baker administration for political patronage yet again in the latest appointment to lifetime, high-paying court jobs with connections to Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito.” Markos has the campaign-donation names and numbers too.

Just a reminder, via the Globe, in case you’ve forgotten: “Secret courts”

Boston Herald

Baker administration hires controversial former Dracut official

Speaking of curious hires by the Baker administration, SHNS’s Matt Murphy (pay wall) reports that the former town manager in Dracut – where the AG’s office just determined that town officials violated procurement and wage laws, as the Lowell Sun’s Meg McIntryre reports – has been hired to help oversee the state office of consumer affairs and business regulation.

Fyi: James Duggan, the proud new member of Team Baker-Polito, abruptly resigned as Dracut town manager late last year amid an outcry over procurement-related matters in the town.

SHNS (pay wall — free trial subscription available)

Healey sues Juul for allegedly preying on the youth vaping market

After what we’ve recently learned about the drug industry’s early role in the opioid epidemic, this isn’t overreach nor a far-fetched claim at all: Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is suing e-cigarette giant JUUL Labs for deliberately marketing vaping and other tobacco-related products to youths, such as through the Carton Network and school email addresses, and helping create the epidemic of youth vaping, report CommonWealth magazine’s Shira Schoenberg and the BBJ’s Jessica Bartlett

Shadow CBO: Tufts launches center to analyze state bills and ballot initiatives

Somebody’s got to do it. Tired of waiting for the state legislature to create an independent agency to study the impacts of new legislation, Tufts University has launched the Center for State Policy Analysis, Michael Jonas reports at CommonWealth Magazine. The center will be led by former Globe journalist Ethan Horowitz and is preparing to weigh in on topics such as the Transportation and Climate Initiative and ballot questions voters will decide in November. The center’s advisory board will include some Bay State political heavyweights, including former governors Michael Dukakis and Jane Swift. 


Stop scaring the kids: Teachers union wants end to active-shooter drills

The Mass. Teachers Association has thrown its support behind a nationwide push to end active shooter drills in schools, saying they spark fear and even trauma among students, Chris Burrell reports at WGBH. It should be noted: The union thinks that part of the school-shooting solution is to hire more teachers and counselors.


Education Department investigating Harvard and Yale’s financial ties to foreign nations

Notice this is the “Education” department, not the “FBI” and “Justice” department. Anyway, the Globe’s Deirdre Fernandes and the Wall Street Journal (pay wall) report that the U.S. Department of Education has launched an investigation into Harvard and Yale’s financial ties – via grants, donations, contracts, etc. — to possibly hostile foreign powers, apparently part of a widening probe in the wake of recent Chinese spying allegations.

Councilor: Parking ticket fines should be adjusted for incomes of violators

We can just see it now: A new city office dedicated exclusively to running each and every parking ticket in Boston through RMV and DOR databases in order determine if someone should get a break on parking-ticket fines based on his/her income. One city councilor thinks it’s a good idea. WCVB reports.


The Department of Transportation and Parks?

One more transportation item: So what else is tucked in the Baker administration’s proposed fiscal 2021 budget? Colman Herman at CommonWealth magazine reports that the administration is proposing that the Department of Transportation should take over control of four parkways in the state – including Storrow Drive and Soldiers Field Road – from the Department of Conservation and Recreation. Former transportation czar Fred Salvucci is among those skeptical about the idea because, well, what does DOT know about running parks?


DiZoglio under GOP fire for vote on immigrant driver’s license

The state GOP obviously thinks it has a juicy issue to exploit this fall. From SHNS’s Matt Murphy: “Sen. Diana DiZoglio is defending her decision to vote in favor of advancing a bill that would make driver’s licenses available to undocumented immigrants, leaning on the support of police chiefs in her district in the face of sharp criticism from Republicans who accused her of flip-flopping from her 2014 campaign position.”

SHNS (pay wall — free trial subscription available)

Dorchester Rep. Cullinane is the latest lawmaker to call it quits

This is well beyond a trend now. Bill Forry at the Dorchester Reporter reports that state Rep. Dan Cullinane is the latest Beacon Hill lawmaker who has decided not to seek re-election in the fall, saying he wants to devote more time to his young family. A potential/probable/almost certain candidate to seek Cullinane’s seat: Jovan Lacet, a Mattapan-based attorney who last year signaled he was prepared to challenge Cullinane for a third time, Forry reports.

Dorchester Reporter

General disapproval: Kelly unloads on Trump after Vindman move

Former White House chief of staff John Kelly, a proud Brighton native, is coming out strongly in support of fired National Security Council aide Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, saying he was just following orders and his military training when he spoke out about President Trump’s Ukraine dealings, Peter Nicholas reports at The Atlantic. Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general, is also blaming his wife for swaying him to take a role in the Trump administration in the first place. 

The Atlantic

Warning: Uber-Lyft rides could hit 98 million this year in Massachusetts

We missed this story amid all the NH primary hoopla the other day, via SHNS’s Katie Lannan: Administration and Finance Secretary Michael Heffernan says the number of Uber-Lyft rides are expected to rise to 98 million this year in Massachusetts, up from last year’s 81 million. Think about it: 98 million rides, all of them zipping around to and fro on our already congested roadways.

SHNS (pay wall — free trial subscription available)

Western Mass residents: We want east-west rail, cost estimates be damned (sort of)

MassLive’s Jim Kinney and Western Mass. Politics & Insights’s Matt Szafranski report that, based on a public hearing yesterday, support in western Massachusetts for a new east-west rail line is strong, despite a recent state study that estimated such a rail expansion would cost anywhere from $2 billion (for the cheapo plan) to $25 billion (for the everything-included deluxe plan).

Personal politics: Cyr opens up about mental health struggles in support of legislation

He knows the shortcomings of the current system all too well. State Sen. Julian Cyr is sharing his own struggles with anxiety and depression to illustrate the need to pass a comprehensive mental health reform bill the Senate plans to debate and vote upon today. Geoff Spillane of the Cape Cod Times reports Cyr offered details about his own struggles to get coverage for therapy that he says ultimately helped him deal with panic attacks and an eating disorder. 

Btw: Cyr, Senate President Karen Spilka and Sen. Cindy Friedman have a joint-byline opinion piece in the Globe today, arguing in favor of the Senate’s mental-health parity bill that’s expected to pass today.

Cape Cod Times

The opioid crisis: Some improvements, but still thousands of deaths

SHNS’s Katie Lannan (pay wall) and MassLive report that the latest batch of data on the opioid crisis shows a slight decline in the number of opioid overdose deaths in Massachusetts. Still, here’s the discouraging and grim reality: 2,023 people died of overdoses last year in Massachusetts.

Dershowitz files defamation suit against lawyer in yet the latest Jeffrey Epstein dustup

Now that the U.S. Senate impeachment trial is over, it’s back to other matters for Harvard Law’s professor emeritus. From The Hill: “Attorney Alan Dershowitz filed a defamation countersuit against fellow lawyer David Boies, claiming Boies, his law firm and Jeffrey Epstein accuser Virginia Giuffre attempted to extort money from rich and powerful men for private settlements. The suit, filed in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan, alleges intentional infliction of emotional distress and extortion.”

The Hill

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


Garelick Farms zoning changes aimed at spurring Lynnway growth – Lynn Item

Medford, Somerville awarded climate resiliency funding – Medford Patch


Attorney General finds Dracut violated procurement, wage laws – Lowell Sun

Crowd at New Bedford fire station protests its closure – Standard-Times

Plastic Free gets bylaw on Oak Bluffs town warrant – Martha’s Vineyard Times


Trump Cuts Scheduled Federal Pay Raise, Citing “Serious Economic Conditions” in the Country – Slate

Centrist Democrats aren’t sure who can stop Sanders – New York Times

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