9 a.m. | Supreme Judical Court full-court session. Courtroom 1, John Adams Courthouse, Pemberton Square, Boston.
10:30 a.m. | Elected officials gather to talk about federally funded infrastructure investments in Fall River, "from lead pipe removal to clean school buses." | B.M.C Durfee High School – North Entrance, 460 Elsbree St., Fall River
11 a.m. | Massachusetts Association of School Committees meets to discuss emerging issues in education law. The Massachusetts Council of School Attorneys will present.
12:00 | Mass. Gaming Commission holds a regular business meeting focused mostly on casino and racing matters. The agenda calls for votes on a number of annual racing and simulcasting authorizations and an update on research reports required by this summer's sports betting law.
George Donnelly’s hopelessly misguided ML lede yesterday proved he hasn’t cruised out West on the Pike lately, or he might not be so sanguine about the playful harmlessness of the cannabis industry, which bombards every tween riding in a car between Charlton and Chicopee with a relentless billboard campaign extolling the virtues of THC.
But you didn’t open this email to hear us kvetch. The issue of wending Westward actually arises this morning because, later today, the Western Mass. Passenger Rail Commission begins public meetings on the actual planning, design and control of the rail link from Pittsfield to Boston, whatever form that turns out to take.
“East-West rail” first appears in the SHNS archives in 2016, but the idea goes back well before that, with officials from west of I-495 persistently touting the economic and cultural possibilities, and environmental advantages, of frequent and possibly high-speed service across Massachusetts. But the idea seemed a meritorious, unaffordable nothingburger of a pipe dream for quite a while — which is why it was a big deal to have money for actually starting the project included in both state and federal funding streams this year.
And so, East-West Rail, so long confined to the realm of fantasy and wish-list thinking and — how to say this? — “yes, Sen. Lesser, we get it” eye-rolls, is becoming a real undertaking, and with today’s public meeting it gets even real-er, if that’s a thing.
Just last Friday, Amtrak, the Mass. Dept. of Transportation, and freight hauler CSX filed a $108 million grant application to increase top speeds between Springfield and Worcester to 80 mph. That project (see the map below) likely won’t form any major focus of today’s meeting, but it surely will be mentioned, because it’s explicitly tagged as an East-West rail venture.
The major thrust of the hearing today — a hybrid held both online and at the Berkshire Innovation Center in Pittsfield — is starting down the, um, track toward defining the constiution and scope of authority of the huge undertaking’s controlling entity. Its report seems likely to be the basis of that entity’s enabling legislation.
It’s not going to be a remote meeting for Brendan Crighton, Senate chair of the Transportation Committee, who plans to make the very trek that has Western Mass. types so gratified about these concrete steps toward an automotive alternative. Crighton’s heading for Pittsfield in order to be in place for the 11 am start time.
“It’s been great to hear from our legislative colleagues on it, and now I’m excited for the long drive out there tomorrow to build up the facts and the data,” Crighton said gamely last night. “My experience in transportation is really limited to this part of the state, to my home area in Lynn… so I’m keeping an open mind and excited to get a fresh perspective from a different part of the state.” And, Crighton said, at least a bit facetiously, “I’m looking forward to the drive out there … and I’ll have plenty of time to reflect on the testimony on the way back home.
— Feds to MBTA: Safety plans on the wrong track
Continuing with our rail-transit-in-the-news theme, the Herald reports that officials at the Federal Transit Administration told the MBTA this week to resubmit 12 different safety-related operational improvement plans. The FTA is requiring the T to show it has meaningful plans to improve hiring practices, inspections systems and so forth in the wake of the feds’ scathing August report on safety problems at the T. And so far, only eight of the 20 plans the T’s come up with have been good enough for the feds.
— Teachers plan to work on the right not to work
As interest groups and civic leaders think though and unveil their legislative goals for the new legislative session — and administration — the Mass. Teacher’s Union outlined its priorities for 2022-23, and topping the list is to repeal the law making it illegal for teachers to strike in Massachusetts. The union will also continue its years-long crusade against the MCAS as a high-stakes graduation requirement.
— Well, that was easy: At long last, state has a sports-betting licensee
Encore Resort Casino became the first entity in Massachusetts awarded a license to run wagering on sports Thursday, when the Gaming Commission unanimously approved its application for in-person sports betting. It was the culmination of many years of legislating and regulating. Encore is aiming for a “late-January” start date, i.e.,in time for the Super Bowl Feb. 12, and that is no doubt the hope of all the 15 applicants. Plainridge Park Casino and MGM Springfield had their bids deferred by the G.C. earlier this week after commissioners expressed some concerns about unresolved details. Wanna bet they — ah, never mind.
— Massachusetts, with woman power growing, is not alone
As Massachusetts prepares to swear in its first elected woman chief executive, and celebrates a record number of women legislators, Governing magazine gives us an overview of the whole in a piece headlined, “The New Faces of State Legislatures.” Colorado just became the second state to elect a woman-majority Legislature. While we’re on the subject, here’s a complete listing of Massachusetts women legislators. Great names in here for you oldsters, from Susan Schur to Sharon Pollard.
— Governor’s final “Ask the Governor” draws a crowd
You know you’re true state-government dork if you’re feeling a little sentimental about Charlie Baker’s farewell tour, and there’s any number of us, apparently – “Ask the Governor” was the top trending article in the Globe’s trend bar at 8:30 p.m. last night. Suffice to say, CDB’s swan song with Jim and Margery on WGBH Radio merited an entire newspaper article AND call-ins by the likes of Marty Walsh and Bill Weld.
— Galvin okays Millionaire’s Tax and decries its flaws
Afraid to speak his mind he never has been, and Secretary of State William Galvin spoke his mind on the Millionaire’s Tax Thursday. Certifying the ballot question imposing a 4 percent surtax on annual income exceeding $1 million, everyone’s favorite hallway-roaming curmudgeon told reporters he thinks lawmakers should change the language voters approved to address the needs of “homeowners who might be taxed on a one-time windfall on the sale of their largest asset, and worry that the new tax might discourage older homeowners from selling.” Galvin said the the new Legislature should also establish an education trust fund to ensure MT revenue is used for just that, education, and that provision must be made to shield the taxable income of elderly homeowners who sell their residence.
— Clawed back: Companies to lose tax breaks over hiring shortfalls
The state’s Economic Assistance Coordinating Council has voted to yank $64 million worth of tax breaks from two Bay State companies because they failed to meet promised hiring targets, Greg Ryan and Lucia Maffei of the Boston Business Journal report. Both MassMutual and Wayfair acknowledge they have not met their hiring targets, particularly in the western part of the state, amid a tight labor market.
— UMass’ Chan Medical School Burlington campus is a go
The UMass Chan Medical School has finalized an agreement that will see it open a second campus in Burlington. The partnership between the medical school and Lahey Hospital was first announced over the summer and students could be studying at the new location as soon as the summer of 2024, the Telegram’s Jeff Chamer reports.
— Drastic: Nahant is first community to authorize shooting of coyotes
The Nahant Select Board has authorized the hiring of federally trained sharpshooters to cull the community’s population of coyotes amid a surge of complaints from residents worried the wild animals pose a threat to their pets and children. The Item’s Sylvia Chen reports Nahant is the first town in the state to take the step and that officials also want lawmakers to intervene to make it easier for communities to deploy traps and other non-lethal measures.
— Brockton’s Yellow Cab requests first fare hike since 2008
One of the few remaining taxi cab companies south of Boston is asking Brockton to let it raise rates for the first time since 2008, Namu Sampath of the Enterprise reports. The owners of Yellow Cab say their taxis remain a key part of the city’s transportation infrastructure, even amid as ride-sharing apps drive the industry to the brink of extinction.
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