9 a.m. | Public Health Council holds its monthly meeting.
10 a.m. | U.S. House Ways & Means Chairman Richard Neal joins the Association of Texas Professional Educators, Mass Retirees, and Texas Retired Teachers Association on the steps of the Capitol to call for reform to the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) to prevent a reductions in Social Security benefits for retired public servants.
10 a.m. | Gaming Commission holds another online sports betting license application review meeting.
10:30 a.m. | Gov. Charlie Baker, Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders and Veterans' Services Secretary Cheryl Lussier Poppe attend a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Community Living Center at the Chelsea Soldiers' Home.
12 p.m. | Health Policy Commission Board meets.
12 p.m. | Governor's Council meets with a list of pending judicial nominations and pardons before it.
1:30 p.m. | Boston Mayor Michelle Wu holds a press conference to share information with residents about winter weather preparations.
Gov. Charlie Baker’s decision to ignore the advice of his Parole Board and recommend pardons for Gerald “Tooky” Amirault and his sister Cheryl Amirault Lefave took centerstage at the State House yesterday where the Governor’s Council held a emotionally charged hearing to consider his request.
To this point, Baker’s pardon and commutation recommendations have been mostly well received, including his commutation of two men’s first degree murder sentences making them eligible for parole.
But none of those cases have been burned in the public consciousness quite like the Fells Acres case.
The Amirault siblings served time after being convicted for their roles in the sexual abuse of children during the mid-1980s at the Fells Acres Day Care Center in Malden. Amirault has long claimed his innocence, and questions have been raised about the investigatory tactics used to elicit testimony from children against the Amiraults – questions deep enough for Baker to brush aside the advice of the Parole Board and grant Amirault and Lefave’s pardon petition.
This case – and yesterday’s hearing – is precisely why pardons and commutations by governors have fallen out of favor.
Before the 1990s, governors of Massachusetts routinely issued hundreds of pardons and commutations during their times in office. That all started to taper off after Gov. Michael Dukakis.
“I think it is clearly a reaction to the Willie Horton issue,” Governor’s Councilor Robert Jubinville told the News Service earlier this year. “I think governors are now a little shy about doing those kinds of things; if it backfires on them they are criticized for it.”
Horton, of course, was not pardoned by Gov. Dukakis, but he did commit violent crimes while out on a weekend furlough – crimes that came back to haunt Dukakis during his failed 1988 presidential campaign.
After that, leniency from governors became harder and harder to come by. Gov. William Weld issued at least 26 pardons during his time in office, while the late Gov. Paul Cellucci recommended 20, according to published reports and state records.
Before she left office, Gov. Jane Swift pardoned seven, but issued no commutations. And her successor Mitt Romney – who was clearly thinking about his own national ambitions – didn’t grant a single clemency request.
Gov. Deval Patrick, the first Democrat to hold the office since Dukakis, brought the practice back, but in limited form. He waited until the very end of his second term before recommending four pardons and one commutation.
Which brings us to Baker. The Republican also waited until his time in office was short, but so far he has recommended 17 pardons and three commutations. His decision with respect to the Amiraults may be one reason to believe him when he says campaigning days are over – for now.
— Council support for Amirault pardons on shaky ground
As for the Amiraults, their hopes for pardons ran into some opposition on the Governor’s Council yesterday with some councilors expressing sympathy for the victims in the case and others voicing frustration with Gov. Baker for not being more forthcoming with the evidence that persuaded him pardons were justified in this case. SHNS’s Chris Lisinski has more from the hearing, where neither Gerald nor Cheryl Amirault showed up on the advice of Councilor Terrence Kennedy, who said he wanted to manage the temperature in the room and focus on whether the two deserved a pardon, not whether they were guilty.
— Pressley seeking to lead DWC in new Congress
Democrats may soon be out of power in the U.S. House, but that doesn’t have to mean the Massachusetts delegation loses its voice. U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark has already been elected minority whip, and U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley is running for chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus. Pressley talked with Vanity Fair about why she’s running, and how she wants to use the post to assemble a powerful voting bloc in the House as relevant as the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus, writes Abigail Tracy. “It couldn’t be more clear. The Republican Party of [Kevin] McCarthy and Trump, they don’t have a policy vision—certainly not one that centers women’s families and the most marginalized,” Pressley told the magazine. “They don’t see us. They don’t see women.”
— Sister of Paul Whelan reflects on Griner’s release from Russia
American basketball player Brittney Griner is back on U.S. soil after a controversial prisoner exchange freed the WNBA star from a Russian prison where she was being held on marijuana charges. But American Paul Whelan remains in Russia, a former Marine convicted of espionage that has been denied by U.S. authorities. GBH and All Things Considered caught up with Whelan’s sister Elizabeth, who lives on Martha’s Vineyard, after Griner’s release to see how it impacted the Whelan family to see someone else come home without Whelan in tow. “We were very pleased to see Brittney released,” Elizabeth Whelan told the station. “It’s a horrible situation for anybody in their family to be in, but it’s pretty awful to have Paul still in Russia almost four years later.”
— Sign them up for student debt relief
The Eagle-Tribune’s Christian Wade reports that the Baker’s administration’s student loan repayment program for mental health and substance use treatment professionals has had plenty of early takers. The $130 million program opened last week and has already had nearly 10,000 applicants seeking to have up to $300,000 in student loans paid off. The application window will be open through January.
— Frustration builds for Baker on immigration front
Gov. Charlie Baker said yesterday he’s “really disappointed” that he has not heard back from the Biden administration on his letter and request that the federal government lift some of the restrictions that make it difficult, if not impossible, for some newly-arrived migrants to work. The lack of action on the federal level is just one of several places where Baker’s late-term immigration agenda has stalled out, with the Legislature on Beacon Hill so far doing nothing to advance a funding bill Baker filed to help address the shortage of shelter for migrants coming to Massachusetts.
— Should they stay or should they go?
Gov.-elect Maura Healey named her chief of staff, senior adviser and first Cabinet official – Administration and Finance Secretary-designate Matt Gorzkowicz – yesterday, breaking the seal of what will likely be a string of personnel announcements over the coming days and weeks. But in their write-up of the appointments, the Globe’s Samantha J. Gross and Matt Stout had this interesting nugget: The Healey transition team has been taking the temperature of some top Baker administration officials on their willingness to stay on. That doesn’t mean Healey will ultimately ask anyone to stick around, but it would be fascinating to see the reaction of progressives who supported Healey to the idea of keeping some of Baker’s team – no matter how popular the Republican may be – in place.
— Warren takes on Pfizer over COVID-19 vaccine pricing
Pfizer’s plan to hike the price of its COVID-19 vaccine next year is drawing the attention and ire of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is calling on the company to “back off” its plan to increase the price by $20. The Gloucester Daily Times’s Christian Wade reports that Warren sent a letter to Pfizer’s CEO on Monday accusing the company of “pure and deadly greed” that would hurt the uninsured and underinsured.
— Mic drop: Driscoll to resign after delivering last State of City
Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll has informed the city council she plans to resign immediately after delivering her final State of the City address on Jan. 4, one day before she is scheduled to be sworn in as the state’s lieutenant governor. Dustin Luca of the Salem News reports the city council has decided to hold off on naming an acting mayor until after Driscoll has made her exit. Driscoll is reportedly backing her longtime chief of staff Dominick Pangallo to succeed her at City Hall, though Pangallo is likely to face opposition.
— Northampton cannabis shop will be first in state to close
Northampton cannabis dispensary The Source, which opened for business in March, says it will end operations on Friday, becoming the first recreational pot shop in the state to close down since the industry was born in 2018. MassLive’s Jim Kinney reports the closure comes just weeks after the city’s mayor rejected a controversial plan to open a shop in the Florence neighborhood because the city already had too many dispensaries operating. Many predict a larger wave of consolidation as prices fall and competition both in and outside the state increases.
— Teamsters at St. Vincent Hospital could strike after Christmas
Some 180 members of the Teamsters union employed by St. Vincent Hospital will go on strike on Dec. 26 unless long-stalled contract talks result in a deal to boost wages and retirement benefits, the Telegram’s Cyrus Moulton reports. St. Vincent parent company Tenet Healthcare, which last year was targeted by one of the longest nurse strikes in state history, says it has contingency plans ready but is also willing to continue negotiations.
— Fully charged: Utility says outer Cape battery backup operational
Eversource says a battery-powered backup power source known as the Provincetown Battery Energy Storage System is now fully operational and will allow the utility to quickly restore electricity to some 10,000 customers on the outermost part of Cape Cod. Heather McCarron of the Times reports the $49 million, 25-megawatt backup system is one of the first of its size in the country.
Latest plan for Dot Bay City adds a waterside ‘Esplanade,’ drops large building – Dorchester Reporter
Boston City Council to vote Wednesday to start replacing almost the entire zoning board – Universal Hub
Northeastern expands again, this time with a campus in Miami – Boston Business Journal
Lawmakers tasked with probing MBTA will release final report in January – Boston Herald
Ware Planning Board to hear request for marijuana delivery business – MassLive
Assumption cybersecurity program receives validation from NSA – Worcester Business Journal
Risks of cannabis-impaired driving to be added to Mass. driver’s education curriculum – The Boston Globe
Congress reaches early deal to fund government, races to avert shutdown – Washington Post
Why the 2024 Race Is Eerily Quiet – Politico
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