Happening Today:

8 a.m. | Senate President Karen Spilka attends a legislative breakfast hosted by MassBay Community College. | MassBay Community College, Newton

8:30 a.m. | Sen. Liz Miranda and Rep. Hannah Kane are panelists at a Women's Leadership Breakfast held by the Mass. Women's Political Caucus. | Omni Parker House Hotel, 60 School St., Boston

11 a.m. | Gov. Maura Healey celebrates Pride Month with a Pride flag raising alongside Beacon Hill leaders. | State House steps

12:30 p.m. | The Legislature gains two new members when Gov. Maura Healey swears in state Reps. John Moran and Bill MacGregor. | Governor's Ceremonial Office

Changemakers like Massachusetts Women in Politics President Gail Jackson-Blount are giving women and women of color a “seat at the table” as lawmakers prepare to tackle massive racial and gender inequities laid bare by the pandemic.

The group will gather lawmakers and industry leaders at its inaugural breakfast to celebrate women leaders’ growing ranks in politics and business, including a panel on making the state economy more inclusive.

The Legislature is considering bills addressing racial disparities in payhealth outcomes after giving birth and expanding funding for child care and the child tax credit — to name a few. But equity advocates tell MASSterList that righting longstanding injustices will require a years-long commitment from stakeholders in government, business, education and beyond.

Former Cannabis Control Commissioner Shaleen Title, now leads the Parabola Center and lobbies for federal legalization and policies that ensure women of color in particular have the opportunity to stake their claim in the cannabis industry.

It’s up to lawmakers to choose policies that empower communities like women of color over big business, she said, “who were most impacted by the drug war and face the most difficulty in starting a business, finding investment and who are already way underrepresented.”

One glaring hurdle is prioritizing and passing laws in a Legislature and an economy that is not truly representative of the people it serves. By and large, those walking the halls of power today — both in business and government — do not evenly reflect the ethnic and gender diversity here in Massachusetts.

Currently, 62 women serve in the state Legislature — 31 percent of the 200-member body. That’s in a state where women outnumber men at 51 percent of the population, recent Census data show.

Laurie Nsiah-Jefferson of UMass Boston’s Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy said the numbers are even more “abysmal” for racial disparities — particularly among women of color.

When it comes to business, women hold top leadership positions in just 8% of Massachusetts’ largest companies, a spring report revealed.

Progress is happening, says Nsiah-Jefferson. Minority ranks are increasing. Bay Staters elected their first woman and first openly gay governor last year with Gov. Maura Healey. They also voted in Andrea Campbell as the state’s first Black woman attorney general.

Campbell told MASSterList, “Having Black women, women of color and those with lived experience in positions of power, and creating pipelines for that leadership, is crucial as we continue to address issues that disproportionately impact our communities such as barriers to economic mobility, maternal health, environmental injustice and so much more.”

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Keller at Large

Massachusetts might have to pay the feds back $2.5 billion spent on jobless claim payouts amid the pandemic. The unemployment fiasco is the cherry on top of a growing pile of bleep-ups from former Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration that threaten to singe the new administration, writes WBZ political analyst Jon Keller. Gov. Maura Healey is so far hesitant to play the blame game.


Smoked out: Boston to remain hazy through Sunday

Meteorologists predict smoke from Canadian wildfires that’s tanked the air quality around Boston in recent days could linger until Sunday, reports Rick Sobey for The Boston Herald. Scattered rain showers predicted this week likely won’t be enough to clear the smoke.

The Boston Herald

Check out photos of the smokey skies

The Boston Globe

Tax on real estate could raise affordable housing revenues

A bill that’s already been spiked multiple time son Beacon Hill coil finally see its day, with advocates hopeful lawmakers are now ready to give local cities and towns the option to tax home sales to support local affordable housing. The bill (H 2747 / S 1771) authorizes communities to adopt a transfer fee of between 0.5 percent and 2 percent on real estate transactions above $1 million to create a trust to fund affordable housing. Among the new provisions is a carve-out for municipalities whose county median sales price is below $750,000.

State House News Service

Former Gov. Swift and daughter testify over hurdles to access meds

Top lawmakers are fed up with pharmacy benefit managers who negotiate between health insurers, manufacturers and pharmacies and could be contributing to rising costs and lack of accessibility, according to some, reports WBUR. Former Gov. Jane Swift and her daughter attended a hearing before the legislature’s Joint Committee on Health Care Financing that Massachusetts where Swift said the state has “absolutely no systems in place” to protect patients like her daughter from pain and upheaval when pharmacy benefit managers make it difficult to access prescription drugs.


Mental health care payouts more than double since pandemic’s start, says state’s largest insurer

A surge in mental health care spurred by lockdowns and general anxiety felt during the pandemic strained already scarce resources, but appears to have also knocked down barriers to seeking care, reports Felice J. Freyer for The Boston Globe. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts — the state’s largest health insurer — disclosed it has doubled its spending on behavioral health services since the beginning of the pandemic and aggressively expanded its ranks of providers to meet swelling demand.

The Boston Globe

Drink-spiking solutions gain traction in Legislature

Amid a continued uptick in reported drink-spiking incidents in bars around Massachusetts, state Sen. Paul Feeney pitched his colleagues Tuesday on one plan for tackling what he described as a “disturbing public health crisis.” Feeney is the sponsor of a bill that would convene a “date rape drug response and intervention task force” to collect data on confirmed drink-drugging incidents across the state and recommend standard protocols for hospitals. An amendment he pitched that was included in the Senate budget would ramp up prevention strategies.


Critics of Housatonic plan take fight to federal court

Several decades of work by advocates to clean up the Housatonic River in Massachusetts and Connecticut finally had their day in federal court, reports NEPM. Two environmental groups — the Housatonic River Initiative and the Housatonic Environmental Action League — are appealing the EPA’s cleanup plan, which is backed by General Electric and a committee representing towns along the river.


Two Republicans join race to fill open seat vacated by Anne Gobi

Two Republicans this week will announce campaigns for the open state Senate seat last held by Anne Gobi, who is now serving in the Healey administration, reports Chris Van Buskirk for The Boston Herald. State Rep. Peter Durant, a Spencer Republican and Rebekah Etique, the 24-year-old former campaign manager of the last Republican to challenge Gobi are running. Rep. Jonathan Zlotnik, is the sole Democrat so far.

The Boston Herald

Boston mayor, superintendent float big changes in high school learning 

Boston’s only vocational school would double its size and the city’s most diverse exam school would move to predominantly white West Roxbury under an ambitious overhaul of high schools announced Tuesday by Mayor Michelle Wu and Superintendent Mary Skipper, reports James Vaznis for The Boston Globe. Wu called the proposal “a generational change that we haven’t seen in quite some time in the district.” The changes would cost tens of millions of dollars and take years to execute. 

The Boston Globe

Newcomer wins council seat in Attleboro special election

Political newcomer Jonathan Tavares claimed the vacant seat on the Attleboro City Council in Tuesday’s special election, which saw just 8 percent of voters go to the polls. Jim Hand of the Sun-Chronicle reports Tavares, 29, will become the youngest member of the council after claiming 63 percent of the vote in a three-way race to replace now Mayor Cathleen DeSimone.

The Sun Chronicle

Alarms sounded as community college enrollment plummets

The New Bedford Light’s Colin Hogan takes a long look at what’s behind the steep decline in enrollment at the state’s community colleges over the past decade, what it could mean for the state’s economic competitiveness in the future and how proposals from Gov. Healey might help reverse the trend.  

Bedford Light

Lee PCB-landfill opponents have their — last? — day in court 

A coalition of environmental groups that has sued to block the EPA from carrying out its plan to bury PCB-laden soil at a Lee landfill faced a panel of U.S. Court of Appeals judges Tuesday in what may be one of their last attempts to halt the plan. The Berkshire Eagle’s Scott Stafford reports the groups’ claims appeared to fall short of convincing judges that earlier rulings backing the landfill and the EPA process in general should be overturned.

The Berkshire Eagle

Chicopee paid insurance premiums for employees after they died or resigned

Chicopee City Councilor and mayoral candidate Delmarina López is calling for an immediate audit after Mayor John L. Vieau acknowledged the city has been paying health and dental insurance premiums for former employees even after they retired or died. MassLive’s Jeannette DeForge reports officials are still trying to sort out how much the errors may have cost taxpayers.


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Erin Tiernan was a Editor and Author of MASSterList