Happening Today

Opening of new session, SJC hearings, flu-shot protest

— The Massachusetts House and Senate gavel in a new legislative session today, with Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito attending outdoor and virtual swearing-in ceremonies for the 192nd General Court.

— The Supreme Judicial Court meets to hear virtual oral arguments for four cases including one pitting the state against JP Morgan Chase & Co., 9 a.m.

— Opponents of a requirement this year that all Massachusetts students, from preschool to college, get a flu shot plan to mark the start of the new legislative term with a protest outside the State House, 11 a.m.

For the most comprehensive list 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

Reminder to readers: SHNS Coronavirus Tracker available for free

A reminder to our readers as the coronavirus crisis unfolds: The paywalled State House News Service, which produces MASSterList, is making its full Coronavirus Tracker available to the community for free on a daily basis each morning via ML. SHNS Coronavirus Tracker.

The coronavirus numbers: 63 new deaths, 12,464 total deaths, 4,178 new cases

CBS Boston has the latest coronavirus numbers for Massachusetts.

Georgia runoff update: Dems poised to take control of U.S. Senate

As of earlier this morning, the Washington Post and CNN were reporting that Democrat Raphael Warnock has captured one of the two open U.S. Senate seats in Georgia – with the second U.S. Senate race in Georgia still too close to call. It’s another dramatic nail-biter, folks.

Early bird special: Lawmakers pass transportation and economic bills in wee hours of the morning

There was so much happening last night and this morning on Beacon Hill, we’ll just go (initially) with the Globe’s three-reporter summary of events: “The Massachusetts Legislature on Wednesday morning passed long-awaited agreements on a $627 million economic stimulus bill and a multibillion-dollar transportation borrowing package, but only after bending its own rules — and the calendar — to finally get the proposals to Governor Charlie Baker’s desk.”

SHNS’s Chris Lisinski (pay wall) and MassLive’s Steph Solis have more on the trimmed-down transportation bill. Meanwhile, SHNS’s Matt Murphy (pay wall) and MassLive’s Steph Solis (again) have more on the economic bill. And CommonWealth’s Shira Schoenberg and Bruce Mohl have more on both bills.

The big takeaways: The economic bill doesn’t include sports betting, but it does contain a version of Gov. Charlie Baker’s “Housing Choice” proposal. The transportation bill includes new fee hikes for ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft, low-income fare programs for public transit riders and funding for the East-West rail project, as Solis reports.

SHNS’s Michael Norton and Sam Doran (pay wall – scroll down) report that legislation targeting sexual violence on college campuses was also approved. And MassLive reports that lawmakers also passed legislation that moves the state closer to changing the state seal and motto, something indigenous activists have been advocating for years.

What time is it? Whatever time the Legislature says

Not even Einstein thought it was possible. But, yes, lawmakers have discovered how to bend and distort time itself, as they displayed last evening and this morning by extending the midnight end-of-the-session deadline into the wee hours of today, via their definition of a “legislative day” and by “testing the limits” of pandemic-era emergency rules, as CommonWealth’s Bruce Mohl and MassLive’s Steph Solis report.

And we can’t wait to see how they interpret the Massachusetts Constitution when it comes to possible line-item vetoes by the governor, as SHNS’s Matt Murphy and Sam Doran report (pay wall).

Baker: Residents should assume new coronavirus variant is already here

You’ve been warned. From NBC Boston: “Gov. Charlie Baker on Tuesday said his administration is working under the assumption the new, more contagious variant of the coronavirus has arrived in the state, urging residents to continue following health guidelines.”

NBC Boston

State eases MCAS rules and standards due to pandemic

They didn’t want to do it. But they had to do it. SHNS’s Katie Lannan (pay wall) and MassLive’s Melissa Hanson report that state education officials are easing some MCAS requirements and standards this year due to you-know-what. The changes include shorter tests for students in grades 3-8 and the ability of this year’s seniors to graduate without passing.

In other education news, from Anissa Gardizy at the Globe: “Mass. offers Internet access help for unemployed.”

MBTA to furlough workers – including its own GM

The Herald’s Sean Philip Cotter reports that the MBTA, struggling with a massive deficit during the pandemic, has informed its workers to be prepared for unpaid furloughs – and General Manager Steve Poftak is “also furloughing himself from a week of his earnings, which were $345,000 in 2020.”

Boston Herald

Mariano’s pandemic answers: ‘Nothing short of clueless’

Welcome to the spotlight, Mr. Speaker. Newly minted House Speaker Ron Mariano is catching flak for an interview he recently gave to Sharman Sacchetti at WCVB — in which the Quincy Democrat responded “I have no idea” when asked how the state’s vaccination program is going. From a PR perspective, it gets worse. The Patriot Ledger’s Joe DiFazio has more.

Globe columnist Adrian Walker’s verdict on the interview: “Nothing short of clueless.” 

Patriot Ledger

Walsh extends business restrictions by three weeks

The numbers don’t suggest the curve is bending, so Mayor Marty Walsh has extended the city’s pandemic restrictions on gyms, museums and other establishments for another three weeks, reports Christopher Gavin at Boston.com.


Coronavirus updates: Devens and rehab center outbreaks, Vitamin D study, Northeastern vaccinations

There’s obviously a lot happening on the pandemic front, so we’ll go with summaries and headlines in this post, starting with a report from WCVB: “Rehab center reports 51 of 58 patients test positive for COVID-19; 3 deaths reported.” … And there’s another major outbreak at the Devens federal prison and U.S. Reps. Lori Trahan and Jim McGovern want action, reports the Globe’s Laura Crimaldi. … From CBS Boston: “Is Vitamin D Effective Against COVID-19? Brigham Trial Will Study The ‘Promising Approach.’” … From a three-reporter team at the Herald: “As some Massachusetts health care workers decline coronavirus vaccine, others worry about the message it sends.” … From Universal Hub: “Northeastern becomes one of first US universities to begin vaccinating workers.” … From Gabrielle Emanuel at GBH: “Contract Nurses And Medical Personnel In Private Practice Struggle To Get Vaccinated.” … And also from GBH: “Tug Of War Over Winter Sports Leaves BPS Students Stuck In The Middle.”

Has the state’s payroll really ‘ballooned’ if it increases by only 0.2 percent?

The Herald is in full Herald mode this morning, blasting away at a $17 million increase in the state’s payroll last year during the pandemic. But the increase amounts to a less than 1 percent rise in the overall payroll. And so … never mind. Still, there are the usual six-figure salary outrages in the state’s latest payroll data, as the Herald’s Howie Carr amply demonstrates.

And those legislative pay raises definitely irk the Globe’s Jeff Jacoby: “Only in Massachusetts.”

Walsh vetoes ordinance restricting police use of tear gas and rubber bullets

Mayor Marty Walsh has embraced many of the recently proposed police-reform ideas. But not all of them. WBUR’s Ally Jarmanning reports on the mayor’s objections to an ordinance restricting police use of tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets.


Reflecting on Andrew Lelling’s legacy: ‘It’s very much a mixed bag’

Among those expected to be shown the door after Joe Biden (we presume) is sworn in as president is Andrew Lelling, the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts, and Northeastern law professor Daniel Medwed thinks his legacy is a “mixed bag.” Among the pluses: The State Police and Varity Blues investigations. A big negative in Medwed’s view: the Judge Shelley Joseph case.


Down time: Eight-hour Internet outage rattles Worcester schools, businesses

In these pandemic times, it’s more than an inconvenience. An eight-hour Internet outage in the city of Worcester on Monday caused disruptions for businesses and the city’s entirely remote schools, drawing a rebuke from the local teachers’ union. Michael Bonner at MassLive has the details. 


‘Right time:’ Narkewicz says he will not seek reelection as Northampton mayor

Ten and done. Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz says he won’t seek re-election later this year after 10 years in office, saying its time to let a fresh voice lead the city, Greta Jochem at the Daily Hampshire Gazette reports. 

Daily Hampshire Gazette

Single-minded: Newly elected Cape lawmakers say pandemic is job one

They agree on one thing. The two newly elected members of the state House of Representatives from the Cape and Islands–one a Democrat and one a Republican–say they are eager to get to work on Beacon Hill and say they’re laser-focused on helping the state bring the coronavirus pandemic under control, Ethan Genter at the Cape Cod Times reports. 

Cape Cod Times

Church arson suspect claims mistaken identity — while eyed in other racist acts

A Maine man arrested for allegedly attempting to start a series of fires in Springfield that targeted a predominantly black church is that police have the wrong man, Stephanie Barry at MassLive reports. Dushko Vulchev was ordered held on $25,000 cash bail in connection with recent fires at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Presbyterian Church.

Meanwhile, Amanda Burke at the Berkshire Eagle reports Vulchev is also under investigation for a series of racially motivated incidents in Pittsfield.

Breathless in Boston: An Exploration of Lung Function in the Era of COVID-19 with Dr. Christopher Fanta, MD

Join the Boston Public Library in partnership with Beacon Hill Village for this online program. Dr. Fanta will take us on a tour of how our lungs work in health and disease, including strategies to keep our lungs healthy and strong throughout our lives. Dr. Fanta will discuss several issues relating to the lungs including the special effects of COVID-19 on lung function.

Boston Public Library and Beacon Hill Village

The New Administration: Opportunities and Challenges

Panelists including Lisa Lerer, reporter at the New York Times, and Julian Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University and CNN Political Analyst, discuss opportunities and challenges for the incoming administration as well as reflections on the significance of the Biden-Harris victory in 2020 elections. NBC News Correspondent Harry Smith moderates.

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

It Came From Space: Why We Think an Asteroid Killed the Dinosaurs with Jesse Mason

In 1980, a team of scientists discovered something astonishing in Earth’s crust: evidence of a cataclysmic impact that coincided with the extinction of three of Earth’s plant and animal species.

Northville District Library and Plymouth District Library

Recover Boston: The Road Ahead – Economic Issues in 2021

As the country looks ahead at the days when a vaccine will be available to wider parts of the community and as a new administration gains its foothold in Washington, D.C., a distinguished panel of business leaders will discuss the issues they’re expecting in 2021. What will economic recovery look like in Greater Boston? How will businesses move forward safely?

Boston Business Journal

Making a Ruckus: Volunteer Managers as Activists for Change

Explore strategies to create a new path forward for volunteer engagement in your organization in these changing times. VolunteerNow is collaborating with TVMC to offer free professional development webinars to provide guidance, networking and practical ideas to help you move forward during these challenging times. Upon registration you will receive instructions to join the webinar via WebinarJAM.


A League of Their Own: The Future of Network Partnerships

Verizon is unveiling the 5G network’s potential for venues with features like real-time access to video highlights, screening of multiple angles, instant updated stats and fantasy scores on players, and immersive fan experiences. Having just been named the official technology partner of the NHL, Verizon is paving the way for the future of network partnerships.


How to Pivot Your Small Business During Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges for small businesses in the Boston area and all over the country. Consumer habits have changed and small businesses have to be able to adapt to the new dynamic. Join Beth Ann Dahan, Project Manager for COVID Business Recovery as she shares ways that you can pivot your small business and survive during difficult times.

Virtual Minority Small Business Conference and Expo

How to Pivot Your Small Business During Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges for small businesses in the Boston area and all over the country. Consumer habits have changed and small businesses have to be able to adapt to the new dynamic. Join Beth Ann Dahan, Project Manager for COVID Business Recovery at CWE as she shares ways that you can pivot your small business and survive during difficult times.

Virtual Minority Small Business Conference and Expo

Harriet Tubman & Maryland’s Underground Railroad Sites-Livestream History Tour

Join us for an online/virtual tour of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad sites in Maryland/ Learn how Harriet successfully escaped from slavery and how she then heroically led others to freedom. The program is hosted by Robert Kelleman, the founder/director of the non-profit community organization Washington, DC History & Culture.

Washington D.C. History & Culture

Lost Wonderland: The Brief and Brilliant Life of Boston’s Million Dollar Amusement Park

Stephen R. Wilk, author of Lost Wonderland, will discuss the story of Wonderland’s creation and wild, but brief success which is full of larger-than-life characters who hoped to thrill attendees and rake in profits.

Boston Public Library

2021 Economic Outlook

Join the Boston Business Journal and CIBC for an expert look at the latest information concerning global, national and regional trends impacting the economy. The 2021 Economic Outlook will offer unique access to economic insights from world-class experts and professionals to help translate economic trends into competitive intelligence to grow your business and find opportunity in the coming year.

Boston Business Journal and CIBC Commercial Banking

Live Chat with Google Product Manager

Join in and get all your product questions answered during our online event with Neil Joglekar, Product Manager at Google. He is a product manager at Google where he leads teams to improve consumer experience. He is also a YC founder.

Product School

Human Trafficking 101

The Key2Free is committed to education and increased awareness with the goal of preventing trafficking before it starts. Across all states, victims of sex trafficking are enslaved every day through force, fraud, or coercion. Together, we can call attention to and fight the shocking realities of the injustice happening right here in our communities.

The Key2Free

Malcolm Gladwell and the New Normal after COVID-19

Join Arent Fox for a one hour virtual event with Malcolm Gladwell, the celebrated journalist and best-selling author of Tipping Point, Outliers, and Talking to Strangers, who will talk about life after COVID-19. There will also be a Q&A with Arent Fox Partner Anthony V. Lupo.Malcolm Gladwell and the New Normal after COVID-19 JAN 27 2021 12:00 PM Hosted by: Arent Fox LLP Online Event www.eventbrite.com/e/malcolm-gladwell-and-the-new-normal-after-covid-19-tickets-132113604347?aff=ebdssbonlinesearch Join Arent Fox for a one hour virtual event with Malcolm Gladwell, the celebrated journalist and best-selling author of Tipping Point, Outliers, and Talking to Strangers, who will talk about life after COVID-19. There will also be a Q&A with Arent Fox Partner Anthony V. Lupo.

Arent Fox LLP

lo T in Sports: Changing the Game

Join us as we hear from industry experts about the integration of lo T in the world of live sports, how major leagues like the NFL are utilizing wearable technology and connected devices, what features fans can expect from stadiums as they become more connected, and how 5G & MEC are changing the game for years to come.


Community Read Book Group: An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States

Let’s read together! Join your friends, family and fellow Yearlong Reading Challenge participants at the Boston Public Library as we discuss the January Community Read for adults: An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. The discussion will be moderated by a librarian and will take place on Zoom.

Boston Public Library

Social Media for Government Agencies and the Public Sector: Everything You Need to Know but are Afraid to Ask, a Digital CP

Come learn the basics of the Social Media platforms and how you can use them effectively to achieve your goals. Whether you’re a Tik Tok influencer or just learned that the symbol # isn’t a “pound sign”. This workshop is open to all levels.

Harvard Kennedy School

Today’s Headlines


Northeastern becomes one of first US universities to begin vaccinating workers – Universal Hub

Open seat to be filled on Boston School Committee to be delayed, process to restart – Boston Herald


Danvers police chief to retire – Salem News

State backs off Northampton roundabout project at 10,000-year-old native site on North King Street – MassLive

North Adams Public Schools will review racial disparities in discipline after state flags issue – Berkshire Eagle


Warnock win puts Democrats on the brink of Senate control – Politico

After years of fealty, Pence prepares for a final performance likely to anger Trump – Washington Post

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