Happening Today

9:30 a.m. | Boston Mayor Michelle Wu holds a press conference at City Hall with Chief of Equity and Inclusion Mariangely Solis Cervera to announce a new LGBTQ+ initiative. 

10:30 a.m. | Gov. Charlie Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Rosalin Acosta visit LabCentral in Cambridge “to announce a new workforce development program aimed at helping people get back to work and meeting employers’ training needs,” an event advisory said.

11 a.m. | Republican state lawmakers hold a press conference in front of the State House to advocate for a temporary gas tax suspension.

11 a.m. | Senate President Karen Spilka and House Speaker Ronald Mariano join the News Service’s Katie Lannan for a virtual discussion hosted by MASSterList and the State House News Service. Register here.

12 p.m. | Boston City Council meets.

1 p.m. | Senate Democrats convene privately in a hybrid in-person and virtual caucus one day before the Senate meets to consider a $1.6 billion mid-year spending bill.

Today’s Stories

Happy Wednesday. 

Democratic and Republican leaders on Beacon Hill are going head-to-head this morning with House Speaker Ronald Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka set to talk with the State House News Service and MASSterList at 11 a.m. and Republican lawmakers pressing forward with their uphill battle to suspend the state’s gas tax.

Mariano and Spilka are expected to touch on their priorities for the rest of the legislative session, their working relationship, and other hot button issues facing Beacon Hill. (If you haven’t registered yet, you can do so here) From sports betting and mental health to tax relief, lawmakers have a lot to balance as they also work to craft next year’s state budget.

At the same time Spilka and Mariano share a screen, Republican leaders head to the front of the State House to advocate for a temporary suspension of the state’s 24-cent gas tax. It’s the first time leaders of the Legislature’s Republican caucus have held a formal press conference in quite a while.

Maryland and Georgia have already suspended their state fuel taxes and New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu supports the idea in his state, but so far Democrats on Beacon Hill have called it a gimmick that would hurt that state’s bond rating. The House rejected the idea without a vote, and even Gov. Charlie Baker has seemed uninterested in taking up the cause.

House Minority Leader Brad Jones can’t be there this morning, but Sens. Bruce Tarr and Ryan Fattman will be and they have all signed on to legislation to suspend the gas tax. Also, Fattman has proposed an amendment to a $1.6 billion spending bill before the Senate Thursday that would pause the gas tax through Sept. 5

Since gas prices peaked at an average of $4.36 on March, they’ve actually fallen 10 cents to $4.26 as of Tuesday, according to AAA Massachusetts. But even falling prices and Democratic opposition doesn’t mean their isn’t political value in continuing to beat the overpriced oil drum.

“I expect Republican candidates to hammer away at this,” said GOP strategist and MassGOP advisor Wendy Wakeman. “Other states have seen the wisdom of lowering gas taxes. With inflation making us all dig deeper in our wallets for basic necessities, we are in desperate need of relief. Gas taxes hurt working families.”

Republican gubernatorial candidate Geoff Diehl said Tuesday if lawmakers don’t suspend the gas tax they should give up the stipends they receive for commuting and district office expenses.

Worcester city manager announces departure

Longtime Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus is stepping down from his post later this year. Augustus announced his decision Tuesday to leave at the end of May but did not make clear what his post-City Hall plans are, the Telegram & Gazette’s Steven H. Foskett Jr. reports.

More from Foskett: “His announcement will effectively leave the City Council and the School Committee searching for chief executives in the same year. Augustus in 2019 negotiated a contract extension through Oct. 2025.”

Telegram & Gazette

All alone: Golden will be sole interviewee for Lowell city manager

State Rep. Tom Golden will be the one and only candidate interviewed for the job of Lowell city manager, Jacob Vitali of The Sun reports. The City Council voted unanimously to advance only Golden’s candidacy to the next round of the process to replace outgoing manager Eileen Donoghue.

Lowell Sun

Baker talks getting people back to work during Boston Chamber address

Gov. Charlie Baker gave his first in-person speech in two years to the business community Tuesday morning. State House News Service’s Matt Murphy reports Baker focused on some “unusual approaches” he plans to unveil later this week to help get people back to work. He also pitched his $700 million tax relief package, his healthcare bill, and his $9.7 borrowing bill that invests highways, transit, and environmental infrastructure.

State House News Service

Wu urges against state control of BPS

Don’t do it. That’s the message Boston Mayor Michelle Wu is sending state education officials in regards to a potential state board of education takeover of Boston Public Schools. Boston Globe’s Naomi Martin reports Wu testified in front of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Tuesday morning just as state officials are starting a new review of BPS.

More from Martin: “The move has sparked speculation that the state could be building a case for state receivership, in which the state would appoint a leader to control the system, undermining the decision-making power of Boston’s mayor and school committee.”

Boston Globe

Health care executive joins Rhode Island gubernatorial race

A Republican (and former New England Golden Gloves Boxer) has entered the race for governor of Rhode Island. Boston Globe’s Edward Fitzpatrick reports health care executive Ashley Kalus announced her bid for the state’s top seat Tuesday.

Providence Journal’s Katherine Gregg reports Kalus is a Rhode Island newcomer, having registered to vote in the state in January. She joins five other Democrats running for governor.

New report finds evictions hit communities of color hardest

A new report from a state advocacy group found that after the state’s eviction moratorium ended in October, communities of color faced more new eviction filings than predominantly white communities. 

GBH News’ Adam Reilly reports that Homes For All Massachusetts found that between Oct. 18, 2020 and Oct. 30, 2021, 43 percent of all eviction filings in Massachusetts occurred in areas where most residents identified as people of color. Boston Business Journal’s Steph Solis reports the study makes the argument that corporate landlords were the driving force behind eviction filings.

Sullivan rolls out new endorsements from state, local officials

Secretary of State candidate Tanisha Sullivan is rolling out a slate of new endorsements this morning from state and local leaders. Among the endorsers: Reps. Russell Holmes, Nika Elugardo, Liz Miranda, Boston City Councilors Julia Mejia, Ruthzee Louijeune, Ricardo Arroyo, Kendra Lara, and Tania Fernandes Anderson.

Moulton, Auchincloss bill sets sights on Russian yachts

U.S. Reps. Seth Moulton and Jake Auchincloss are co-sponsoring legislation that would authorize the federal government to seize mega yachts owned by Russian oligarchs, resell them and use the proceeds to provide humanitarian aid to the people of Ukraine, Christian Wade of the Gloucester Times reports.

Gloucester Daily Times

Florio lawsuit against Baker dismissed

A federal judge tossed out a lawsuit against Gov. Charlie Baker alleging his administration improperly terminated the state’s former head of the Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Boston Globe’s Matt Stout reports a federal judge ruled the Baker administration had “broad discretion” when terminating Steven Florio after an investigation into his ties with a fraternity where members wore robes that looked like Ku Klux Klan clothing.

More from Stout: “Florio alleged that he was fired to give Baker and Marylou Sudders, the state’s health and human services secretary, ‘political cover’ after controversy erupted around Florio’s time decades earlier with Kappa Gamma Fraternity at Gallaudet University, a private university in Washington, D.C., for the deaf and hard of hearing.”

Boston Globe

Former Rhode Islander now fighting Russians in Ukraine

Former Rhode Islander Alex Tobiassen is wanted on a warrant in the state, but he is now fighting Russians in Ukraine. The Providence Journal’s Mark Reynolds reports Tobiassen — who has a 10-year-old son living in Rhode Island —  had a long journey to Ukraine, which started with a desire to fight ISIS in Iraq.

More from Reynolds: “An Afghanistan war veteran, he’s a recovering drug abuser who says he flew to Iraq to fight ISIS, but balked on that, then made his way to Ukraine in 2017. There he fought Russian-backed separatists in the Donbas region as a foreign legionnaire, and later became a card-carrying member of Ukraine’s armed forces.”

Providence Journal

Fee-free: Cambridge latest to ditch impact fee on cannabis shops

Cambridge is the latest community to say it won’t collect the allowed 3 percent community impact fee on local cannabis dispensaries after the City Council voted unanimously to suspend collection of the tax. Marc Levy of Cambridge Day reports the City Council voted unanimously to bypass the tax, citing in part the time many businesses have spent waiting for the city to finalize its recreational cannabis licensing process.

Cambridge Day

Group with neo-Nazi symbols spotted at St. Patrick’s Day parade

A group of people wearing neo-Nazi logos were spotted standing along the route of the South Boston St. Patrick’s Day parade this weekend. Boston Globe’s Gal Tziperman Lotan reports the group of about 20 people were seen wearing the insignia of the Nationalist Social Club, a group that has been described as neo-Nazi by both the Counter Extremism Project and the Anti-Defamation League.

A number of public and private officials have denounced their attendance, saying the group was not invited (nor were they welcomed) to attend.

Boston Globe

Judge rules against family in Beverly chicken coop dispute

An Essex County Superior Court judge says she won’t issue an injunction to prevent the city of Beverly from forcing the removal of what a family says are emotional support chickens from their backyard, Julie Manganis of the Salem News reports. The ruling puts the ball back in the city’s court as the case continues to gain media attention and a whole lot of ‘fowl play’ headlines.

Salem News

Today’s Headlines

Metro

Boston bouncer charged in fatal stabbing of Marine veteran outside Union Street bar – Boston Herald

Wu reflects on first 100 days — and the road ahead — in wide-ranging Globe town hall – Boston Globe

State weighs plans to expand EV charging stations – Gloucester Times

Biden to sanction hundreds of Russian lawmakers, U.S. Officials Say – Wall Street Journal

Massachusetts

UMass student seriously injured in hit-and-run on Amherst campus – Daily Hampshire Gazette

Nation

Debra Meadows appears to have filed three false voter forms – Washington Post

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