Happening Today:

9:30 a.m. | Coffee hour with Boston Mayor Michelle Wu in East Boston. | Noyes Playground, 86 Boardman St, East Boston

10 a.m. | On the State House steps today, rideshare and delivery drivers will rally around their legislative goals to protect driver flexibility and secure new benefits.

11:30 a.m. | Gov. Maura Healey hosts a celebration and signing for Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month. | Great Hall

12:30 p.m. | Boston Mayor Michelle Wu speaks at the Nubian Markets Grand Opening. | 2565 Washington Street, Roxbury

1:15. p.m. | Party with Boston Mayor Michelle Wu today at The Emerald Necklace Conservancy's annual Party in the Park, where she'll also speak. | Franklin Park Playstead, Pierpont Road, Boston

4 p.m. | Gov. Maura Healey speaks at the AFL-CIO Economically Targeted Investment Summit. | IBEW Local 103 Freeport Hall, 256 Freeport Street, Dorchester

Should there be limits on how much money someone can donate to a super PAC?

It’s a question Massachusetts voters likely won’t get a chance to consider anytime soon after the state’s high court opted not to rule on a case that would have put the issue on the 2024 ballot. Justices in their Tuesday ruling ducked the legal quandary altogether, instead saying the case is “moot” without the signatures needed to put the question on the ballot.

Lawyers and election reform activists behind the push to put a $5,000 cap on now-limitless super PAC contributions from individuals say they aren’t ruling anything out, though.

Courtney Hostetler of Free Speech For People conceded the ruling “makes it a lot harder” for changes in the campaign finance laws this cycle but said another attempt from reform advocates is “likely.” It’s technically possible — but practically difficult — to wage another court battle before the 2024 election she said, but Hostetler — the voice behind the legal brief considered by the SJC — declined to lay out a timeline for another ballot push.

She did, however, map out a “faster route” to capping super PAC contributions in Massachusetts. Lawmakers could pass legislation imposing the proposed limits at any time, she said.

A bill filed by Stoneham Rep. Michael Day currently pending on Beacon Hill (H674) could do just that. It’s up for a hearing before the Joint Committee on Election Laws today at 10 a.m.

Super PACs and their limitless pockets are frequently criticized for injecting big moneyed interests into politics, drowning out donations made to individual candidates — which are strictly limited by federal and state law.  

Massachusetts caps donations from people direct to politicians’ campaign accounts at $1,000. By contrast, 11 people donated a total of $1 billion to super PACs between 2010 and 2018, Federal Election Commission data show. 

The money, once largely reserved for national races, is trickling into local elections. In Boston’s 2021 mayoral race, a single person dropped more than $1 million to a Super PAC backing one candidate.

Election law prohibits coordination on any spending done by the groups and the campaigns of the candidates or campaigns they represent.

Paul Craney of the right-leaning Fiscal Alliance Foundation defended the current function of super PACs as “ constitutional rights of free speech and association.”

The goal of any cap, he said, is “to protect elected officials in power by limiting the ability for the public to speak up.”

Then-Attorney General Maura Healey last year relied on that reasoning when she tossed the ballot measure, saying it likely violated political federal and state free speech protections laid out in the Supreme Court’s Citizens United case.

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Massachusetts Attorney Rachael Rollins to resign following ‘questionable judgment’ allegations

Rachael Rollins, the U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, is set to resign this week. The district attorney turned top federal prosecutor rose to prominence quickly, making a name for herself with her progressive approach to policing. But her crusade to shake up the legal system as a public official comes to an abrupt end later this week — at least for now. She plans to submit a letter of resignation to President Joe Biden by the end of the day on Friday, bringing a sudden end to her 11-month federal tenure that began as divisively as it ends when Vice President Kamala Harris cast a decisive tie-breaking confirmation vote.

A federal investigation into her attendance of a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in Massachusetts with First Lady Jill Biden last summer appears to have led to her undoing. The Boston Herald at the time noted the “questionable judgment” around the potential Hatch Act violation in the wake of that fundraiser.

The Boston Herald | More Boston Herald | State House News Service | The Boston Globe

At odds: Standoff splits House, Senate chairs of legislative committee 

Dueling House and Senate chairs of the Legislature’s Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy Committee are splitting the panel in two this week. House members are set to take testimony on bills dealing with offshore wind and energy storage on Thursday and Senate members have planned to hold their own “parallel hearing” on the same bills on Friday, reports Bruce Mohl for Commonwealth Magazine. Rep. Jeffrey Roy of Franklin and Sen. Michael Barrett of Lexington both say they’re both standing their ground over issues on committee rules.


Some rare good news for the T — sort of

A ridership cliff spurred by the pandemic that has lingered for months as many metro transit agencies started to rebound may have finally leveled off, recent data show. Commuter rail numbers are growing too as more people return to office work, reports CommonWealth. Average weekday ridership that fell to 2,724 passengers on the rail has reached 78 percent of pre-pandemic levels as of last October. But subway operators say the job isn’t getting any easier as they face frequent abuse from riders. They’re demanding more penalties for offenders, reports Chris Van Buskirk for The Boston Herald.

Commonwealth | The Boston Herald

Deep divide: Boston city council still split as they stare down election deadlines

A deeply divided Boston City Council today will continue to grapple with choosing a new redistricting map after its earlier map was blocked by a federal judge. The task has put councilors at odds. Lawyers for plaintiffs in the redistricting lawsuit that succeeded in blocking the map sent a letter yesterday to City Hall attorneys, The Dorchester Reporter broke via Twitter. It accuses councilors of being “more divisive and combative” as the process unfolds. Meanwhile, the Secretary of the Commonwealth warns the clock is ticking on election deadlines.

WBUR.| Dot News | The Boston Globe | State House News Service

Gov. Maura Healey ‘disappointed’ by North Adams college block for using dorms as shelters

Massachusetts shelters for homeless families are at capacity, according to the state, and the Healey administration said it was “disappointed” Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams decision to turn down the state’s request to lease an unused dorm as temporary living space for families, reports NEPM. A Healey spokeswoman said increasing migrants mean the state needs “all communities to play a role in helping to meet our state’s housing needs.”


Construction coming online in Boston area could bring lower rents

A construction pipeline of 17,000 apartments in Greater Boston could put downward pressure on rents in 2023 with the vacancy rate – currently 5.6 percent, up from 4.2 percent a year ago – is expected to climb in the short term. But many of the projects nearing completion were financed before increases in interest rates that are putting downward pressure on future deliveries needed to keep rent increases manageable for tenants.

Banker & Tradesman

A sign of hope for Massachusetts housing woes as prices take rare dip 

Some say there could be good news for out-of-control housing costs in Massachustets, where Prices, sales volume, and new listings all declined in April, which is typically one of the busiest months of the year, reports Andrew Brinker for The Boston Globe. The shrinking number of homes being sold is not enough to drive home prices up further amid climbing mortgage rates and some of the most expensive real estate in the country, reports Grant Welker for The Boston Business Journal.

Boston Business Journal | The Boston Globe

Needle in a haystack: When tracking endangered right whales, look at what’s on the menu

Endangered North Atlantic right whales are notoriously difficult to track which has left a group of researchers to instead search for their food sources in hopes of a sighting. Right whales eat copepods, a tiny zooplankton that in turn eats microscopic plants known as phytoplankton. When the zooplankton crunch down on the tiny plants, the phytoplankton release a gas. By tracking this gas, researchers could become better at predicting the whales’ next location, reports WBUR.


Salem chooses Pangallo to serve out rest of Driscoll term as Mayor 

Dominick Pangallo will be Salem’s next mayor after edging Neil Harrington in Tuesday’s special election. Pangallo, who previously served as chief of staff to former Mayor Kim Driscoll, took home 52 percent of the vote, enough to outpace former mayor Neil Harrington for the right to serve out the rest of the term Driscoll won before becoming lieutenant governor.

The Salem News

Nantucket neighbors sue over liquor license approval 

He’s not done fighting. Charles Johnson, the billionaire Nantucket resident who has led a group of island neighbors in a battle to stop a proposed clam shack on Straight Wharf, is now taking his case to Superior Court. Johnson has filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission’s approval of a liquor license for the proposed establishment, while the owners say they’re still hoping to open this summer.

The Inquirer and Mirror | The Nantucket Current

Probe finds Hampshire County jail official violated state law in sheriff primary election

An official in the office of Hampshire County Sheriff Patrick Callihane violated state law during last year’s primary election, according to a recently concluded third-party review. The same report that finds that Barbara Marean, former deputy superintendent at the Hampshire County jail, used her office to intimidate a supporter of another candidate also found Callihane himself had no knowledge of the shady behavior.

Daily Hampshire Gazette

Long way from the State House: Jane Swift’s backyard now a living classroom 

The Berkshire Eagle’s Greta Jochem pays a visit to former Gov. Jane Swift’s latest endeavor: An educational non-profit that invites local youths to experience life on a working farm. Swift launched the  Cobble Hill Farm Education & Rescue Center on property that has long been in the family of her late husband. TheCobble Hill Farm Education & Rescue Center is 137 miles down Route 2 from the State House–and Swift admits it took a while for the farming life to grow on her.

The Berkshire Eagle

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MASSterList editor Erin Tiernan is an award-winning reporter who brings a decade's worth of experience covering state and local politics from the halls of the State House to city streets. Her work can be found in The Boston Herald, The Patriot Ledger, MassLive and Wicked Local. She was the New England Newspaper and Press Association's 2019 Reporter of the Year.