8:30 a.m. | Boston Mayor Michelle Wu gives remarks at the Greater Boston Labor Council's Spring Breakfast. | Pipefitters Local 537, 40 Enterprise Street, Dorchester
11:15 a.m. | Boston Mayor Michelle Wu holds is expected to announce a new program to expand the tree canopy and maintenance on private land. David O'Neil, president of Mass Audubon and others will participate in a tree-planting demonstration. Watch Live on Boston.gov. | Mass Audubon's Boston Nature Center and Wildlife Sanctuary, 550 Walk Hill St., Mattapan
11:30 a.m. | Senate President Spilka, Rep. Jay Livingstone, incoming Boston Housing Authority Administrator Kenzie Bok, and Executive Director of the Boston Mayor's Office of Women's Advancement Alexandra Valdez attend a luncheon and fundraiser for the Women's Lunch Place, a daytime shelter for women experiencing homelessness in the Boston area. | Boston Park Plaza, Grand Ballroom, 50 Park Plaza, Boston
Noon | U.S. Sen. Ed Markey and CDC Director Rochelle Walensky host a panel conversation exploring "social media and online platforms' role in deepening the nation’s youth mental health crisis and their effect on young people across Massachusetts." | Suffolk University, George N. Keches Function Room in Sargent Hall, 120 Tremont St., Boston
Diana DiZoglio — armed with a 100-year-old comprehensive audit of the state Legislature and 19 others that have dug into legislative committees and departments in the decades since — is doubling down on her quest to shine a light inside one of the nation’s most opaque governing bodies.
But with House and Senate leadership “refusing to comply,” DiZoglio said her office is “currently reviewing every possible legal step we may unfortunately need to take” to get the job done.
The Methuen Democrat has faced stiff pushback from Senate and House leaders on her campaign trail promise to probe the chambers she once served. On Thursday, she accused the Senate of “weaponizing” tax dollars and using the state budget “to settle political scores” by effectively level-funding her office.
House Speaker Ronald Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka say DiZoglio lacks the legal authority to audit the state Legislature. Mariano, in a sternly worded response to her office, called it “a claim entirely without legal support or precedent.”
But 18 audits conducted by the state Auditor’s Office in the 1970s and 1980s into the accounting of the Legislature’s Research Bureau, Research Council and Post Audit and Oversight Bureau “demonstrate clear precedent,” DiZoglio counters. Another from 2005 details a probe into IT controls for virus protection at Legislative Information Services, a review of documents shows.
She says they also render moot legislative leaders’ argument that the separation of powers bars the auditor’s investigative authority — even as the Legislature has itself moved to audit and investigate the executive branch.
“Basically, they’re saying ‘an audit for thee – but not for me,’” DiZoglio said.
Open government advocates on both ends of the political spectrum are backing the auditor.
Mariano’s office pointed MASSterList to the Speaker’s prior comments when asked about the newly unearthed audits Thursday.
The Senate budget gives the auditor’s office a mere 1 percent bump, which DiZoglio argues does not account for rises in the cost of living or inflation. Increases for other constitutional officers’ coffers range from 6 percent to 25 percent.
The auditor would get a $315,000 bump per the Senate plan.
Senate Ways and Means Committee Spokesman Sean Fitzgerald said increase requests “are weighed solely on their respective merits.”
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Aaron Michlewitz, in releasing his chamber’s budget last month, said he “felt the budget was not the place to potentially settle political scores.” The Auditor’s office gets $26.6 million — a $3.8 million or 16 percent boost from the House.
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Charlie Baker beats Elizabeth Warren in hypothetical Senate race, poll says
If the state’s most popular governor is ready to reenter the political arena, a new poll suggests he may have a shot at the Senate.
Charlie Baker whipped U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren — earning support from 49 percent of voters to Warren’s 34 percent — in a new Mass Fiscal Alliance Foundation survey of 750 likely voters who were asked about the hypothetical matchup.
But can the polls be trusted? Baker and Warren went head-to-head in a Change Research poll just last month for Northwind Strategies. It showed Warren had the support of 46 percent of the 643 likely voters surveyed to Baker’s 41 percent.
It’s basically a moot point, of course. Baker left office in January after two terms with some of the highest approval ratings around at 68 percent. The Swampscott Republican, however, hasn’t expressed any interest in running again. In December, he categorically nixed any 2024 participation. Instead, he’s been getting comfortable in his new role as NCAA president.
The latest Fiscal Alliance poll also probed rent control — finding voters split in their support should Boston Mayor Wu reintroduce the policy. The survey also showed “broad” support for leaving the state’s controversial 62F tax cap law unchanged.
Newsweek | State House News Service
New state transportation secretary slid no-bid MBTA contract to ex-brother-in-law’s firm
Just after her January appointment, state Transportation Secretary Gina Fiandaca approached former Boston police commissioner Bill Bratton — who happens to be her ex-brother-in-law — saying she wanted him to develop a system to help the MBTA navigate a litany of federal directives. Officials at the troubled transit agency this week signed a $900,000 consulting contract with Bratton’s firm Teneo Strategy LLC, reports Matt Stout for The Boston Globe. The no-bid deal has come under fire after the agency was cautioned against such agreements, seen as counterproductive and eliminating competition.
As federal assistance dries up, MBTA budget gap could hit $542 million by 2028
A ballooning budget gap could swell to $542 million by 2028 as federal assistance that has helped buoy the beleaguered transit agency’s budget since the pandemic dries up, reports Gayla Cawley for The Boston Herald. Officials plugged a $366 million hole in the fiscal 2024 budget using those and other emergency funds. Officials pointed in part to fare revenues, which have remained low since the pandemic.
Feds probing retaliation on prisoners at Lancaster maximum-security prison
Federal prosecutors are investigating allegations of brutality and retaliation against prisoners following a 2020 attack on officers at Massachusetts’ maximum security prison, court filings suggest. A federal grand jury has been calling witnesses to testify on how the state Department of Correction responded to the attack at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Lancaster, reports Deborah Becker for WBUR. The probe stems from a related civil rights lawsuit by two allegedly uninvolved inmates who say guards “engaged in a violent retaliatory campaign against all prisoners,” using tasers, chemical agents and dogs to intimidate the men in custody.
Teachers in Wellesley ready for illegal strike, town seeks state intervention
Negotiations with teachers have broken down in Wellesley, where school committee members on Thursday petitioned the state to block an illegal strike they say will start on Monday, reports James Vaznis for The Boston Globe. It’s the latest district to deal with a potential strike despite a state law prohibiting public employees from doing so. Teachers this school year have nonetheless walked the picket line in Malden, Haverhill, and Woburn, while Melrose narrowly averted one.
Not a game: Ransomware group ‘Play’ behind Lowell attack
A Russian ransomware group called “Play” that’s claimed to be behind an April 24 cyberattack on the Lowell City Hall has released 5 gigabytes of data from that theft and posted it to the dark web, reports Melanie Gilbert of The Lowell Sun. The data dump includes “private and personal confidential data, finance, taxes, clients and employee information,” Play claims. This latest development comes as the city stays mum on the hack — which is now the subject of a federal investigation — and as some city services remain unavailable to the public.
Beacon Hill tackles AI in a rapidly changing world
In an era of rapidly evolving artificial intelligence, concerns range the gamut from total human destruction to ChatGPT rendering entire professions obsolete. State lawmakers are considering two companion bills that would get ahead of some of those concerns, reports Adam Reilly for WGBH. The bills would establish a new state commission tasked with answering key questions including how artificial intelligence and other decision-making tools, rather than human judgment, are being used by state government and whether Massachusetts should take steps to regulate their use.
Sports betting firm sues Boston Globe, alleges breach of contract
A sports betting firm is suing Boston Globe Media Partners, claiming the media company didn’t ante up on its contract to develop and promote related sports wagering content for its Boston.com website. Better Collective also alleges the Globe refused to negotiate when approached “because it wants to end its relationship with BC so that it could enter into and/or expand its business relationship with DraftKings on more favorable terms to Globe Media.” A Globe spokeswoman has called the suit “meritless” and vowed countersuits.
Lawyers for Springfield mayor, former aid clash over free speech claims
A former Springfield mayoral aide who was fired for his TV show reference to “grab the rifles” in response to Donald Trump’s defense of Kyle Rittenhouse, who shot and killed protesters in Wisconsin, was back in court this week, reports Western Mass Politics. Lawyers for former mayoral aide Darryl Moss and Mayor Domenic Sarno squared off over whether Moss sufficiently pleaded a violation of his First Amendment rights.
Boston police budget cuts on the table… once again
A proposed $405 million Boston police budget could bleed millions if some city councilors get their way, reports Sean Cotter for The Boston Globe. Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson would take $2.6 million for mental health crisis response. An advocacy group is pushing for $115 million in cuts. Details are still being worked out but promised amendments in what’s become an annual debate since calls to defund the police were sparked by the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police in 2020.
Burlington firefighter, ex-animal trainer accused of starving dogs at facility
A 30-year-old Burlington firefighter and former dog trainer who ran Falco K9 in South Boston is facing charges of animal cruelty for allegedly starving dogs at his training facility.
Tyler Falconer faces three counts of animal cruelty and three counts of a dog tethering confinement violation. His facility has been closed since early March when customers complained of alleged abuse. He has also been placed on administrative leave at his job. Falconer is due in court to be formally charged at his May 31 arraignment.
Massachusetts groups concerned for migrant wave with end to Title 42
Massachusetts organizations that help migrants say they are uncertain about what to expect with the expiration of Title 42. Local groups say more migrants have arrived in recent weeks looking for help and they are preparing for increased demand in the days and weeks ahead. State Sen. John Velis told Western Mass News the state was already at the brink and currently, ill-equipped to handle an influx of migrants. The pandemic-era policy allowed border authorities to swiftly turn away migrants encountered at the US-Mexico border.
Three Amherst school councilors accused of bullying trans students, placed on leave
Three Amherst Regional Middle School councilors have been placed on leave pending an independent investigation into allegations they bullied students based on their gender, misgendered transgender students and staff and cited prayer and religion in conversations, according to a story first reported by the school’s student newspaper, The Graphic. An administrator did not release their names, though The Graphic reported all three. Student reporters uncovered a trail of complaints from the school community, including a Title IX complaint filed on April 14 naming frequent bullying of LGBTQ students, specifically transgender students, that caused them significant distress and led to depression, suicidal thoughts, post-traumatic stress disorder, and school withdrawal.
Judge OKs $40 million settlement for Massachusetts minority cops over biased exam
At least 400 Black and Hispanic past and present police officers from around Massachusetts who took a racially biased promotional exam will share in a $40 million settlement after a Massachusetts judge granted final approval, ending a 15-year-old legal battle, Law360 reported. Individual payouts have been estimated in the $60,000 range.
Report says Polar Park could still blow a hole in Worcester’s budget
Officials in Worcester are casting doubt on a new study that argues the city could face a budget deficit of as much as $60 million as it pays for Polar Park because of increased construction costs and flaws in how the tax benefits of additional development in the area were calculated. The report’s authors include a Holy Cross professor who has long argued that cities almost never see the economic benefits promised by stadium developers.
Telegram & Gazette | Worcester Business Journal
Fans say Polar Park is best in Triple-A
Polar Park, itself, continues to win accolades two years after it opened, with the readers of Baseball Digest naming it the best Triple-A baseball stadium in the country.
Tied election leads to Town Hall drama in West Stockbridge
File under: Awkward. After the race for a seat on the West Stockbridge Select Board ended in a 202-202 vote tie this week, both candidates showed up looking to take part in the board’s next meeting. The Berkshire Eagle’s Clarence Fanto has details on the resulting standoff, when a planned recount will happen and what will happen if the outcome remains in doubt after that.
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