Happening Today

Traffic camera bill, Healey presser, and more

Gaming Commission meets to hear an update on the ongoing responsible gaming research, review a quarterly report from MGM Springfield and vote on other matters, MassMutual Center, Rooms 1 and 2, 1277 Main St., Springfield, 10 a.m.

— Gov. Charlie Baker joins Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Rep. Russell Holmes and others to make an announcement relative to the Affirmative Marketing Program, Room 157, 11 a.m.

— The Senate holds a formal session to vote on legislation dealing with traffic enforcement cameras, updating terminology related to people with disabilities and establishing a way for homeless families to obtain state IDs, Senate Chambers, 11 a.m.

— Attorney General Maura Healey holds a press conference to announce a series of ‘major actions that will lower barriers to behavioral health services for more than one million Massachusetts residents,’ Boston Medical Center, FGH building, first floor, 820 Harrison Ave., Boston, 11:30 a.m.

— Environmental advocates hold a briefing to discuss funding for environmental agencies and programs in the state’s annual budget, with Rep. William Pignatelli and Sen. Anne Gobi, who chair the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, attending, House Members Lounge, 12:30 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

Coronavirus update: Hundreds quarantined in Massachusetts

Even as public officials continue to assert the risk of contracting coronavirus remains low in Massachusetts, the state revealed yesterday that, yeah, hundreds of people are currently in “self-quarantine” across Massachusetts – and hundreds more have been released from quarantines. The Herald’s Rick Sobey and the Globe’s Felice Freyer have more, including how, so far, only one person has tested positive for the virus in Massachusetts.

Meanwhile, SHNS’s Katie Lannan (pay wall) reports that state DPH official say they’re prepared for a potential outbreak in Massachusetts — and that they’re prepared to ramp up anti-coronavirus efforts when required. 

State’s fifth vaping-related death confirmed

In other medical-emergency news, from Michael Bonner at MassLive: “A fifth person in the state has died of a vaping-related lung (ailment), the Massachusetts Department of Public Health announced Wednesday morning. The person was described as a man in his 40s from Suffolk County, state officials said.”

He apparently vaped tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), an ingredient found in marijuana, it should be noted.


Power move: Eversource to acquire Columbia Gas after feds order utility out of Massachusetts

This is a pretty amazing story, if not unprecedented: A major utility basically ordered to leave the state, now, pronto, immediately, scram. The Eagle Tribune’s Christian M. Wade and SHNS’s Colin Young (pay wall) report on the feds’ extraordinary criminal charge against Columbia Gas of Massachusetts for “recklessly” disregarding safety rules and the “wholesale management failure” that led to the 2018 pipeline disaster in the Merrimack Valley. Columbia Gas has agreed to plead guilty, pay a $53 million fine – and sell itself. Enter Eversource’s $1.1 billion takeover bid hours after the U.S. Attorney’s dramatic announcement yesterday.

Btw, from Tanner Stening at MassLive: “‘I get no joy today from hearing this’; Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera on $53 million Columbia Gas of Massachusetts plea agreement with prosecutors.”

House unveils $600M transportation bill – and, yes, it includes a gas tax hike

On any other day, this would be the top story in the state. But yesterday wasn’t any other day (see above and below items). Anyway, the House did in fact unveil its much-anticipated transportation revenue bill – a $612 million package that include proposed hikes in gas, ride-sharing and corporate taxes, among other items. Steph Solis at MassLive and Shira Schoenberg at CommonWealth magazine have the details.

And, yes, as Schoenberg notes in a separate story, the lobbying on this bill is going to be intense indeed. From SHNS’s Matt Murphy and Chris Lisinski (pay wall): “House Transpo $$$ Bill Called Both ‘Genius’ And ‘Ill-Advised.’” Bottom line: Progressives, happy; businesses, not happy.

Now this: FBI investigating state’s licensing of massage therapists

Scandals left and right in state and city governments. Now this, from the Globe’s Andrea Estes: “The FBI has launched an investigation into how applicants with phony or questionable credentials were able to get Massachusetts massage therapist licenses, according to two people briefed on the probe, bringing upheaval to a board that is supposed to help prevent sex trafficking.” 

 The embattled entity in question: The Board of Registration of Massage Therapy, not to be confused with other government agencies and personnel under the fed microscope these days (State Police, ZBA, Rep. Nangle, Probation etc. etc.).

Boston Globe

Lawmakers grill State Police on ‘culture of covering up’

Speaking of embattled agencies, the Globe’s Matt Rochereau and SHNS’s Katie Lannan (pay wall) report on yesterday’s Beacon Hill hearing in which lawmakers let State Police officials have it over recent scandals – and what appears to be a “culture of covering up” misdeeds at the agency.

We found this item interesting in both articles: The State Police’s main union is opposing Gov. Charlie Baker’s proposal to allow governors to name the agency’s future leader from outside the ranks, saying it might hurt the morale of troopers. Yes, they really said that.

Meanwhile, Globe sues State Police over public records

Speaking of the “culture of covering up” at State Police, from the Globe’s Danny McDonald: “The Boston Globe is suing the Massachusetts State Police, alleging the agency has failed to comply with state law in its handling of at least three public records requests the newspaper has filed.”

Boston Globe

Is the state looking to ‘intervene’ in Boston’s public schools?

We missed this story from the other day, via Yawu Miller at the Bay State Banner: “A Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) report, a draft of which was released last week, gave a scathing review of the Boston Public Schools, paving the way for a possible state intervention in the district. State Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley has indicated that a state intervention is likely, according to two people reached by the Banner.”

As Miller and Universal Hub note, the state doesn’t exactly have a great intervention track record, or so say critics.

Bay State Banner

Mixed Message of the Week: Agency now says MCI-Framingham fate not final

Pay no attention to that man in front of the committee. A spokesman for the Executive Office of Public Safety & Security says no final decision has been made to close the women’s prison at MCI-Framingham, despite testimony from the agency’s secretary indicating the prison population would be moved elsewhere, the MetroWest Daily News reports. The agency says a final decision will come after a prison population study now underway is completed. 

MetroWest Daily News

The race for Massachusetts delegates gets serious – very serious

The Herald’s Lisa Kashinsky reports on the all-out effort of presidential candidates to win next Tuesday’s presidential primary in Massachusetts. How serious is it getting? The Warren campaign has even hauled out its fluffiest weapon. We suspect Bailey won’t be enough to match Bernie Sanders’ uber-weapon: Himself, at rallies on Friday in Springfield and on Saturday in Boston. Kashinsky notes that Warren is dodging questions about whether she can guarantee a win in Massachusetts next week.

In other campaign news, the NYT reports that John Legend is singing the praise of Warren. But from the Herald’s Hillary Chabot: “Warren criticized, again, over bogus claims of Cherokee heritage.” From MassLive: “Biden supporters gather at Massachusetts State House, say he’s ready for White House ‘on day one.’” And from Joanna Weiss at WBUR: “The South Carolina Debate Was Destined To Be A Disaster.”

Boston Herald

State task force balks at raising age of juvenile offenders

So it looks like 18 is here to stay (for now). From Sarah Betancourt at CommonWealth magazine: “A state task force decided against taking a position on the issue of whether or not to raise the age of jurisdiction for the juvenile justice system, but is urging wider adoption of programs that focus on rehabilitation and reducing recidivism.”


Thanks to Maine, another pillar of Baker’s clean-energy policy may soon topple

Gov. Charlie Baker’s hopes for new offshore wind farms off the coast of Massachusetts are now mired in regulatory reviews, thanks to the Trump administration. And now the administration’s hopes of bringing clean hydroelectricity from Canada to Massachusetts are in doubt, thanks to a proposed/likely voter referendum in Maine on the controversial power lines that would have to run through that state. The Globe’s Jon Chesto has more.

Boston Globe

Holyoke mayor mourns death of brother who struggled for years with drug addiction

This is sad – and it shows how the opioid epidemic is touching every societal corner of the state. From Nancy Asiamah at WWLP: “Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse is mourning the loss of his brother who passed away after years of struggling with heroin addiction. In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Mayor Morse described his brother, Douglas Morse, as ‘a good and caring man’ who he was blessed to have in his life.” Jeanette DeForge at MassLive has more on the overdose death of Doug Morse, 40.


Titanic battle over salvaging Marconi radio from famous ship wreck

Somehow two groups with local ties are battling it out over an ambitious plan to recover the historic Marconi wireless telegraph from the wreck of the Titanic in the north Atlantic, reports Emily Sweeney at the Globe. On one side is Springfield’s Titanic Historical Society (“it’s grave robbing”) and on the other side is ship-wreck salvager RMS Titanic Inc. (it’s about history).

Court: Trump can withhold funds to sanctuary cities in Massachusetts and elsewhere

This is important, but note the second clause in the following AP report at MassLive: “The Trump administration can withhold millions of dollars in law enforcement grants to force states to cooperate with U.S. immigration enforcement, a federal appeals court in New York ruled Wednesday in a decision that conflicted with three other federal appeals courts.”

The latest case deals with the release of funds to Massachusetts and six other states, including Connecticut and Rhode Island .


Councilors on income-based parking fines: Noble idea but …

As expected, City Councilor Julia Mejia is pushing ahead with her proposal for lower parking fines for lower-income motorists in Boston – and the council has agreed to hear the issue. But that doesn’t mean other councilors are sold on the idea, even as they diplomatically praise Mejia’s good intentions, reports Universal Hub’s Adam Gaffin and the Herald’s Sean Philip Cotter.

Help needed: Councilors want to find ways to help struggling taxi drivers

Maybe it’s already too late. The Boston City Council plans hearings to look at ways taxi regulations can be eased to help the few struggling cabbies in the city compete against ride-hailing services, Adam Gaffin reports at Universal Hub. The value of taxi medallions issued by the city has plummeted from a peak of $600,000 to around $35,000 today and scores of licenses now sit, unused, on City Hall shelves. 

Universal Hub

Remembering the Boston Massacre

The Globe’s Matt Berg reports on plans to mark the upcoming 250th anniversary of the Boston Massacre, with several events being organized to “remember the fatal violence of March 5, 1770, a milestone on the country’s road to independence.”

Boston Globe

Back in the black: Worcester council approves more borrowing for Polar Park

The books are balanced again. The Worcester City Council has unanimously approved borrowing an additional $32 million to pay for cost overruns on Polar Park, the future home of the Worcester Red Sox. Nick Kotsopolous at the Telegram reports the new price tag for the ballpark is $100.8 million after increased land-acquisition and demolition costs. 

Meanwhile, Grant Welker of the Worcester Business Journal reports the council also approved four tax breaks for a mixed-use development that will rise just across the street from Polar Park. 


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

U.N. Perspective Series: Gender Equality (International Women’s Day)

Celebrate International Women’s Day with Impact Hub Boston and United Nations Association of Greater Boston.

United Nations Association Of Greater Boston

Mikhail Minakov: Post-Soviet Eastern Europe: A Comparative Analysis of the Six Eastern Neighborhood Nations

Please join the Fletcher Eurasia Club for a lunch conversation with Mikhail Minakov about the Eastern Partnership initiative and the political environment of Eastern European countries after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Fletcher Eurasia Club

Mikhail Minakov: Political Development of Post-Euromaidan Ukraine

Please join the Russia and Eurasia Program at The Fletcher School for a conversation with Mikhail Minakov about revolutionary cycles of independent Ukraine and post-Euromaidan political development of the country.

Fletcher Russia and Eurasia Program

Authors@MIT | Benjamin J. Pauli presents Flint Fights Back

MIT Press author Benjamin J. Pauli discusses his new book Flint Fights Back.

The MIT Press Bookstore

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


Councilor proposes discount parking tickets for low-income residents – Boston Herald

Applications open for ‘jail-to-jobs’ marijuana program at Roxbury CC – Boston Globe


Attleboro council moves toward creating rent control board – Sun Chronicle

Family sues Plymouth sheriff for $8 million after son died in custody – Patriot Ledger

NRC experts fail to ease concerns over spent fuel at Pilgrim – Cape Cod Times


Bernie and Dems brace for superdelegate showdown – Politico

Foreign markets tumble again amid fear of coronavirus pandemic – Washington Post

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