Happening Today

9 a.m. | Mass. Department of Transportation Board convenes its monthly meeting virtually.

11 a.m. | House plans a formal session with roll calls starting at 1 p.m. The agenda is expected to include a bill to allow undocumented immigrants to acquire driver’s licenses.

12 p.m. | Governor’s Council meets, with votes expected on the first-degree murder commutations of William Allen and Thomas Koonce. Councilors have been vocal in their support for commuting Allen’s life sentence.

 1 p.m. | Boston Mayor Michelle Wu is a guest on GBH’s “Boston Public Radio” for an “Ask the Mayor” segment.

Today’s Stories

Happy Wednesday. It could be a long day in the House with debate planned over whether undocumented people in Massachusetts should have the ability to obtain driver’s licenses.

The bill heading to the House floor for consideration later today has been in the works for a number of years, with advocates at one point staging a hunger strike outside the State House in an effort to prompt legislative action. Two years later, representatives are on a path to move it one step forward.

Gov. Charlie Baker is skeptical, at best, of the bill. But with debate set to start at 1 p.m. this afternoon, we asked the five (before they became four) gubernatorial candidates where they stand on the issue. If the measure reached their desk, would they sign it into law, veto it, or return the proposal with amendments?

Both Republican candidates opposed the idea, each saying they strongly support “legal immigration.” Former state Rep. Geoff Diehl said he would immediately veto the bill if it reached his desk, adding, “I emphatically oppose our state giving driver’s licenses to those who have entered and remain in America illegally.”

“It’s just plain wrong for Massachusetts to provide illegal immigrants with license to operate a motor vehicle, especially with the possibility that those persons will be permitted to cast a vote in an election illegally on the basis of that license,” Diehl said in a statement to MASSterList.

Republican candidate Chris Doughty said offering undocumented immigrants a path to obtain a driver’s license “won’t make Massachusetts more affordable.”

“When we have thousands of people waiting in line to come to our country the proper way, we should not be rewarding those who skip the line, disrespect our laws, and overburden our legal citizens,” he said in a statement.

On the Democratic side, Attorney General Maura Healey said she would look forward to signing the bill if it reached her desk as governor. The bill “makes sense – it’s good for public safety, good for our economy, and good for our immigrant residents who should be able to drive to work, school, and the grocery store without fear,” she said.

Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, who will have the chance to vote on the bill if it eventually emerges in the Senate, also supports the bill, of which she was a co-sponsor, assuming it doesn’t change too much throughout the process, her campaign said.

Harvard professor Danielle Allen — who announced Wednesday she was stepping out of the race — said she would “wholeheartedly support” the bill as governor. But now even if the effort falters this session, Allen won’t have that chance.

Allen’s drops out of 2022 governor’s race

Harvard Professor Danielle Allen withdrew from the 2022 governor’s race Wednesday, criticizing the current state Democratic Party’s caucus process on her way out the door. 

“The current caucus system is leading to a serious impoverishment of our democracy — fewer choices on the ballot, fewer non-traditional candidates able to enter the pipeline,” she said in a statement. Allen, who became the first Black woman to run for governor as a major party candidate, is the second Democratic candidate to drop out of the race. Former Sen. Ben Downing exited stage left after 10 months of campaigning.

The Democratic field now looks to be a showdown between frontrunning Attorney General Maura Healey and Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, both of Boston.

Boston Herald’s Erin Tiernan has more details on Allen’s departure.

About that 15 percent rule…..

Allen’s withdrawal (or winding down) from the governor’s race comes less than two weeks after Democrats started the process of electing delegates to the June convention. And while Allen was not specific in her reasoning for ending her campaign, the decision to critique the caucus process suggests she saw a narrowing path to winning 15 percent of delegates to qualify for the ballot.

It’s not the first time that rule, which is used by both Democrats and Republicans, has come under fire.

After two candidates – national security expert Juliette Kayyem and biotech executive Joseph Avellone – failed to get out of the 2014 Democratic convention, some in the party voiced concern that the process favored political insiders over non-traditional candidates. Of course, that year three other Democrats – Attorney General Martha Coakley, Treasurer Steve Grossman and health care expert Don Berwick – did rally the support they needed.

Heading into the 2018 cycle, Democratic Party Chairman Gus Bickford defended the threshold as a passable viability test for anyone looking to succeed in a statewide campaign: “I think there needs to be a threshold. At some point someone chose 15 percent and it seems to have served the purpose through time.” 

Republicans also use the 15 percent threshold, though gubernatorial candidate Geoff Diehl briefly floated the idea of lowering the bar to 10 percent last year, before pulling his proposal without the Republican State Committee having a chance to vote.

Judge blocks Boston employee vax mandate

The court-ordered pause on Boston’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city employees was indefinitely extended after a judge ruled against Mayor Michelle Wu. Boston Herald’s Sean Philip Cotter reports Massachusetts Appeals Courts Judge Sabita Singh issued the order Tuesday, overturning a lower-court decision that let the mayor move forward with disciplining workers who did not comply with the mandate while she negotiates over the mandate with three public-safety unions.

Boston Herald

State Rep. Wagner not seeking reelection

The House is losing another member. State House News Service’s Michael P. Norton reports Second Assistant Majority Leader Joseph Wagener announced he will not seek reelection this year, saying in a press release he felt it was time to “look forward to and embrace new challenges in the next chapter of his life.”

State House News Service

State releases new mask guidance

State health officials updated mask guidance in Massachusetts yesterday, now advising that only people in certain higher risk categories need to wear them indoors. Boston Globe’s Amanda Kaufman reports that the state suggests people mask up if they have weakened immune systems, are at increased risk for severe disease, or live with someone who fits either of those categories.

Boston Globe

Down month for state’s casinos amid nationwide surge

The mid-winter blues hit Bay State casinos in January as revenue declined compared to December at all three facilities. Jim Kinney of MassLive reports MGM Springfield, and Encore Boston harbor both saw revenue decline slightly while Tom Reilly of the Sun-Chronicle reports Plainridge Park posted its weakest month in nearly a year.

Jon Chesto of the Boston Globe reports the numbers come as a national trade group reported casinos in the U.S. posted their best year ever, recovering faster from the pandemic downturn than the rest of the economy.

Report attempts to uncover reasons behind turnover in Amherst, Pelham schools

A new report delivered to school committee members in charge of Amherst and Pelham’s joint school district offer few details about principal turnover over the past decade. MassLive’s Will Katcher reports top administrators — many of them women — have been leaving high paying positions.

Katcher reports: “The investigation revealed a female principal referred to as “a b—-” by teachers and parents, a Latina administrator labeled a “white supremacist,” and questions of Amherst’s commitment to racial justice. Those in charge of the report had hoped to maintain the privacy and anonymity of school leaders interviewed by the independent investigation.”

MassLive

Baker signs ‘Nero’s Law’

Gov. Charlie Baker signed “Nero’s Law” Tuesday, a bill that authorizes emergency medical personnel to provide treatment and transport to injured police dogs. That includes basic first aid, CPR, and administering life saving interventions like naloxone. WCVB has more details.

WCVB

A sit down with Boston’s housing chief

Boston’s new housing chief Sheila Dillon is at the center of several major development changes in the city. So when she has something to say, people listen. Boston Business Journal’s Greg Ryan sat down with Dillon for a Q&A about charging special assessments on new lab space, how housing intersects with workforce development, and other topics.

Boston Business Journal

Massachusetts RMV staffers faked road tests

The Registry of Motor Vehicles says an investigation found some 2,100 drivers were given passing grades on their road tests without ever actually getting behind the wheel. Joe Dwinell of the Boston Herald reports those drivers are being given 10 days to take the tests for real, while four employees have been fired in connection with the scheme dating back to 2020.

Boston Herald

Worcester firefighters with cancer file lawsuit against turnout gear makers, chemical giants

Ten Worcester firefighters who have been diagnosed with cancer are leading a lawsuit against the makers and sellers of turnout gear and firefighting foam, claiming they knew the products contained dangerous and carcinogenic chemicals for years. The Telegram’s Brad Petrishen has the details.

Telegram & Gazette

Report: ‘Workforce crisis’ affecting mental healthcare

A report from the Association of Behavioral Healthcare says there is a “workforce crisis” affecting mental healthcare in the state. WBUR’s Deborah Becker reports the crisis is resulting in longer waits for outpatient treatment and fewer people getting care.

WBUR

All gone: Provincetown drops restrictions as cases reach zero

Provincetown officials say both its indoor mask mandate and proof-of-vaccination requirement are shifting to advisories as case levels reached zero late last week for the first time since last July, Mary Ann Bragg of the Cape Cod Times reports.

Cape Cod Times

Concerns over equitable access to livestreamed education

Livestreaming has revolutionized the way people conduct business and participate in education. In schools around the state, snow days and sick time have pushed students to their laptops to tune into class. GBH News’ Meg Woolhouse and Olivia Marble report that in cities like Boston, Lowell, and Lawrence not everyone has equal access to livestreaming opportunities.

GBH News

Corrections & Clarifications

In our Tuesday, Feb. 15 edition, MASSterList incorrectly identified Paul Coogan as the mayor of New Bedford. He is, in fact, the mayor of Fall River. Jon Mitchell is the mayor of New Bedford. We regret this error.

Today’s Headlines

Metro

New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern to speak at Harvard commencement – Boston.com

Quincy Planning Board OKs FoxRock’s plan for life science building downtown – Patriot Ledger

Sandy Hook families reach $73 million settlement with gun maker Remington – Wall Street Journal

Massachusetts

Failed Grand Prix promoter gets 4 years in fraud schemes – Salem News

New Bedford PD undergoing 6-month assessment as city councilor decries 2021 racial profiling report – Standard-Times

Nation

CNN’s David Axelrod says ‘Romney had a point’ on Russia, Obama’s comments did not age ‘well’ – Fox News

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