9:30 a.m. | Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and Boston Police Commissioner Michael Cox gather with supporters outside Boston Police Department Headquarters tomorrow to voice support for the undocumented immigrant driver's license law subject to the Question 4 repeal effort.
11 a.m. | The New England Council hosts a virtual program titled "The Impact of the Infrastructure Investment Act on the New England Energy Landscape."
1 p.m. | Lawmakers on the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development visit Massasoit Community College's Canton campus to tour the Alternative Fuels and Emissions Certificate Program.
1:30 p.m. | Gov. Charlie Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Attorney General Maura Healey, House Speaker Ron Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka will be among the attendees in Ashburton Park at the Massachusetts Law Enforcement Memorial Ceremony to honor law enforcement officers who lost their lives while on duty.
4 p.m. | A coalition of advocacy groups that includes the ACLU of Massachusetts rallies for the Legislature to reconvene in a special formal session to override Gov. Baker's veto of a prison construction moratorium.
Cooler temperatures have moved in to close out the week, serving as a reminder that not only is winter coming but so are those higher home heating bills.
That’s why top Democrats on Beacon Hill are said to be exploring ways to deliver expanded energy relief as part of either its delayed economic development package or the state’s final close-out budget for the year. (It could end up being the same bill)
Two sources familiar with the negotiations between House and Senate leaders told MASSterList that energy relief has been among issues being discussed as Democrats wrestle with the question of how much the state can afford to spend, and whether additional tax relief should be a part of it.
Specifically, top Democrats are eyeing the $10 million proposed by Gov. Charlie Baker in his close-out budget bill to bolster the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program and considering whether to use part of the state’s surplus to go higher, the sources said. The House also included the money as part of its economic development bill.
The LIHEAP program will bring $37 million of home-heating assistance to Massachusetts this year, providing help to roughly 160,000 income-eligible households. But one source said that in recent weeks legislative leaders have also explored whether it would be possible to use a “significantly larger amount of money” to provide energy rebates to a broader universe of residents who may not qualify for LIHEAP, but could still use relief from energy bills.
While it’s not clear how far these talks progressed, any larger energy rebate program would likely crowd out other spending.
Lawmakers had planned $1 billion in tax rebates and long-term tax reform as part of a multi-billion economic development bill this summer, but those plans were derailed when they learned that an obscure tax cap law from the 1980s would be triggered requiring nearly $3 billion in refunds to be returned to taxpayers.
Lawmakers are now trying to negotiate a scaled back spending package that doesn’t include borrowing because the Legislature is in informal session and cannot call for the required roll calls that would be needed to bond.
While the Legislature still has plenty of money to spend with a tax surplus and remaining American Rescue Plan Act funds, there are lingering hurt feelings in the building over what some Democratic leaders see as Gov. Baker’s failure to promptly notify them that the tax cap law, known as 62F, would be triggered.
While the Legislature may be hesitating now over whether to include Baker’s tax reforms in the final bill, lawmakers are hearing from constituents about the costs of inflation and utility rate hikes that could see electricity bills spike 60 percent this winter.
Baker said Thursday during an interview on Boston Public Radio he expects to see a final economic development bill emerge for consideration in the “next couple of weeks.”
— Super PAC challenging DiZoglio over conservative past
Some, if not all, of that $100,000 the Massachusetts Majority super PAC reported spending early this week to boost Republican Anthony Amore’s campaign for auditor has gone into Facebook ads challenging Democratic Sen. Diana DiZoglio’s record, including one spot that takes on the issue of DiZoglio’s controversial involvement with a conservative evangelical church in Alabama as a youth. The Baker-allied super PAC began airing the ads on social media Thursday with its biggest single purchase this cycle a week less than two weeks before Election Day. DiZoglio’s campaign has previously explained that the Methuen Democrat’s involvement as a youth counselor with The Ramp stemmed from the challenges she faced as the child of a teenage mother and being raised in the church. The church’s anti-gay preaching do not align with the views the senators formed as she grew older, or her record in the Legislature, DiZoglio’s campaign has said. CommonWealth Magazine’s Michael Jonas goes deeper into why some LGBTQ groups are sticking with DiZoglio and why Amore thinks voters should be skeptical given some of her conservative votes on Beacon Hill.
— Diehl calls out Baker and Healey for response to migrant crisis
In the closing days of his gubernatorial campaign, Republican Geoff Diehl has chosen to spar not just with his rival for the office Maura Healey, but its current occupant as well. The Globe’ Mike Damiano reports how Diehl “took shots” at Baker’s administration for its move to relocate dozens of migrants, many of which arrived from Haiti, to hotels in the Plymouth area without coordinating with local officials. Baker called the use of hotels in suburban communities like Kingston a “last resort” and the result of an overstressed shelter and support system, but Diehl faulted Baker and the Biden administration for having no plan to deal with the influx of migrants. Healey called the attack on her and Baker “desperate.”
— Maybe it’s time to let the pigeon drive the bus?
Help wanted signs are everywhere, and the MBTA is no different. But 750 new bus drivers will require one heck of a recruitment effort. That’s what it will take for the transit agency to make good on a proposed redesign of the bus network in Boston and surrounding communities. State House News Service’s Chris Lisinski reports that the T would need to hire 312 drivers just to get back to levels already budgeted for and a 50 percent increase in drivers required to boost system wide bus trip frequency by 25 percent.
— Baker’s ballot preferences revealed
No. No. Yes. No. That’s how Gov. Charlie Baker plans to vote this year on the four statewide ballot questions going before voters. The governor’s opposition to driver’s licenses for immigrants without legal status – the subject of Question 4 – has been well-documented and the Republican has also been clear in his opposition to imposing a new surtax on incomes over $1 million as part of question 1. But in an interview on GBH’s “Boston Public Radio” Thursday, Baker shared his thoughts on the other two ballot initiatives. According to Baker, there are still too many unanswered questions about the impact Question 2 would have on dental insurance and he urged the Legislature to study the issue further should the question be defeated. His one yes vote will be for liquor licenses reform, which he said keeps the decision making in local hands and represents a compromise between smaller package stores and the big chains.
WBUR’s Nik DeCosta-Klipa previously reported this week that Attorney General Maura is a “yes” on Questions 1 and 4, but undecided on 2 and 3. Diehl plans to vote identically to Baker. And while we’re on the topic, Healey said Thursday in a GBH radio appearance that as governor she would veto any attempt by the Legislature to divert funds raised through the Question 1 millionaires tax to priorities other than education and transportation.
— No dice: Regulators reject request to revisit sports betting timeline
At long last, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission set a timeline for sports betting to begin in Massachusetts. Not a firm one, or an especially quick one. But a timeline. So when online sports wagering giant DraftKings asked commissioners to reconsider, MassLive’s Chris Van Buskirk reports they weren’t eager to relive that long debate without any new information being brought to the table. The Gaming Commission set late-January as the target for licensing and opening in-person sports wagering at casinos and March for online platforms. But DraftKings wanted to see a universal date established that wouldn’t give any operator a head-start in what could be a competitive market for brand loyalty. Turns out the commission wasn’t bluffing.
— Healey weighs in on Mass & Cass
Attorney General Maura Healey addressed the tension between the Baker administration and City Hall over the homelessness and substance use issues at Mass and Cass. But if you were hoping to see her pick sides, you would have been disappointed. In her GHB radio interview, Healey said the solution will require a state-city partnership – something nobody disputes – and that if elected governor she looks forward to hearing from Mayor Michelle Wu what the city thinks it needs from the state. Earlier this week, Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders sent a terse letter to Wu stating how the state has already stepped up with funding and suggesting the city needs to do more.
— Climate envoy Kerry eyeing exit from Biden administration
John Kerry could leave his role as special climate envoy to President Joe Biden as soon as the end of this year after a major international climate summit, Hans Nichols of Axios reports. One motivation for an early 2023 departure could be to avoid what is expected to be a rash of hearings into the Biden administration – and his own travel habits – if the U.S. House flips to GOP control after the Nov. 8 election.
— Lesser gives blessing to his would-be successor
With Sen. Eric Lesser preparing to depart Beacon Hill after his bid for lieutenant governor came up short, the Longmeadow Democrat joined Rep. Brian Ashe this week to offer his full-throated support for Rep. Jake Oliveria to succeed him the Senate. Though Lesser’s support was never really in questions, WMP&I’s Matt Szafranksi explains the symbolism of the endorsement and takes stock of Oliveira’s odds of ascending into the Senate to fill Lesser’s shoes. He must still get by Republican businessman Bill Johnson of Granby, who’s been endorsed by Gov. Charlie Baker and is being supported by a super PAC with ties to the popular governor.
— State says Attleboro mayor violated law in firefighter dispute
Attleboro Mayor Paul Heroux violated state law by making disparaging comments during tense negotiations with the city’s firefighters union in 2020, a state Department of Labor Relations hearing officer has found. Heroux, who is currently running for Bristol County Sheriff, ran afoul of state law when he criticized the union president and again in private Facebook messages with the wife of a city firefighter, George Rhodes of the Sun-Chronicle reports.
— Holyoke council wants stepped-up inspections after cannabis worker death
Some members of the Holyoke City Council want more stringent local inspections of cannabis facilities in the wake of the workplace death of a Trulieve employee earlier this year. MassLive’s Dennis Hohenberger reports the city could explore using cannabis impact fees to hire an outside expert to help it better police working conditions in pot-related businesses.
— Out to pasture: Hardwick selectmen vote down horse-racing plan
The search for the state’s next horse racing epicenter continues. The Hardwick Board of Selectmen has voted not to support a proposal to build a horse racing and breeding facility on what was once a dairy farm in the Worcester County town, essentially ending the quest by a team that included the former owner of Suffolk Downs to restart the state’s racing industry there. Kim Ring of the Telegram reports the vote came after at least one selectman said they had been accused online of taking bribes to support the project.
The Talk Shows
Talking Politics, GBH 2, 7 p.m.: GBH political reporter Adam Reilly and his panel dicuss how Gov. Charlie Baker is handling the lame-duck period of his governorship. Plus, Evan Horowitz, executive director of the Tufts Center for State Policy Analysis, is back to break down ballot questions three and four on liquor licenses and driver’s licenses for immigrants without legal status.
Keller at Large, WBZ-TV Ch. 4, 8:30 a.m.: MASSterList columnist and WBZ political analyst Jon Keller hosts Republican gubernatorial nominee Geoff Diehl to discuss COVID issues, NIMBYism, and MassGOP attacks on Healey.
On The Record, WCVB-TV Ch. 5, Sunday, 11 a.m.: U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, the House chair of Ways and Means, is the guest with hosts Ed Harding and Janet Wu.Neal’s interview will be followed by a political roundtable discussion with Democratic political analyst Mary Anne Marsh and Republican political analyst Rob Gray.
Subscribe to MASSterList
Start your morning with MASSterList’s chronicle of news and informed analysis about politics, policy, media, and influence in Massachusetts. Plus, get an inside look at Beacon Hill’s hottest new job postings.