Happening Today:

9:30 a.m. | Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito joins Transportation Secretary Jamey Tesler and local officials for a groundbreaking ceremony at City Pier for the Route 79 improvement project in Fall River.

9:30 a.m. | State Police Association of Massachusetts holds a press conference at 200 State St. in Boston prior to an arbitration hearing regarding seven troopers and their status due to the vaccine mandate.

10 a.m. | Governor's Councilor Robert Jubinville appears before his colleagues for a confirmation hearing on his nomination to become clerk magistrate in the Framingham District Court.

10 a.m. | Day two of a Joint Committee on the Judiciary hearing focused on the implementation of the 2018 Criminal Justice Reform Act.

10 a.m. | Gov.-elect Maura Healey and Lt. Gov.-elect Kim Driscoll tour the MBTA maintenance facility in Everett. A media availability will follow.

Compiling an early list of issues the Legislature must confront in the new year? Don’t forget about drivers for ride-hailing and food delivery apps like Uber and DoorDash.

The question of how employees for these app-based services should be treated under state law was supposed to be THE issue of the 2022 cycle in Massachusetts, with tens of millions of dollars waiting to be deployed in support of a campaign to make sure the companies could continue to classify its workers as independent contractors.

Then the court got involved. The Supreme Judicial Court knocked the question off the ballot, not because it didn’t raise a valid issue but because it violated the rules of ballot initiatives by combining two or more distinct policy questions.

-ADVERTISEMENT-

But just because voters were spared the barrage of ads Uber and Lyft had planned, doesn’t mean the question went away. Nor is it one sided. All that energy has to go somewhere, and this morning it’s headed to the State House.

Drivers for ride-hailing and food delivery apps will be gathering at East Boston Memorial Park this morning for a short cruise to Beacon Hill where you can expect to hear a liberal use of their horns. They will then be getting out from behind the steering wheel to rally with a host of labor allies to demand the Legislature give them the right to collectively bargain for better wages, benefits and working conditions.

Lawmakers have previously been targeted by a $2 million ad campaign in the spring paid for by Uber and Lyft pressuring them to do the opposite – make sure drivers remain independent contractors with the flexible work schedule that allows.

When the new Legislature convenes in a couple weeks, pressure will begin to mount for lawmakers to resolve this question of labor law one way or another. Maybe not in 2023. But certainly by early 2024.

And don’t forget that the state’s new governor – Maura Healey – is the same woman who as attorney general has sued Uber and Lyft seeking to have the courts declare drivers employees protected by the state’s wage and hour laws.

Ways and Means Chairman Aaron Michlewitz had been the point-person in the House for navigating the tricky regulatory waters of the gig economy when he chaired the Committee on Financial Services. That committee is currently helmed by Rep. James Murphy, a Weymouth Democrat, and Sen. Paul Feeney, an Attleboro Democrat.

However, those assignments could change in the new session so it bears watching who draws the short straw (or long, depending on how you see it.)

— Neal caps Ways and Means stint with release of Trump taxes

His days as Ways and Means chairman are numbered, for now. But U.S. Rep. Richard Neal is going out with a bang. The committee chaired by the Springfield Democrat voted controversially to make public former President Donald Trump’s tax returns after years of legal wrangling just to gain access to the documents. The decision was fraught for Democrats who were told they would be setting a dangerous precedent. But without any GOP support, the committee erred on the side of transparency as they say they hope to use the documents and the case history to make a pitch for reforming the IRS presidential audit process. For Neal, it was the near culmination of years of work while he enjoyed the power that comes with being in the House majority – power that is about to shift.

The Boston Globe | Western Mass Politics & Insight

— DOC deal with feds aims to improve prisoner mental health care

Prisoners incarcerated in Massachusetts should have improved access to mental health services after the Department of Correction entered into a sweeping settlement agreement with the U.S. Justice Department to resolve an investigation into purported failures of the state to live up to its constitutional obligations. CommonWealth Magazine’s Shira Schoenberg reports that more than two years after the DOJ faulted the state for failing to provide adequate mental health supports to inmates the agreement will require improved staffing, training, mandatory contacts with mental health professionals and basic living standards for prisoners on a mental health watch.

CommonWealth Magazine

— Baker admin taken to task by criminal justice advocates

The DOJ settlement was announced against a backdrop of sharp criticism from criminal justice advocates over the Baker administration’s efforts to implement the 2018 reform law. The Joint Committee on the Judiciary heard testimony Tuesday that raised ongoing concerns with issues like  “hollowed out” programming and education options and the use of solitary confinement. Controversially, the Baker administration declined to make anyone from the Executive Office of Public Safety available to testify and answer questions from lawmakers, instead submitting 14 pages of written testimony. SHNS’s Chris Lisinski has more from the hearing, which continues today.

State House News Service

— The next steps for medical aid in dying

In the wake of the Supreme Judicial Court’s ruling that the state constitution does not protect a patient’s right to receive assistance in dying from a medical professional, Gov.-elect Maura Healey said it’s up to the Legislature now to “do the work.” Healey supports the concept of medication-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients, but a decade after voters narrowly rejected a ballot questions that would have legalized the process, lawmakers on Beacon Hill have yet to find some sort of path forward. The issue is not going away. Healey said lawmakers should return to the table and work with stakeholders to put in place “the best guide rails” to ensure any system that allows doctors to prescribe life-ending medication is not abused.

GBH News

— Healey welcomes your records requests

Gov.-elect Maura Healey has long said she doesn’t believe any government agency should be able to claim a blanket exemption from public records laws, and she’s bringing that principle with her to the governor’s office. Healey told GBH on Tuesday that she would not claim an exemption for her office as past governor’s have, based on an SJC ruling from the 1990s. That could open up the governor’s office to a new level of transparency and access to decision-making records that are the norm in many other states. The bigger lift will be getting the Legislature to open its file cabinets, which Healey said she supports. Such a move has long been resisted by Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, and it’s unclear if Healey wants that fight right now.

The Boston Globe

— Plainridge’s link to Barstool Sports Ok’d for now

The relationship between Plainridge Park Casino and Barstool Sports continues to cause headaches for the operator of the southeastern Massachusetts slots parlor, but for now its not getting in the way of a sports betting license. Gaming regulators agreed to allow Plainridge to apply for a temporary sports betting license while it continues to investigate the company’s ties to Barstool and its founder Dave Portnoy. Barstool and Portnoy’s reputation for lewdness and the potential that their association with Plainridge could become an encouragement of underage gambling has given the Massachusetts Gaming Commission pause. The Herald’s Matthew Medsger has more on the decision to let Plainridge move forward.

Boston Herald

— Wrong to let MGM off the hook for tardiness?

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission showed MGM Springfield a little grace last month when it allowed the casino operator’s tardiness in submitting an application for a sports betting license to slide. But one Springfield lawmaker told MassLive’s Chris Van Buskirk he had hoped the gaming regulators would be a little more strict. Rep. Angelo Puppolo wants to see MGM fined $250,000 for its “caviler and lackadaisical behavior,” with the money steered into Springfield and surrounding communities. MGM did pay already its $200,000 application fee on time, but missed the application window by 48 hours.

MassLive

— Football coaches, student arraigned in Haverhill hazing incidents

Two coaches and one player from the Haverhill High School football team were arraigned Tuesday on charges connected to a series of hazing incidents, some of which were captured on video. The Eagle-Tribune’s Angelina Berube and Breanna Edelstein report the student, who is 18, faces charges of indecent assault and battery, among other counts, while the coaches face charges for failing to carry out their legal obligations as mandated reporters and with intimidating a witness in the ensuing investigation.

The Eagle-Tribune

— Last-minute deal averts Teamsters strike at Saint Vincent

Negotiators for Saint Vincent Hospital and the Teamsters union representing about 180 employees say they’ve reached a tentative deal on a new contract. Kevin Koczwara of the Worcester Business Journal reports the deal, if approved by union membership, would avoid a potential strike the union authorized earlier this month that would have begun the day after Christmas.

Worcester Business Journal

— Ashland doctor arrested for punching a cop in Jan. 6 melee

An Ashland doctor who federal prosecutors say was caught on video breaking into the U.S. Capitol and assaulting a Metropolitan Police officer in the midst of the Jan. 6 insurrection was arrested at her home Tuesday. MassLive’s Luis Fieldman and Norman Miller of the Telegram report Jacquelyn Starer, 68, was released pending arraignment on Dec. 27 on a slew of charges.

MassLive | Telegram & Gazette

— State says sheriff can shield identify of rescued boat owner

The state’s Supervisor of Records has ruled that the office of Barnstable County Sheriff James Cummings can withhold the name of a man rescued at sea in August, denying an appeal from the Cape Cod Times, which was seeking the full release of records relating to the incident. Cummings’ office says the identity of the person rescued should be private because the rescue resulted from a well-being check. Denise Coffey of the Times reports the sheriff’s boat became a flashpoint in the sheriff’’s election after it played a role in a waterfront wedding officiated by Gov. Charlie Baker.

Cape Cod Time

MORE HEADLINES:

Metro

Sheila Russell, former mayor of Cambridge, dies at 87 – The Boston Globe

Tufts University Ramps Up Security Across Campuses After Bomb Threats – Patch

Massachusetts

Springfield City Council, mayor to see pay increases in 2024 – MassLive

Worcester County unemployment rate drops to lowest since April 2019 – Worcester Business Journal

Former State Rep. Harold Naughton Jr. nominated for judgeship by Gov. Baker – MassLive

National

Lawmakers unveil a $1.7 trillion U.S. spending bill as shutdown deadline looms – Associated Press

New Hampshire Democrats escalate first-in-nation primary fight – Politico

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.