Keller at Large

Sports Betting? Hey Beacon Hill – Don’t Blow It

In his latest Keller at Large on MassterList, Jon Keller takes a look at the dilemma facing Beacon Hill and the “‘shame’ of failing to approve online sports betting while four of our six bordering states have already done so.”

Keller at Large

Happening Today

Hynes vax site closes, Vocational admissions, House session

The mass vaccination site at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston closes down today.

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9 a.m. | Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meets with a vote scheduled on vocational schools admissions policies, which would give districts flexibility to develop their own local policies.

10 a.m. | Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Energy, and Utilities holds a hearing focused on legislation that deals with municipalities, including a bill that would allow communities to enter into ‘community empowerment contracts’ with a company that proposes to construct a renewable energy project.

10 a.m. | Joint Committee on Public Health holds a hearing on legislation that addresses environmental issues, including a bill that would prohibit the burning of construction and demolition waste as fuel and a handful of bills to restrict the use of polystyrene.

11 a.m. | House plans a formal session to take up a $200 million bill for road and bridge maintenance programs as well as transportation infrastructure

1 p.m. | Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Committee meets to review more than three dozen bills addressing waste, recycling and plastics are on the docket.

For the most comprehensive list of calendar items, check out State House News Service’s Daily Advances (pay wall – free trial subscriptions available).

Today’s Stories

The upcoming voting reforms debate

There’s another debate brewing in the Legislature over the right method to advance mail-in and expanded in-person voting reforms. The question: is a spending bill the right vehicle?

The House thought so several weeks ago but the Senate appeared to disagree Monday morning when it did not include language codifying mail-in voting and other election reforms in a $261 million supplemental budget ahead of a Thursday vote on the bill.

At least one lawmakers offered some insight into the Senate’s thinking. Sen. Barry Finegold told SHNS’s Chris Lisinski and Colin A. Young that it might be better to handle such a topic in standalone legislation rather than a budget bill. There are quite a few proposals out there to do that, including one from Finegold and Secretary of State William Galvin that would make no-excuse mail-in voting available in all elections. 

Alex Psilakis, MassVOTE policy and communications manager, pointed to legislation filed by Rep. John Lawn and Sen. Cynthia Creem that also includes same-day voter registration and expanded election audits, among other things.

“We also, for example, need same-day voter registration: a reform proven to boost turnout, especially amongst Black and brown, low-income, immigrant, and young voters,” he said in a statement to MassterList.

Mass Fiscal Alliance’s Paul Craney said any changes to the electoral system “deserves to go through the normal legislative process” and questioned the House’s use of a budget amendment to push election reforms forward.

“Voting by mail itself is controversial and the process by which it is being advanced must be unimpeachably open and transparent,” he said in a statement to MassterList.

Senators have until Wednesday morning to file amendments to the new version and it wouldn’t be surprising to see a proposal that attempts to reinstitute the mail-in and expanded early voting language.

Real post-pandemic normalcy has to do with state budget timeline

The odds Gov. Charlie Baker signs a finalized state budget before the start of the fiscal year on July 1? Pretty low. How do we know? As MassLive’s Steph Solis reports, Gov. Charlie Baker filed a $5.4 million supplemental budget to keep state government running through the end of July. That’s a pretty good indicator that legislators may not come to a consensus on a fiscal 2022 budget before the start of the new fiscal year on July 1. 

SHNS’s Matt Murphy notes that interim budgets are fairly common on Beacon Hill, “where legislative negotiators frequently take their private talks over the state’s annual budget beyond the July start of the new fiscal year.”

MBTA pension fund overpaid retirees by half a million

MBTA Transit Police pension fund officials overpaid retirees by about half a million, reports Boston Globe’s Matt Stout, who notes the “MBTA Police Association Retirement Plan for years operated with ‘no system’ to track and end payments to retirees when they were no longer eligible to receive them, state Inspector General Glenn A. Cunha’s office found.”

Boston Globe

Death penalty debate is messy when it hits close to home

When it comes to ending the death penalty, a number of Boston politicians jump on board. But when it comes to sentencing Dhzokhar Tsarnaev to death, the feeling starts to shift for a few, reports Boston.com’s Nik DeCosta-Klipa.

More from DeCosta-Klipa: “In the wake of the request by President Joe Biden’s administration last week for the Supreme Court to reinstate the death penalty for the Boston Marathon bomber, the reactions among local Democrats have ranged across the spectrum — from disappointment to support.”

Boston.com

‘Evaporated’ traffic reappears to no one’s delight

It’s back by unpopular demand. Traffic has mostly returned to 2019 levels, according to state officials. SHNS’s Chris Lisinski has more details, including a few caveats to that analysis like Massachusetts Turnpike numbers running lower than before the pandemic. 

SHNS

SCOTUS rules in favor of education-related perks for student-athletes

The Supreme Court ruled the NCAA cannot require limitations on education-related perks that colleges and universities offer to student-athletes, reports the Associated Press’ Jessica Gresko. The decision could have interesting impacts in a state like Massachusetts, where there are a number of student-athletes playing at NCAA divisional schools. 

“Today’s Supreme Court decision affirms what current and former college athletes like me have known for a long time – amateurism hasn’t existed for a long time and it certainly doesn’t benefit the people who actually do the work in college athletics, not even close,” U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan wrote on Twitter.

Associated Press

No partial refund for three Harvard students

A district court dismissed a lawsuit in which Harvard College students were seeking a partial refund as a result of the transition to online classes at the start of the pandemic, reports Reuters’ Jonathan Stempel.

Edyn Jensen at WBZ NewsRadio notes that the lawsuit was filed in June 2020 with the students arguing the online learning option Harvard provided was “subpar in practically every aspect.” But the judge said the students failed to show a contractual promise of in-person instruction. 

More from Stempel: “Noting that ‘spring 2020 was not a normal time,’ the Boston-based judge said such an expectation was unreasonable ‘where, during a global pandemic, the governor and public health officials dictated otherwise.'”

Reuters

Peer pressure: Mass. sheriffs will charge less for inmate phone calls

The Bay State’s 14 sheriffs have agreed to cut costs inmates face for making phone calls, offering 10 minutes of free phone time each week and cutting what advocates have long argued are predatory fees for longer chats, Colin A. Young of State House News Service reports. The move comes just a week after Connecticut announced it would eliminate all fees for calls from jails and prisons.

SHNS

Capped: WooSox revenue held down by construction delays

Worcester Red Sox officials say they remain hopeful Polar Park can fully open before the end of the current season as delays in construction of both the $160 million park and related private development nearby mean parts of the stadium remain off-limits to fans for the time being. Brad Kane of the Worcester Business Journal has the details. 

Worcester Business Journal

Springfield passes $756M fiscal 2022 budget

Springfield City Council passed a $756 million fiscal 2022 city budget that avoids layoffs after having intense debate over police overtime, training, and a shooting range for the force, reports MassLive’s Jeanette DeForge.

From Western Mass Politics & Insights: “The city’s rather unique posture in the police debate limited proposed cuts to efforts to reallocate funding to training. There were concerns about the shooting range lease from last year, too. However, complaints about that item largely center on procurement not policing spending itself.”

Worth a shot: Mass. woman facing embezzlement rap asks Biden for pardon

Why not? Canton resident Nicole Lescarbeau, who is scheduled to be sentenced later this week for embezzling more than $1.4 million from two yet-unnamed nonprofit organizations, has asked President Biden for a pardon, Scott Croteau of MassLive reports. Lescarbeau faces more than five years in prison for what prosecutors say was a seven-year scheme to divert funds intended for housing and food programs. 

MassLive

‘Rigged:’ Brookfield residents say planning board played games with fuel depot approval

Suddenly, a fourth vote appeared. A group of Brookfield residents is suing the town’s planning board over its approval of a propane storage facility located near schools and private homes, alleging the board hastily appointed a new member to enable it to reach the four-vote threshold needed, Craig Semon of the Telegram reports.

Telegram & Gazette

Trial for former Worcester defense attorney underway

A former defense attorney for Worcester started his day in court Monday “with a grant of immunity to the client with whom he allegedly conspired to intimidate a witness”, reports the Telegram & Gazette’s Brad Petrishen.

More from Petrishen: “Fabian Beltran, who was convicted of human trafficking in 2018 and is serving a six-to eight-year sentence, was granted immunity in the case after he asserted his Fifth Amendment right not to testify to avoid self incrimination.”

Telegram & Gazette

Today’s Headlines

Metro

From $65 million for Covid to drug reparations, Cambridge councillors delay four big items to last meeting – Cambridge Day

GLX to come in under budget, opening slightly delayed – CommonWealth Magazine

Massachusetts

Western Mass. residents, officials weigh in on how to redraw district maps – Berkshire Eagle

Environmental, social justice groups to hold rally Saturday against proposed Cape Cod gun range – Cape Cod Times

Nation

Models predict U.S. coronavirus infections could surge this fall if vaccination rates lag, former FDA chief says – Washington Post

Whitehouse defends affiliation with elite Rhode Island club – Politico

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