9:30 a.m. | Massachusetts Gaming Commission meets to discuss and potentially vote on a series of sports betting regulations and research studies, and to have a preliminary discussion on sports betting marketing affiliations.
11 a.m. | House and Senate meet in informal sessions.
2 p.m. | Sen. Marc Pacheco moderates a Council of State Governments Eastern Regional Conference seminar titled "Improving Mental Health Services in Response to Severe Weather: A Proposal for States."
6 p.m. | Gov. Charlie Baker attends a Menorah lighting ceremony in Boston's Seaport neighborhood.
Good morning. It’s officially winter. But don’t let that get you down. The days are about to start getting longer, if only by a minute today.
Gov.-elect Maura Healey last week called her new climate chief, Melissa Hoffer, “unstoppable.” She’s going to need to be.
The Baker administration has left Healey with a blueprint to achieve its climate goals and it will require a dramatic transformation of our energy systems and homes to get there. Gov. Charlie Baker and the Legislature agreed to a net-zero emissions limit by 2050 that the outgoing governor now says will require an 85 percent reduction in emissions below 1990s levels over the next three decades.
The remainder will be made up by removing and storing carbon from the atmosphere.
One way to do that is with trees.
State House News Service’s Chris Lisinski reports that the Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2050 calls for at least 40 percent of lands and waters in Massachusetts to be permanently conserved and shielded from development by 2050. That’s a 27 percent increase from what is currently protected.
Why is this important? Well, a new study released Wednesday from the New England Forestry Foundation estimates that improved forestry management across New England’s Acadian Forest could help store 488 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, enough to remove 23 percent of the carbon from the atmosphere needed for the region to become net-zero by 2050.
The study’s findings dovetail with a recent Highstead report that produced similar estimates of the potential for forests to help with carbon storage.
The climate plan will also require a dramatic escalation in the use of electric vehicles, solar and wind power generation and home-heating transportation.
The Globe’s Sabrina Shankman reports that approximately 27 GW of solar and 24 GW of wind resources will be needed, up from 3.7 GW of wind capacity and 3.3 GW of solar currently deployed.
Eighty percent of homes must also be fitted with electric heat pumps for heating and cooling. That’s an 8,331 percent from the 33,210 homes heated that way today to 2.8 million by 2050.
— Getting from point A to point B
You mean Boston doesn’t run on Dunkin’? The Boston Globe’s Janelle Nanos wrote a new piece based on interviews with riders passing through Roxbury’s Ruggles Station to offer a glimpse of what it means when the MBTA is running on time, or perhaps more importantly not running on time. The article makes the case for why a high-functioning public transit system is essential for the region and its economy as people depend on the service to get to work on time, and suffer the consequences when it lets them down. The MBTA’s own dashboard puts the subway system’s reliability at 87 percent, though that can vary depending on the line you use, while the bus network is 72 percent reliable and the commuter rail pulls into the station at 94 percent reliability. There’s obviously room for improvement and this will be something Gov.-elect Maura Healey will have to focus on early and often.
— Incidentally, Healey and Lt. Gov.-elect Kim Driscoll toured the MBTA’s Everett repair facility where the incoming governor said she was “struck” by the workforce shortages plaguing the agency. She also said she hopes to identify a new general manager for the T within weeks, not months, if possible.
— Baker: Hands off Proposition 2 1/2
Don’t touch Proposition 2 1/2. That’s what Gov. Charlie Baker had to say in an exit interview yesterday with WBZ’s Jon Keller. In excerpts that aired on CBS last night, Baker talked taxes and his concern for the message sent in November by the passage of the so-called “millionaire’s tax.” “There’s going to be a lot of consequences, I think, that won’t be all that great to some of the issues associated with the millionaires tax,” Baker said. Keller pushed further, asking about a return to “Taxachusetts” and whether Proposition 2 1/2 – the ballot law that caps annual growth in property taxes – could be at risk. Baker said that during his eight years Prop 2 1/2 was “sacrosanct,” but he acknowledged that the idea of tinkering with or scrapping the law is always lurking just beneath the surface. “I think doing anything to Prop 2 1/2 would be a huge mistake,” Baker said. The full interview airs Saturday morning.
— First-of-its-kind survey details campus sexual assault problem
More than 900 incidents of sexual assault and violence were reported on college campuses in 2020, according to a new report published by the Department of Higher Education. The survey establishes a baseline as the Eagle-Tribune’s Christian Wade reports its the first of its kind required under a 2021 law intended to push universities to identify, prevent and respond to campus sexual violence. Wade reports of the 900 incidents only 136 were investigated by law enforcement, with the vast majority of the allegations – about 600 – made by students against other students. “Those numbers barely scratch the surface,” Lily Bohen James, co-executive director of The Every Voice Coalition, told the Eagle-Tribune. “We know the actual number and scope is much higher than what the data shows.”
— Trooper vax case to spill over into new year
Seven state troopers fighting for their jobs after being dismissed for refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine will have to wait until after the holidays to find out if they successfully made their case. State House News Service’s Sam Drysdale reports that the hearing before the American Arbitration Association is expected to resume in mid-January after the troopers this week began laying out their defense. The law enforcement officers have claimed the state ignored their request for religious exemptions, instead choosing to suspend them without pay based on Gov. Baker’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for state employees.
— Chang-Diaz looks back on 14 years at the State House
Last week, Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz said goodbye to the State House from the Senate floor, reflecting on a political career full of ups and downs. The Jamaica Plain Democrat’s campaign for governor this year never quite caught on, closing the door on a chapter of her professional career that she had hoped might just be opening wider. Instead, Chang-Diaz tells the Dorchester Reporter that she doesn’t know what’s next except more time with her family and holiday leftovers to eat. She also reflected further on her Beacon Hill accomplishments and her hopes for success for her successor Liz Miranda. On running for public office again, Chang-Diaz said probably not. But one never knows.
— Electric rates zap holiday displays as homeowners look to conserve
Bah, humbug! It seems soaring high electricity rates this winter are not only taking a bite out of our wallet, but our holiday cheer as well. The Globe’s Shannon Larson writes that some homeowners known for lighting up their neighborhoods with festive displays this time of year are pulling the plug after seeing the cost of all those little glowing bulbs skyrocket.
— Markey, Moulton lead push to compensate fishing industry
U.S. Sen. Ed Markey and U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton have unveiled a plan to create a federal fund that would be used to compensate the fishing industry for any losses related to the development of offshore wind farms. Anastasia Lennon and Will Sennott of The New Bedford Light report the duo’s legislation would require all at-sea wind farm developers to set aside compensation funds and provide federal oversight over their distribution.
— Holyoke council to ask Healey to end receivership of public schools
Enough, already. The Holyoke City Council is poised to formally ask incoming Gov. Maura Healey to end the receivership of the city’s public schools, with councilors saying the takeover has produced few positive results over the last seven years. MassLive’s Dennis Hohenberger reports the council wants local control restored to the district, which has seen an exodus of teachers in recent years.
— Worcester’s Petty says he plans to run for mayor again in 2023
Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty says he’ll seek what would be a record seventh two-year term in November 2023, Marco Cartolano of the Telegram reports. Petty, who has been mayor since 2011, left his future in the city up in the air after his bid to become a state senator ended with a loss in the Democratic primary.
— Most inmates who ask are denied medical parole
Just one-fourth of state prison inmates who applied for medical parole during the last fiscal year were granted early release, Christian Wade of the Eagle-Tribune reports. Citing newly available Department of Corrections data, Wade reports the agency approved 17 requests for early release last year due to dire medical issues out of the 67 requests it received.
— Inauguration taking shape
Gov.-elect Maura Healey inauguration in just 14 days is beginning to take shape. MassLive’s Alison Kuznitz has details on some of the regional service projects the new administration will be supporting that week, as well as how to get your seat for the TD Garden festivities on Jan. 5
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