Happening Today:

10 a.m. | Massachusetts Gaming Commission continues its review of the six applications it received for mobile sports betting licenses that will not be tied to an existing casino or slots parlor.

11 a.m. | MassDOT hosts a virtual public meeting to discuss the planning process for the 2023 Massachusetts Freight Plan, which will lay out next steps for rail, air, truck, maritime and freight transportation.

2:30 p.m. | Gov. Maura Healey and Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll visit UMass Dartmouth for a roundtable discussion about climate sustainability and to learn more about what the university is doing to prepare for and fight climate change.

What would you do with hundreds of thousands of dollars to burn and no more campaigns to run? Throw a party, of course.

The latest campaign finance filings show that former Gov. Charlie Baker and former Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito dropped $100,0000 (split evenly) in December on Coventures, Inc., the Boston-based event planning agency run by Dusty Rhodes.

While it’s unclear what this money was used for, online photos suggest Baker and Co. threw a bash at Encore Boston Harbor over the weekend to celebrate their eight years in office with former staff and supporters. The drop down screen behind the ballroom DJ read: People are policy – Celebrating our winning team.

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Records also show that Baker put a $5,000 deposit on his campaign’s American Express for a post-Lone Walk reception at the historic Omni Parker House.

In total, Baker spent $83,820 in December, leaving his campaign account with $123,540. Polito, who potentially has another state campaign in her future, spent $64,300 and has $2.1 million.

One other notable expense on Baker’s filing: $1,534 to Ellen Cooper Portraits, LLC.

Ellen Cooper is a Pennsylvania-based portrait artist whose rates start at $5,000, according to her website. While the payment was made on Dec. 29, it’s unclear when Baker may have sat for his official portrait or when it might be ready for unveiling.

Former Gov. Deval Patrick had a ceremony on Jan. 5 the year he left office to unveil his official portrait hanging in the lobby of the Executive Suite, while Mitt Romney waited years to hold a portrait celebration, returning to the State House for the official unveiling in 2009 after leaving the governor’s office in 2007 and running straight into a presidential campaign.

While gubernatorial portraits line the lobby of the governor’s third floor office suite, each governor and lieutenant governor typically pick a portrait to hang in their respective offices. Baker hung Gov. John Volpe’s portrait in his office, while Polito had Gov. Paul Cellucci looking down on her.

Healey and Driscoll on Monday launched a student essay contest to help them decide which portrait to select, though it’s probably safe to say Baker’s likeness will have to wait awhile before it sees the inside of the governor’s office.

— The new Big Three share a table (and cookies)

Gov. Maura Healey, Senate President Karen Spilka and Speaker Ron Mariano sat down together for the first time as Beacon Hill’s newly minted power triumvirate, getting to know each other on a working basis and feeling out the room on tax relief, free community college and other issues that have emerged as early priorities for one or more of them. Notably, Healey did not invite Republican legislative leaders – as has been tradition over the years – but indicated that might change for future meetings after this initial sit down. As SHNS’s Chris Lisinski reports, a new poll commissioned by the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance Foundation found greater support for broad-based tax cuts rather than more targeted relief, and a majority of registered voters want to see Democrats in charge leave the tax rebate law that returned $3 billion to this pockets this fall alone. After some exhaustive questioning about the oatmeal cookie Mariano was munching through the press availability, Healey, Spilka and the speaker did not, however, commit to an approach to taxes.

The Boston Globe | State House News Service

— Going deeper on free community college

MassLive’s Alison Kuznitz goes a little deeper on the idea of free community college and where the three top Democrats stand. Healey and Spilka both listed it as a top priority in speeches last week, though Healey appears to be eyeing a more narrow approach for students over 25 without a previous degree. While Spilka said it would cost $50 million to expand the program to all students and cover tuition and fees, it depends on how the program is structured. As this policy paper from MassBudget lays out, it could carry a much bigger price tag. I guess that’s why Mariano said, “The devil’s in the details.”

MassLive

— Student borrowers report continued problems with lenders

Lawmakers have tried to pass laws to protect student loan borrowers and as attorney general Maura Healey went after some lenders for predatory debt collection practices. But the Eagle-Tribune’s Christian Wade reports that a student loan assistance program run through the Attorney General’s office received an “unprecedented” number of complaints last year, with 1,207 complaints and requests for assistance filed by borrowers between July 2021 and June 30, 2022.

The Eagle-Tribune

— State’s plan to recover lost learning under fire

The state’s plan to give every school an individualized improvement plan to help students catch up on learning lost during the COVID-19 pandemic is coming under fire from some Board of Elementary and Secondary Education board members and advocates. The Globe’s Adria Watson reports that critics, including board members tied into the business community, worry that giving schools different timetables to bring students up to speed could put them behind the curve when it comes to meeting achievement goals set by the state in the Student Opportunity Act.

The Boston Globe

— Attleboro acting mayor denies supporting QAnon

Attleboro’s acting mayor, Jay DiLisio, is saying he doesn’t subscribe to the QAnon conspiracy theory after someone sent photos of him at a 2020 rally associated with the movement to the local newspaper. Tom Reilly of the Sun Chronicle reports DiLisio believes the timing of the photo surfacing is no coincidence: He is one of at least three candidates who will be on the ballot next month to become the mayor permanently.

The Sun Chronicle

— Hold your fire: Nahant group pushes non-lethal coyote response

Emily Paul of the Item speaks to Nahant residents who are launching a campaign to teach people how to deal with the growing population of coyotes in the town – a bid to counter the town’s plans to hire federal sharpshooters to kill the animals.

The Daily Item

— Close call: Northampton council to tackle pot-license cap

A subcommittee of the Northampton City Council met for four hours Monday but ended up deadlocked over whether to recommend that the full council set a limit on the number of cannabis dispensaries that can set up shop in the city, MassLive’s Will Katcher reports. Eleven pot shops are now operating and a proposal for a 12th deeply divided the city last summer. 

MassLive

— Upheld: Judge affirms $8 million verdict against Worcester police

A federal judge has upheld an $8 million judgment that a jury awarded to a local man who spent 16 years in prison after being convicted based in part on evidence that was fabricated. Brad Petrishen of the Telegram reports the city had asked the court to vacate the verdict or order a new trial and that a formal appeal could still be coming. 

Telegram & Gazette

MORE HEADLINES:

Metro

Jamaica Plain loses another liquor license to the Seaport – Universal Hub

As UMass Boston and Chelsea schools institute mask mandate, other districts are slow to follow – WBUR

Hundreds demand answers at Cambridge City Hall about police shooting of Sayed Faisal – GBH News

Massachusetts

Mirra hopes for special election in House race – The Salem News

Fall River’s landmark ‘castle’ was for rent on Airbnb. The city says this broke the law – The Herald News

Proposal to expand Wenham Select Board goes to voters – The Salem News

National

House GOP votes to slash IRS funding, targeting pursuit of tax cheats – The Washington Post

Nurses Go on Strike at 2 New York City Hospitals – The New York Times

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