9:30 a.m. | Congressman Jim McGovern visits African Community Education to highlight $3 million in federal funding to support the nonprofit's creation of a new immigrant and refugee services facility in Worcester.
9:40 a.m. | Gov. Maura Healey speaks at the Massachusetts Municipal Association's annual meeting.
11 a.m. | Massachusetts Gaming Commission meets to determine the start time for legal in-person sports betting on Jan. 31.
11 a.m. | Inauguration of Massachusetts College of Art and Design President Mary Grant. Gov. Maura Healey will offer remarks.
12:45 p.m. | Boston Mayor Michelle Wu attends the Greater Boston Chinese Golden Age Center's Lunar New Year celebration.
Gov. Maura Healey will speak to municipal leaders this morning at the Hynes Convention Center at the Massachusetts Municipal Association’s annual meeting and tradeshow.
The event is often used by governors to announce funding levels for local aid, the Chapter 90 road and bridge program or some other municipal initiative like broadband to help mayors and town managers run their communities.
This year, however, is a little different. Because of the turnover in administrations, Healey’s budget process is a little behind schedule and not due until more than a month later than usual. Healey did answer one question for city and town leaders, announcing Thursday that she would be filing a two-year, $400 million road and bridge repair funding request with the Legislature.
The MMA has for years been pushing for a multi-year authorization that would also increase funding to $300 million a year. I guess one out of two isn’t bad.
Leaders will undoubtedly be listening closely, however, for clues as to how Healey will approach local aid. The Democrat has promised to fully fund the Student Opportunity Act and to use revenues from the newly passed “millionaires tax” to support education and transportation, as intended in the ballot question.
But for eight years the governor’s approach to unrestricted local aid has been predictable. Former Gov. Charlie Baker promised during his 2014 campaign to increase local aid annually at the same rate that state tax revenues were projected to grow. And he stuck with it (though no adjustments were ever made when tax collections outpaced projections.)
This year the consensus revenue hearing to predict tax growth won’t happen until next week, and Healey during her campaign refused to commit to a strategy like Baker’s. A spokesperson back in February said only that Healey would “ensure that adequate resources for cities and towns, in and outside of local aid distributions, are available for our municipalities through grants and other appropriations.”
Perhaps Healey will clarify that approach today.
— A first for Healey
Gov. Maura Healey was in North Adams yesterday where she announced the first two piece of legislation she would file as governor. One bill is a nearly $1 billion “emergency needs” bond bill that would recapitalize many of the economic development programs, such as MassWorks, that are due to run out of money after the Legislature stripped all borrowing from a jobs bill last session in order to get it passed during informal sessions. The other is a request for $400 million over the next two year to fund municipal road and bridge improvement projects, a step in the right direction for cities and towns that for years have been clamoring for a multi-year Chapter 90 road repair bill. The Globe’s Samantha J. Gross has more on the proposals and Healey’s trip west, which included a stop at former Republican Gov. Jane Swift’s farm.
— Warren readying for 2024 and beyond
With WBZ and MASSterList’s Jon Keller in the host chair, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren backed up her past statements that she would seek a third term in 2024 by telling Keller she would get around to make a formal announcement “sometime soon,” but looked forward to getting around the state and hosting town halls. Warren appeared on GBH’s “Greater Boston” show, also discussing her push to regulate cryptocurrency and the state’s failure to secure federal funding to replace the Bourne and Sagamore bridges. Warren said the state’s bridge funding failures were the result of applications that did not adequately demonstrate it had a plan and was ready to put shovels in the ground.
— Rent control debate starts off hot
A day after it was reported that Boston Mayor Michelle Wu is exploring a rent control policy for the city that would cap increases at 6 percent to 10 percent, GBH’s Saraya Wintersmith and Katie Lannan report on the political minefield Wu will have to navigate if this plan is to ever get off the ground. Forget Gov. Maura Healey’s lukewarm position on rent control. Wintersmith and Lannan report that there are strong opponents to the concept on the City Council, and if it were to get to Beacon Hill the Legislature has in the past voted against rent control. Last session’s House budget chief, North End Democrat Aaron Michlewitz, is a Wu ally but a past opponent of what he described as a broader reintroduction of rent control in Massachusetts. He told GBH a specific plan like the mayors will have to be looked at.
Wintersmith also got her hands on hundreds of public comments submitted to the city showing a “near split” between proponents and opponents of the policy.
— Who’s driving this bus anyway?
In her inaugural speech, Gov. Maura Healey talked about providing funding for 1,000 new hires at the MBTA to address workforce shortages that make it difficult to run an efficient system. But State House News Service’s Chris Lisinski reports how hiring goals are easier to set than meet as the T has been in recruitment mode for some time now to staff up on bus drivers and can’t quite catch up. MBTA Chief Administrative Officer David Panagore said the agency is “making progress” on filling vacant bus driver positions. “But we’re not making the sort of progress we really want to see,” Panagore said.
— Blinded by the lights at Minnechaug High School
Forget surging rates. Want to drive up an electric bill? Leave the lights on for a year. NBC News’s Corky Siemaszko reports that’s exactly what is happening in Wilbraham where the district has been unable to turn off the roughly 7,000 lights at Minnechaug Regional High School since Aug. 24, 2021. Apparently, the software system that controls the lighting system failed two summers ago and the parts needed to repair it have only just arrived from China. This well-lit nightmare could be over by February break.
— NBA All-Star weekend on mayor and governor’s radar?
During the broadcast of the Celtics win over the Golden State Warriors last night, TNT’s Chris Haynes reported that the team and city are preparing a bid to host the NBA All-Star Game in 2026. It’s been 59 years since the NBA showcase came to Boston, and Haynes said he’s been told Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and Gov. Maura Healey are “all in favor of trying to do everything they can to prepare the city to not only get the bid, place the bid, but also win the bid.” Healey, of course, played professional basketball and held her basketball-themed inauguration celebration at the TD Garden.
— Fall River still has $49 million in ARPA funds to spend
Fall River has already committed $20 million worth of American Rescue Plan Act money but still has $49 million of direct federal relief funds and those funneled through Bristol County sitting on the books. Jo C. Goode of the Herald-News reports on where the money has gone so far and notes that Fall River must appropriate all the funds by next year and spend them by the end of 2026.
— Social media helps first responder score ‘Narcan’ plate from RMV
The Berkshire Eagle’s Greta Jochem traces the journey of Stephen Murray, a former first responder who was able to secure a vanity plate for his vehicle bearing the name of the overdose drug Narcan only after taking to social media to berate the Mass. RMV after it initially denied his request on the grounds it was “vulgar.”
— Scaling back: Danvers nixes universal mail-in ballots for local election
Voters in Danvers will have to show up at the polls or have a valid excuse to seek a mail-in ballot after the Select Board voted not to offer universal mail-in voting for the May municipal election, Caroline Enos of the Salem News reports.
Meanwhile, Michael J. DeCicco of the Taunton Gazette reports Dighton is considering a similar move, with officials saying allowing everyone to vote by mail would cost the town an extra $3,000 for what is likely to be a relatively low-turnout local election.
— Cannabis pioneer Northampton limits local shop licenses
After months of debate, the Northampton City Council voted Thursday to cap the number of retail cannabis permits at 12, MassLive’s Will Katcher reports. The council set aside concerns that the move could create a secondary, private market for pot shop licenses and chose not to make an exception for social equity applications.
The Talk Shows
Talking Politics, GBH 2, 7 p.m.: GBH political reporter Adam Reilly talks with former Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz and Boston NAACP President Tanisha Sullivan about what’s changed and what hasn’t since passage of the 2020 police reform law that created a Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) system to oversee the state police force.
Keller at Large, WBZ-TV Ch. 4, 8:30 a.m.: MASSterList columnist and WBZ political analyst Jon Keller talks with U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch, a South Boston Democrat, about partisan relations in Congress, aid to Ukraine and the status of federal funding for Massachusetts.
On The Record, WCVB-TV Ch. 5, Sunday, 11 a.m.: Treasurer Deb Goldberg is the guest with hosts Ben Simmoneau and Sharman Sacchetti. Goldberg’s interview will be followed by a political roundtable discussion with Democratic political analyst Mary Anne Marsh and Republican political analyst Lizzy Guyton.
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