Happening Today

9 a.m. | Cape Cod local officials and Sen. Julian Cyr of Truro host a weekly conference call with press to discuss current COVID-19 vaccine, booster and testing capabilities in Barnstable County.

10 a.m. | Mass. Gaming Commission meets and is expected to hear about Encore Boston Harbor’s scaled-back plan to develop land across Broadway from the casino in Everett to include an entertainment venue, restaurants and parking garage.

11 a.m. | Boston Mayor Michelle Wu hosts a press conference alongside Boston city councilors to “make a budget-related announcement.”

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11 a.m. | Senate meets in a formal session to consider drug control cost legislation. House meets in a formal session to consider reforms to the state’s two soldiers’ homes.

6 p.m. | MBTA staff host a virtual public meeting to discuss proposed fare changes aimed at offering new ticket types and allowing more transfers without additional cost.

Today’s Stories

Good morning. Hope you’re ready for some action in the Legislature today because both branches are scheduled to meet for what could be lengthy formal sessions.

The Senate returns to prescription drug costs for the second straight session looking to limit the monthly cost of insulin for consumers to $25, create a fund to make medication for chronic conditions more accessible, and implement licensing requirements for pharmacy benefits managers.

State House News Service’s Katie Lannan covered the full scope of the drug cost control bill last week, noting the Senate passed a similar bill in 2019 that was built on a proposal debated and approved in 2017. Previous efforts, however, have not been able to make it all the way to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk. Thirty-eight amendments are pending.

Over in the House, lawmakers are expected to consider changes to the governance of the state’s soldiers’ homes in Holyoke and Chelsea. The House Ways and Means Committee released a bill early Wednesday morning that representatives will take up when they meet at 11 a.m.

The legislation requires the next leader of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home to be a licensed nursing home administrator while also implementing twice a year inspections of both homes by the Department of Public Health, reports WWLP 22’s Jodi Reed.

The reforms proposal was prompted by a 2020 outbreak of COVID-19 at the Holyoke Soldiers Home that left 76 veterans dead. The outbreak became the subject of an independent investigation led by former prosecutor Mark Pearlstein and a legislative investigation headed up by Rep. Linda Dean Campbell and Sen. Mike Rush.

Mass to drop school masking mandate later this month

In a move similar to some neighboring states, Massachusetts plans to let the statewide mask mandate for public K-12 schools lapse when it expires at the end of February. Boston Globe’s Travis Andersen and Gal Tziperman Lotan report Gov. Charlie Baker announced the decision Wednesday morning at a press conference in the State House alongside the state’s top education officials.

A federal mandate will require students and staff still to  mask up on school buses and local districts can decide for themselves if they want to keep masking requirements in place. 

Boston Globe

Free bus fare expands to three routes in Boston

Bus fares will be free on three routes in Boston as part of a two-year pilot program Mayor Michelle Wu announced Wednesday. Boston Herald’s Amy Sokolow reports the three routes are 23, 28, 29 — some of the most popular in the city.

More from Sokolow: “This announcement marks an expansion of an existing fare-free pilot in Boston started in July on Route 28 by then-Acting Mayor Kim Janey. The program will begin on March 1 and will run for two years, and it’s funded by $8 million in federal funding approved by the City Council in December.”

Boston Herald

Baker opposes vax mandate for entry into State House

Gov. Charlie Baker said Wednesday he opposes a vaccine mandate to enter the State House as legislative leaders decide how and when to reopen the building to the public. MassLive’s Alison Kuznitz reports Senate President Karen Spilka and House Speaker Ronald Mariano are likely to include a vaccine requirement into their reopening strategy.

MassLive

Protestors breach State House security, no arrests made

Energy picked up inside the State House yesterday after a small group of at least nine people made their way past security and protested in the building’s basement for over an hour. At first the group called on state officials to reopen the building to the public, but slowly slipped into anti-vaccination rhetoric and opposition to COVID-19 related mandates

The situation prompted a heavy State Police response, MASSterList’s Chris Van Buskirk reports for the State House News Service. No arrests were made and the group was eventually escorted out of the building and onto a side street near the State House.

State House News Service

Susan Collins to lead Boston Fed

For the first time, the head of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston will be a person of color. Boston Business Journal’s Greg Ryan reports Susan Collins will also become the second woman to lead the Boston Fed when she takes over on July 1.

More from Ryan: “A macroeconomist and a long-time professor, Collins took over as Michigan’s provost at the university’s request in 2020. She has ties to the Boston area: She got her undergraduate degree from Harvard University and her Ph.D. from MIT and worked for a time as a Harvard professor.”

Boston Business Journal

Wu’s Wake Up Call: Read Jon Keller’s M-List column

For folks who like to take their piercing wit in print: Jon Keller takes a look at Michelle Wu’s learning curve as only he can.

Keller at Large for MASSterList

Why aren’t people filing for COVID test reimbursements?

The number of residents looking for COVID-19 rapid test reimbursements from private insurers is really low. About 0.5 percent of eligible Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts members filed for reimbursement while less than 0.5 percent of Tufts Health Plan/Harvard Pilgrim HealthCare did so. WBUR’s Gabrielle Emanuel has answers on why people aren’t looking for reimbursement from their insurance provider.

WBUR

Doctor’s orders: Fewer opioids being prescribed in Bay State

The number of people receiving legal prescriptions for opioids in Massachusetts continues to decline and is now half of what it was 15 years ago, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Christian Wade of the Newburyport Daily News reports the Bay State had the lowest prescription rate of all New England states last year.

Newburyport Daily News

First to file: YWCA’s Kennedy may run for Chandler’s Senate seat

She’s not the first to express interest in the seat, but Worcester YWCA Director Robyn Kennedy is the first to inform the Office of  Campaign and Political Finance that she might make a bid for the state Senate seat being vacated by Harriette Chandler later this year. Marco Catalona of the Telegram reports Kennedy’s resume also includes time as a State House legislative aide on the staffs of both former Gov. Deval Patrick and former Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray.

Telegram & Gazette

Breaker, breaker: Natick town meeting member active in trucker protest chatter

Natick Town Meeting member Sue Ianni, who faces charges for entering the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot, appears to be using the encrypted Telegram app to help organize truckers for a U.S. protest meant to duplicate the action causing massive disruptions at the Canadian-U.S. border, Abby Patkin of the MetroWest Daily News reports. 

The Hill reports the Department of Homeland Security is warning that U.S truckers may be planning to disrupt either the Super Bowl in L.A. later this week or the president’s upcoming State of the Union speech in D.C.

‘Bitter prejudice:’ Defense wants firefighter-death trial moved

The murder trial of Momoh Kamara, who police say started the fire that killed Worcester Firefighter Christopher Roy in 2019, is slated to begin on March 17, but defense lawyers want a judge to order the trial moved to a new venue, citing “deep and bitter prejudice” existing in the city because of press coverage of the tragedy. MassLive’s Tom Matthews has the details.

MassLive

Today’s Headlines

Metro

Developers of former Globe HQ ask civic group to back on-site animal testing – Dorchester Reporter

Lynn drops mask mandate, effective immediately – Lynn Item

Study shows racial disparities in Hadley and Ludlow traffic stops – MassLive

Pelosi says Democrats reviewing proposals to ban lawmaker stock trading – CNN

Massachusetts

Protestors seek end to monkey research at UMass – Daily Hampshire Gazette

Nation

Mask mandates continue to fall as Fauci says U.S. may be approaching ‘normality’ – Washington Post

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