Inauguration week continues today when newly elected and reelected lawmakers take their oaths of office and Democrats caucus to elect a speaker and Senate president in what promises to be a far less dramatic affair than what is transpiring in Washington.
California Republican Kevin McCarthy’s failure to lock down the votes to become speaker yesterday marked the first time in a century that the House has failed to elect a speaker on the first roll call. House Speaker Ron Mariano figures to encounter no such resistance from his own party as he seeks a second full term leading the House on Beacon Hill.
Mariano will once again be teamed with Senate President Karen Spilka, barring something extraordinary, in a new session that will once again test the ability of Democrats to work together when they control the governor’s office and both branches of the Legislature.
Mariano is expected to address the House at the start of this new two year session on his priorities, but traditionally speaking it’s a slow a build to actual legislating. Mariano will first have to assemble a newish leadership team with the majority leader position having sat vacant since Claire Cronin decamped for Ireland as ambassador and the retirement of Second Assistant Majority Leader Joseph Wagner. One move begets another, and all of this will come into play as new committee assignments get doled out in the coming weeks, or more likely months.
Spilka will go through the same process in the Senate, though leadership could remain stable unless she desires to make a change.
The legislative ceremonies during the day will be a precursor to Gov. Charlie Baker’s moment in the evening when he takes his “Lone Walk” through the front gates of the State House and exits the capitol for the final time as governor.
Baker gave a short “thank you” speech to the people of Massachusetts from his office Tuesday, ticking through some of the administration’s accomplishments that he said were achieved “without partisan bickering,” the Globe’s Matt Stout reports.
Baker will meet in the afternoon with Gov.-elect Maura Healey to exchange the ceremonial tokens of the office and impart any final words of advice before he departs. But the Legislature ensured that he won’t be able to spend his final 36 hours as governor with his feet kicked up on the desk.
In their final session before the new Legislature convenes, House and Senate lawmakers held votes until after midnight sending dozens of bills to Baker’s desk. SHNS’s Chris Lisinski and Sam Drysdale have a recap of the night, which saw bills passed dealing with the sale of catalytic converters, foster families and postpartum care, while a late effort to criminalize “revenge porn” fell short.
— “Ideas” for MBTA floated by top House and Senate lawmakers
Top House and Senate Democrats floated major structural changes for the MBTA in a 78-page report born from oversight hearings held by the Joint Committee on Transportation following a number of safety red flags raised by federal inspectors over the summer. While the report only laid out “ideas” for consideration, the Herald’s Gayla Cawley reports that House committee chair William Straus concludes its worth considering scaling back the MBTA’s mission, giving it control of the transit system’s subway and bus networks, while leaving the commuter rail and construction to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. The top lawmakers also suggested moving oversight authority from the Department of Public Utilities to the Inspector General’s office. All of this will become grist for the mill in the new Legislative session when transportation spending and the T operations both figure to be major issues for lawmakers and the new administration to tackle.
— In other MBTA news, Cawley also reports that eight MBTA employees fired for failure to comply with a COVID-19 vaccine mandate will be extended an offer to return after the agency lifted its vaccine mandate.
— Teachers ready to fight for right to strike
After it found its way into the Massachusetts Teachers Association’s top priority list, the Globe’s James Vaznis looks at the budding legal push to give educators the right to strike. Similar to public safety unions, teachers are currently prohibited from striking, and unions face heavy fines for doing so. The MTA wants to change that after an election cycle during which they spent heavily to support a ballot question to raise taxes on wealthy residents to help pay for education and transportation. Legislation is expected to be filed this session, which begins today, to change state law, but it’s unclear how it will be received by Democratic leaders on Beacon Hill.
— Mariano delays seating of two representatives
So I told you that newly-elected lawmakers would be taking their oaths of office today. But there are two caveats. Speaker Ron Mariano announced Tuesday that he would appoint a special committee today to examine the results of two races won by extremely narrow margins by Democrats in districts on the North Shore and the Nashoba Valley. The committee will be looking at concerns raised by Republicans with the recounts that saw them come up short, including a challenge brought by Rep. Lenny Mirra who appears to have lost his seat by one vote. A judge dismissed Mirra’s petition for an injunction to block the seating of his opponent Kristin Kassner, suggesting the ball was now in the Legislature’s court. Kassner expressed her disappointment in the delay, but expressed confidence she will eventually join her new colleagues on Beacon Hill. The Globe’s Matt Stout has more.
— Stressed power supplies over holidays meant more oil burned
Commonwealth Magazine’s Bruce Mohl reports on how the winter storm that ripped through New England before Christmas put stress on the electrical power grid, forcing the system to deploy dirtier resources like oil to meet the demand. The episode underscores the need to build up supplies of clean energy from wind and other sources if the state is to meet its carbon emission reduction requirements.
The Globe’s Jon Chesto follows up here on the news from last week that the state is teaming up with Maine on a major land-based wind farm in northern Maine as efforts to develop wind farms offshore have run into turbulence.
— Heroux-era begins for Bristol County jails
New Bristol County Sheriff Paul Heroux ran promising change in the county’s correction facilities, but the Sun Chronicle’s George W. Rhodes reports that the former lawmaker-turned-mayor-turned sheriff is asking for patience as tries to make that a reality. Heroux scored one of the cycle’s biggest upsets when he knocked off longtime incumbent Republican Thomas Hodgson, but Heroux praised the conservative sheriff for his grace in defeat and for his help in making the transition smooth. Heroux took his oath Tuesday night in Fall River, administered by Secretary of State William Galvin, who once told him he was crazy for trying to take on Hodgson.
— Swansea closes schools Wednesday after cyberattack
Swansea Public Schools are closed today after what Superintendent John Robidoux described as a ransomware attack that locked the district out of its computer systems in demand for payment. It’s the second recent attack on an educational institution in the region after Bristol Community College was hit with a similar computer virus.
— Nurse shortage comes home to roost at state’s schools
K-12 schools across the Bay State have nearly 300 openings for school nurses amid an industry-wide labor crunch, a shortfall that insiders say could have a negative effect on student safety, WBUR’s Gabrielle Emanuel reports. More than 10 percent of all school nurse slots are currently vacant and the head of the Massachusetts School Nurse Organization says the crunch, while accelerated by COVID, is the result of a decades-long trend.
— Sweet ‘revenge’: Lenox rakes in cash amid post-pandemic travel
Lenox is poised to set another record for annual lodging tax revenue with local officials crediting a post-pandemic travel boom that has a boon to local coffers and will help keep a lid on property tax increases going forward. The Berkshire Eagle’s Clarence Fanto has all the numbers.
— Latest proposal would bring 500 units to South Shore Plaza
More than 500 units of housing could be coming to the parking lot of South Shore Plaza in Braintree under the latest proposal to turn what had been retail-only real estate into part of the solution to the state’s housing supply shortfall. The Boston Business Journal’s Greg Ryan reports the plan includes a 315-unit apartment building and another 180 units of age-restricted housing.
— Making history: Batista swearing-in marks milestone in Worcester
Cyrus Moulton of the Telegram sets the stage as Worcester prepares to mark its own historic first on Friday when Eric Batista is sworn in as the city manager, becoming the first person of Latino descent to hold the office. Batista has been serving as acting city manager since last April and was appointed to the role full-time in November after plans for a nationwide search were scrapped.
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