11 a.m. | MassDOT holds a virtual public hearing to provide an opportunity for public feedback and questions on recent outdoor advertising applications.
11 a.m. | Senate holds a formal session with plans to consider two bills creating ID cards for people experiencing homelessness and removing prohibitions on adopting one’s aunt, uncle, brother, or sister.
11 a.m. | House holds an informal session.
12:30 p.m. | Special Commission on Correctional Funding meets virtually for the second time in as many weeks.
12:30 p.m. | Attorney General Maura Healey announces “a major national settlement with a student lending conglomerate,” according to her office. Press will be briefed virtually via Zoom.
7 p.m. | Activists with Mass-Care, the campaign for single-payer health care in Massachusetts, plan to run non-binding ballot questions in “strategic districts” across the state, and are holding a campaign kickoff event online.
7 p.m. | U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins appears for first televised interview since her confirmation on GBH 2.
Senate back in action
We’re looking forward to the extended weekend but not the cold weather that is still expected to blast through the state. Stay warm out there!
Here’s what you need to know to start your day…
The Senate holds its second formal session of the year but this time with plans to take up two bills concerning homelessness and sibling adoption. The branch gavels in at 11 a.m., Senate Democrats are scheduled to caucus privately at the same time, and any significant votes will most likely occur in the afternoon.
Let’s break it down:
– Advocates have been pushing for years to set up a system where homeless individuals can access state identification cards, arguing they can help set people up for success. The Senate Ways and Means Committee advanced a bill Monday that would direct the Registry of Motor Vehicles to create a free state ID card application process for people experiencing homelessness. The Senate approved the bill last year but it stalled out in the House. Check out the full text here.
– Massachusetts’ restriction on adopting a sibling would be removed under a bill the Rules Committee reported favorably on Monday. Lawmakers behind the bill say there are often times when parents cannot raise a young child and siblings need to step in to help and adopt their younger brother or sister. A similar version surfaced last session but also trailed off in the House. Check out the full text here.
If the Senate passes both bills, they would still need approval in the House.
Fresh poll numbers on transit…
The MassINC Polling Group this morning is releasing the results of a new survey of registered voters probing, among other things, their views of public transit and shifting cost away from riders.
Seventy-nine percent said they support creating fare discounts for low-income riders, and support for free buses in low-income neighborhoods was strong with 71 percent in favor.
That’s good news from someone like Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, who has been piloting a fare-free bus program on the MBTA’s Route 28 bus and is looking to expand to two other lines that run through low-income neighborhoods in the city. A smaller cluster of people also support ditching fares on all buses (61 percent), MBTA subways (58 percent), and commuter rails and ferries (53 percent).
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Superior Court judge declines to block Boston vax mandate
The vaccine mandate for City of Boston employees survived a legal challenge days before it’s set to take effect. Suffolk Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Locke, who presided over a hearing Wednesday between the city and first responder unions, said he will not “enjoin the enforcement of the policy as of January 15,” reports Boston Herald’s Sean Philip Cotter.
Three unions — Boston Police Superior Officers Federation, Boston Police Detectives Benevolent Society, and Boston Firefighters Union Local 718 — filed suit against the city’s mandate, arguing that permitting city officials to quickly change terms of its agreement with the unions threatens collective bargaining. City officials say the mandate is good policy that helps curb the spread and deadly effects of the virus.
Wu is scheduled to appear on WBUR’s “Radio Boston” later today.
Tents come down at Mass and Cass
Crews began removing tents at Mass and Cass on Wednesday as city workers helped people living there transition into more suitable housing accommodations. Boston Globe’s Milton J. Valencia and Danny McDonald report people were tossing tents, tables, and poles into garbage trucks by mid-afternoon on Atkinson Street while street sweepers were making their way through Newmarket Square.
More from the Globe duo: “The operation [that] had started about an hour after dawn Wednesday found the encampments rustling awake, with still more than 20 tents in the Newmarket area and at least 20 more on Atkinson Street. Despite the frigid temperatures in the teens, multiple people stood on the street shooting drugs into their veins.”
Baker grants clemency to two men serving murder sentences
Two men serving life sentences for first-degree murder are one step closer to becoming eligible for parole. Boston Globe’s Matt Stout and Shelley Murphy report Gov. Charlie Baker approved commutation requests for Thomas Koonce and William Allen, the first time the Republican has done so in his tenure and the first time a governor has agreed to commute a life sentence in a quarter-century.
CommonWealth’s Shira Schoenberg reports the commutations for the two men still need to be approved by the Governor’s Council before they take effect. The Council held a meeting yesterday, and State House News Service’s Chris Lisinski and Sam Doran report the Governor’s Council “should be prepared” by next week to set a date for the commutation hearings.
Allen’s family plans a noon press conference today in Brockton to thank the governor, who is not running for reelection this year and has now shown he’s open to clemency.
Boston gets ‘unambiguously good news’ on COVID surge
If you need some positive or hopeful vibes, take a look at Boston’s sewage data. Seriously. WBUR’s Gabrielle Emanuel reports the level of COVID found in the city’s sewage is on a sharp decline, a potential indicator that a coronavirus case spike is over. A Harvard epidemiology professor called that “unambiguously good news.”
Protesters visit Wu’s house Wednesday morning as city employee vax deadline nears
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu’s Roslindale neighborhood is typically quiet most mornings. But over the past week, a small group of protesters have planted themselves outside the mayor’s house as they voice opposition to a vaccine mandate for city workers set to go into effect on Saturday. GBH News’ Saraya Wintersmith reports a small contingent of protesters with Boston First Responders United were outside Wu’s house Wednesday morning, chanting through bullhorns and blasting music over a sound system.
Not as much: Report sees smaller haul from millionaires tax
Going down. Wealthy Bay State residents will take steps to avoid exposure to the proposed surtax on income over $1 million, making moves that will slash the amount of revenue the state collects from the measure to $1.3 billion annually, a new report from the Center for State Policy Analysis at Tufts University forecasts. Christian Wade of the Gloucester Times reports the estimate is well below the nearly $2 billion supporters supports of the plan have touted.
Encore has second thoughts
Encore Boston Harbor says it will not move forward right now with plans for a mixed-use entertainment and shopping development in part because of questions about whether the project is prohibited by the state’s casino gaming laws. Amy Sokolow of the Herald has the details.
Uneven recovery: Regional transit authorities on different courses
Ridership at the state’s 15 regional transit authorities has bounced back from pandemic lows but remains more than 50 percent below pre-pandemic levels according to a report from the Department of Transportation. Shira Schoenberg of CommonWealth reports some systems are seeing riders return more quickly while the report warns that all of the authorities will face new challenges after infusions of federal aid money run out.
Try, try again: Trahan among lawmakers pushing for ‘Masks for All’
U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan is among a gaggle of Democratic members of Congress making a new push to pass legislation that would surge production of N95 masks and send them to every household, a $5 billion plan that has failed to gain traction since it was first introduced in 2020, Benjamin Kail of MassLive reports.
Brookline proof of vax requirement starts on Jan. 15
If you live in Brookline and want to have a night on the town or work out at a fitness center, you’ll soon have to show proof of vaccination to enter a number of establishments. MassLive’s Heather Morrison reports the new regulation from the town starts on Jan. 15 for those 12 and older heading to restaurants, fitness centers, entertainment venues, and more. That’s the same day a similar measure starts in Boston.
MetroWest Daily News, Milford Daily News to halt Saturday print editions
If you’re a subscriber of the MetroWest Daily News and Milford Daily news, don’t expect a Saturday print edition on your door step anymore starting this spring.
Universal Hub’s Adam Gaffin reports the Gannett-owned properties will halt publication of their Saturday print editions on March 5, though subscribers can still access a “full digital replica” of the newspaper. The newspaper industry has struggled to survive for the past decade as traditional advertising revenues have vanished into thin air and digital marketing has taken over.
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