We aren’t the types to whine about the occasional obtuseness in the Legislature, but we are mystified from time to time. One such head-scratcher: the lack of action on so-called home equity theft. Massachusetts is among several states that allows municipalities and private companies to seize excess equity from homeowners during the foreclosure process. But it isn’t technically theft at all – it’s legal to strip a homeowner of remaining equity in a foreclosure.

To illustrate: A homeowner may owe taxes valued at one-tenth of the property’s value. But municipalities and companies that buy property tax debt from cities and towns are allowed to keep all the proceeds after a sale, leaving the owner, who may have several hundreds of thousands in home equity, with nothing – and without a home.

The New Bedford Light cast its beam on the issue last week, and noted that one firm, Tallage, has foreclosed on 54 properties in New Bedford alone. It should be said, municipalities want property taxes paid (New Bedford says it’s owed $15 million), and firms that buy their tax debt provide a handy financial shortcut. But at what cost? The Light also noted that previous efforts to protect homeowners’ equity in foreclosure have gone nowhere. Rep. Jeffrey Roy filed bills in two previous sessions that were sent to committee and he plans to push a new bill again with Rep. Tommy Vitolo.

Can a moderate Republican go national?

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu thinks the GOP needs to be pulled back from Trumpism, he tells the Globe’s Jess Bidgood. Is he the man to lead the way for the Let’s Just Be Normal brigade? He seems to think so as he tests the water, which, let’s be honest, is likely to be choppy at best. “Could I do the job? Well, of course,” he said.

Boston Globe

Here come the electric school buses

They purr, so we’re told. Does that mean kids’ shouts on school buses will sound even louder? Boston Mayor Wu celebrated the arrival of the first two electric school buses and soon Boston schools will phase in 20 electric school buses in a pilot program. By 2030, the plan is to replace the city’s 620 buses with electric ones. WBUR’s Samuele Petruccelli was there for the EV launch.


Do you know a good plumber?

There aren’t enough plumbers in the first place, so when once-in-generation Arctic air descends on Massachusetts and wreaks havoc on plumbing, good luck trying to get someone to do repairs. Here’s a roundup of some of the damage, and the concurrent frustration of too many burst pipes and too few plumbers to fix them, courtesy of the Globe’s Jessica Bartlett and Travis Anderson.

Boston Globe

FEC dismisses campaign violation claims against Trahan 

The Federal Election Commission has dismissed complaints alleging U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan violated financial reporting rules before she was elected to Congress for the first time in 2018. Christian Wade of the Eagle-Tribune reports the Campaign Legal Center had raised issues with a $370,000 loan Trahan received from her husband late in the primary cycle that saw Trahan narrowly emerge from a 10-candidate field.


Record-setter: Healey raised $2.9 million to fund inaugural party

Her inauguration made history, so why not the after-party? The Globe’s Matt Stout reports Gov. Maura Healey has raised more than $2.9 million in donations for her inaugural celebration, easily breaking the record of $2.4 million set by former Gov. Charlie Baker in 2015.

Boston Globe

Drug-lab misconduct victims ask judge to return seized property 

Lawyers representing clients who had drug-related convictions overturned due to misconduct within the state’s testing lab system are now asking a federal judge to order the state to return property seized in connections with now-dismissed prosecutions. Julie Manganis of the Salem News reports that with more than 30,000 cases involved, the process of returning seized property could become a costly and lengthy one for the state.  

Salem News

Royal’s Hub visit cost city $170,000

The city of Boston spent just over $170,000 to cover costs associated with the December visit by members of the British Royal Family, the vast majority of it on police overtime costs, Sean Phillip Cotter of the Herald reports. Prince William’s and Princess Kate spent three days in and around the city, highlighted by the awarding of the Earthshot Prize.

Boston Herald

Familiar territory: State’s new economic secretary has Berkshire ties and plans

The Berkshire Eagle’s Sten Spinella catches up with new Massachusetts Secretary of Economic Development Yvonne Hao to talk about her ties to the region–she’s a Williams College grad who still owns property there–and how she has already begun reaching out to leaders in the local economy about better connecting the western part of the state. 

Berkshire Eagle

Juvenile delinquency in Mass. rises in wake of pandemic

First-time commitments to the state Department of Youth Services increased by 61% in the last fiscal year, a figure among some sobering young offender data in a report from the Juvenile Justice Policy and Data Board and related in a story by the Eagle-Tribune’s Christian Wade. But in context the numbers may not be so bad, with the advent of vaccines and the lifting of in-person restrictions coming after a year of relative isolation. Experts say the criminal justice reforms of 2018 designed to reduce young people’s interactions with the justice system are working.  


Protesters again disrupt Cambridge council meeting where police initiatives get OK 

For the second time in a month, the Cambridge City Council was forced to meet via Zoom after protesters demanding answers over a fatal police shooting again disrupted their in-person meeting. Marc Levy of Cambridge Day reports the council later voted to start the process of outfitting officers with body cams and to review some of the department’s practices.   

Cambridge Day

The 2022 Mass. state employee salary database has arrived

It’s that time of year again — the annual state salary base that breaks by individual some $9 billion in spending.


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