Today | Veterans of Foreign Wars Commander-in-Chief Matthew Mihelcic visits the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home this morning to talk with veterans and “check on improvements and progress made” following the deadly COVID-19 outbreak at the facility in 2020.”
8:15 a.m. | U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren visit Rafael Hernandez K-8 Elementary School, the oldest dual-language community school in Boston.
10:30 a.m. | Boston Mayor Wu hosts press conference to sign home rule petition asking the Legislature to allow the city to impose a tax on real estate sales of $2 million or more to fund affordable housing.
11 a.m. | Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce hosts its Pinnacle Awards luncheon recognizing women in business. Event is scheduled to feature remarks from Gov. Charlie Baker and Mayor Michelle Wu.
* Gov. Charlie Baker and First Lady Lauren Baker are leaving this morning for a family trip to Utah. They return Friday, March 11.
Good morning. Chris Van Buskirk here, back from a restful week in South America visiting family. A huge thank you to Matt Murphy and Keith Regan who took over while I was out of town.
Over the last week, the state of world affairs has flared to the point of grave concern leaving Massachusetts residents and elected leaders to condemn the largest ground war in Europe since World War II.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine is now over a week old this morning with the Associated Press reporting that a round of talks between Ukraine and Russia found the two countries agreeing to set up an evacuation corridor for citizens as Russia continued shelling strategic locations.
Here in the Bay State, the conflict’s far-reaching tendrils prompted some state lawmakers to propose ban sales of Russian products, like alcohol, and the Treasurer’s office combed the state’s pension fund for investments that might be hurt by U.S. sanctions on Russia (there are none).
But what may be the most peculiar — and disconcerting aspect — of the war and its effects on the commonwealth is the speed at which information has flowed from Ukraine to the rest of the world. Thank (or curse) social media for that.
The conflict may feel like a world away from Massachusetts, but images of the battle, destruction, and death are readily available online. The world is small and the constant flow of information from the other side of the planet will and has influenced decisions here.
Take the quick action of the Boston City Council earlier this week to approve a resolution “condemning the unprovoked invasion and egregious act of aggression against Ukraine by the Russian Federation.” While symbolic in nature, the outpouring of support for Ukrainians is coming from all levels of government.
On Beacon Hill, House Minority Leader Brad Jones and 57 of his colleagues called for a review of state pension portfolios to see if any assets can be divested that are tied to Russian oligarchs or companies. There’s about $140 million in investments that fit that description, but it will take an act of the Legislature to pull the money out.
Baker took it a step further Thursday afternoon when he issued an executive order directing all executive branch agencies to review and terminate any contracts with Russian state-owned companies. The order also directs agencies to review partnerships, affiliations, or exchanges with similar companies, Russian government controlled entities, or a Russian governmental body.
“With this order, we hope to build on the sanctions the federal government has already placed on Russia for their unjustified attack on Ukraine,” Baker said in a statement accompanying the order. “The Commonwealth of Massachusetts condemns the actions of Russia and stands firmly with the free and democratic nation of Ukraine.”
Outside of political moves at the state level, the price of gas and energy is already increasing as a result of the conflict. Boston Globe’s Jim Puzzanghera reports rising oil prices have already started impacting prices at gas stations across the country.
Speaking on GBH News yesterday, Baker said Russia’s invasion “is clearly a violation of all sorts of international law. And the devastation and the carnage that’s coming with it because of the acts of Putin and his military are horrifying.”
Reminder: Boston mask mandate drops tomorrow
Just in time for the weekend, Boston officials plan to drop the city’s mask mandate for some indoor businesses tomorrow. Members of the Boston Public Health Commission voted earlier this week to end the mandate for stores, gyms, event spaces, municipal buildings, and restaurants. If you missed the news, Boston Globe’s Jeremy C. Fox and Anissa Gardizy have additional details.
Of course, we’re curious what this means for the State House where Democratic leaders put in place a mask mandate for all people entering the newly reopened building, and still require proof of vaccination or a recent negative test. Leaders said they would periodically review the rules and consider updates to the policy, but so far no movement on that front.
Inspector General flags 2016 detail payments to State Police troopers
The office of state Inspector General Cunha says State Police troopers may have inflated the number of hours they worked on hundreds of paid details back in 2016, violating rules in place at the time and possibly improperly boosting payouts by $150,000. According to Matt Stout of the Globe, the report comes from the new Division of State Police Oversight, which was formed after widespread fraud in overtime payouts came to light.
Odds are ‘pretty slim’ Baker will run for another elected office
If you’re a Charlie Baker fan, don’t get your hopes up that he’ll wade back into politics once he leaves Massachusetts’ executive office at the end of his term. NBC Boston’s Marc Fortier reports Baker said “the likelihood I would do anything else in elected politics is pretty slim” when asked whether he would run higher office.
“The long story short on this one — I’m 65 years old and my family would like to see a lot more of me now that I’m Medicare eligible,” Baker said during a radio interview on GBH News yesterday.
State could get $110 million from new Purdue Pharma settlement
A new settlement with Purdue Pharma could see Massachusetts receive $110 million to pay for costs associated with the opioid crisis. WBUR’s Deborah Becker reports the deal between all U.S. states and a swath of local governments calls for the company to pay up to $6 billion.
State Rep. Golden says he’ll seek Lowell city manager opening
Rep. Tom Golden tells the Lowell Sun’s Jacob Vitali that his application to become Lowell’s next city manager will be submitted on Friday but that he plans to continue to run for reelection while the city finalizes the process of choosing a successor to outgoing City Manager Eileen Donoghue.
Biogen starts laying-off employees
Biogen Inc. started laying off employees as part of a planned cost-saving measure in the fallout from its Alzheimer’s drug. Boston Business Journal’s Rowan Walrath reports the company confirmed its plans Thursday and said it would delay filling some open positions.
More from Walrath: “Biogen has been tight-lipped about the specifics surrounding its cost-cutting. In its latest earnings call last month, executives skirted questions to that effect; the company has repeatedly stated that it plans to save about $500 million by downsizing its Alzheimer’s infrastructure and ‘operating efficiency gains.’”
Correia gets fourth delay in reporting to prison
Former Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia has more time before he’ll need to show up to prison. Herald News’ Jo C. Goode reports federal Judge Douglas Woodlock granted Correia his fourth delay. Correia is now scheduled to report to a medium security prison in New Hampshire on April 5.
What about mental health reforms?
The House wants sports betting but what about more access to mental health services and lower prescription drug costs? That’s the back and forth playing out between House Speaker Ronald Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka.
State House News Service’s Matt Murphy reports after Mariano voiced frustration with Spilka’s “stubborn reluctance” to take up legislation legalizing sports betting, Spilka shot back that people should also focus on the need to take up mental health and prescription drug cost reforms.
Almost ready to ride: Spring will bring surge of work on SouthCoast rail
State transportation officials say New Bedford-area residents will see plenty of signs of progress this spring as work ramps up to full speed on the plan to extend commuter rail to the SouthCoast, Linda Roy of the Standard-Times reports. Answers to some key questions – such as what a New Bedford-to-Boston ticket will cost – are still to come.
Russia invasion hits home for Lancaster resident
The war in Ukraine is personal for one Lancaster resident. Lynn Item’s Jan Gottesman reports Ivan Oliinyk’s parents, grandmother, and other family members are living in the war zone. He’s been trying to keep in touch with them, but communication has been difficult in recent days.
Superstars among those with property in treasurer’s safe
Lady Gaga and Steven Tyler lead a list of musical stars with unclaimed property in state hands, according to a list released by Treasurer Deb Goldberg to draw attention to a new cache of left-behind cash and other valuables she hopes to get back into the hands of rightful owners, Cassie McGrath of MassLive reports. Gaga alone has more than $50,000 in unclaimed state tax returns waiting for her.
Sunday Public Affairs: Jake Auchincloss and more
Keller at Large, WBZ-TV Ch. 4, 8:30 a.m. This week’s guest: The second part of Jon Keller’s interview with Gov. Charlie Baker airs.
On The Record, WCVB-TV Ch. 5, Sunday, 11 a.m. Guest: Congressman Jake Auchincloss talks with hosts Ed Harding and Janet Wu followed by a roundtable discussion with Boston Globe columnist Adrian Walker and Republican political analyst Virginia Buckingham.
CityLine, WCVB-TV, Ch. 5, 12 p.m. This week’s topic: Shayna Seymour explores an immersive exhibit of artist Frida Kahlo; Chef Bimi Cruz discusses his culinary style; and Jay Childs and Aneesa Folds talk “Freestyle Love Supreme.”
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