10:30 a.m. | Gov. Maura Healey shares new executive order "that will expand digital accessibility and equity” in Mass. | Room 157
11 a.m. | The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management holds a virtual public meeting in preparation of an environmental impact statement over plans for Beacon Wind's offshore energy project. | 11 a.m., Zoom
11 a.m. | Senate Democrats plan for a "potential" private caucus in the Senate President's Office before 1 p.m. formal session to take up a supplemental spending bill for strapped hospitals.
1 p.m. | It’s time for “next steps” in a probe into the state Legislature, says Auditor Diana DiZoglio. | Office of the State Auditor, Room 230
1 p.m. | Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight considers bills that would make permanent pandemic rules allowing virtual meeting participation in open meetings and put enforcement behind public records law. | Room A-1
3:15 p.m. | Gov. Maura Healey holds her monthly meeting with Treasurer Deb Goldberg. | Treasurer Office, Room 227
Open government advocates are hoping bills that would add teeth to the state’s public records law and enshrine a pandemic-era policy allowing virtual participation in open meetings will bring some semblance of sunshine to one of the nation’s least-transparent states.
Both the governor’s office and the state Legislature in Massachusetts claim rare blanket public records law exemptions. But New Bedford Rep. Antonio Cabral says when it comes to public records access, the Bay State is failing across the board — right down to the local level because current law lacks enforcement capability.
Even the state’s district attorneys — charged with upholding the law — are guilty. The 11 DAs lost 93% of denial appeals filed last year. In more than a third of those, DAs never bothered to respond to requests at all.
Cabral — House Chairman of the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight — wants to change that with legislation that would stand up a public records clearinghouse under the Secretary of State’s office. A five-member commission would streamline the request and fulfillment process and appoint a supervisor of records with court-backed punitive enforcement power including fines up to $5,000 and jail time of up to a year.
“Good government and accountability is really associated with transparency,” Cabral told MASSterList.
Cabral’s bill (H2994), however, steers clear of wrangling the Legislature or governor’s office under public records law and instead takes baby steps in increasing transparency. First Amendment advocates say it and another bill (H2998) that would permanently allow virtual or hybrid participation in public meetings granted during the pandemic have a better shot at passage this time around with interest growing in the state’s bad reputation on transparency. Both bills are on today’s agenda for a 1 p.m. hearing before Cabral’s committee.
A headline-grabbing battle between state Auditor Diana DiZoglio and House and Senate leaders who claim she has “no authority”’ to investigate them has underscored a lack of outside scrutiny on the branch notorious for drawn out, closed-door debate and long delays in passing laws — just look to the overdue state budget still caught up in covert negotiations nearly a month into the new fiscal year.
“The only thing that’s transparent is the dysfunction resulting from the absolute power the Speaker and Senate President have wielded for themselves to control pretty much everything — while telling voters to pound sand when we ask for more accountability and access,” DiZoglio told MASSterList. She’ll reveal next steps in getting leaders to comply with her audit at a 1 p.m. announcement today.
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‘If it wasn’t unethical I would do it again’: says councilor who hired 2 family members, violating ethics law
Boston City Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson will pay a $5,000 fine for violating the state’s conflict of interest law in hiring her sister and son to full time, paid positions on her staff last year, the state Ethics Commission said. Fernandes Anderson also chose to increase their salaries to $70,000 a year within weeks of their hiring, and awarded her sister a $7,000 bonus.
Acknowledging the violation on Twitter, Fernandes Anderson said it happened during her first year on the City Council, noting, “I messed up and should have paid attention to those training videos.” The first-term city councilor said she “corrected” her mistake “as soon as I knew better.”
Her self-described “negligent” actions led to her having to fire her sister while her husband awaited a heart transplant, the councilor lamented.
Fernandes Anderson took to Twitter again on Tuesday night to apologize — to her sister.
“For you a thousand times. Forgive me for not doing my research and consequently lost an amazing team member and hurt you at such a vulnerable stage of your life. You are my everything and if it wasn’t unethical I would do it again. A thousand times,” she tweeted.
Fernandes Anderson’s ethics violation is the latest in a string of legal and other embarrassing incidents to stir drama on the City Council.
Bill would make MassHealth available to children regardless of immigration status
Health care is inaccessible for more than 30,000 Massachusetts children and young adults who are ineligible for comprehensive MassHealth coverage because of their immigration status, writes Katie Lannan for GBH. A bill that would serve up coverage regardless of immigration status is backed by Health Care for All and the attorney general’s office.
Sharon Durkan is Boston’s next District 8 city councilor
Political fundraiser Sharon Durkan crushed her competition Suffolk County prosecutor Montez Haywood, winning by a 40 percent margin in Tuesday’s special election for the Boston City Council‘s District 8 seat, reports Susannah Sudborough for Boston.com. Durkan will replace former City Councilor-turned Housing Authority chief Kenzie Bok.
Slow zones: T gives contractor more time to figure out cause of system speed restrictions
Rooting out what’s behind the slow zones keeping the T at a crawl these days is going to take — you guessed it — longer than expected. The MBTA is extending a 90-day contract with an independent company through August 29, reports Bruce Mohl for CommonWealth Magazine. Slow zones currently cover 23 percent of the subway system.
Sumner on time, says MassDOT
Three weeks into the two-month closure of the Sumner Tunnel for repairs, officials yesterday said the project is on track to reopen on Aug. 31 as planned, reports Samantha York for WHDH. MassDOT did allude to some “extra work” the contractor is dealing with.
No hate: Republican candidate for NH Governor disses Bay State but Healey doesn’t bite
Gov. Maura Healey waded into the New Hampshire governor’s race to endorse Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig but the native Granite Stater isn’t engaging with any political mudslinging on the New Hampshire campaign trail. Colin A. Young for State House News Service reported Healey declined to “duke it out” with former U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte — a Republican — after she took jabs at the Bay State last week in a statement alluding to her own candidacy and then again this week saying, New Hampshire is “one election away from turning into Massachusetts.”
Not over: Pilgrim Nuclear denial on radioactive waste discharge may see hearing
State regulators’ draft decision to deny the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station a permit to discharge radioactive wastewater into Cape Cod Bay may be subject to a public hearing before the decision is finalized, reports Jennette Barnes for WCAI. The agency still has to decide whether to hold the hearing.
Card fees squeezing restaurants as cash no longer king in dining
Profit margins at Massachusetts restaurants — already razor-thin — are getting further squeezed by credit card transaction fees now used in roughly 90 percent of sales. Business owners told lawmakers it’s time to lift the Bay State’s ban on adding a surcharge to customer purchases to cover the cost of credit or debit card processing fees, reports Colin A. Young of State House News Service. Massachusetts is one of two states that does not allow businesses to add a surcharge to bills.
Media circus: Press swarms Karen Read murder trial of Boston cop boyfriend
Prosecutors have accused the defense of fanning a trial by media in the trial of Karen Read, charged with second-degree murder of her boyfriend, Boston Police Officer John O’Keefe, after a night at the bar, reports NBC Boston. The judge declined the defense’s request to recuse herself over online rumors and took a motion for a gag order under advisement.
Senate to “do something” of its own on gun control
A stalemate with the Senate over a wide-ranging House-led gun control bill ended with Speaker Ronald Mariano bending in his hopes for a hearing ahead of the upcoming August break, saying the chamber would consider it this fall. The News Service’s Alison Kuznitz reports the Senate is meanwhile considering its own strategy to potentially produce a comprehensive bill or combine some of the many proposals awaiting a committee hearing.
Red line ablaze again… this time in the rain
Yet another Red Line fire stopped service in both directions at JFK/UMass yesterday afternoon after a third rail caught fire just before the station. To top things off, the fire ignited during a downpour. No one was injured, but long delays on the Red Line ensued, writes Universal Hub. The fire went out when the Aa MBTA cut lower to the third rail.
Whatever: Newly legal topless beaches don’t make waves on Nantucket
Sun’s out, tops on. With the first beach season since Nantucket made it legal for anyone to go topless on all island beaches, Jason Graziadei of the Current goes in search of any evidence that the new policy has generated any of the problems opponents had warned about and comes up empty. One reason for the lack of complaints, conflicts and creepiness, such as unwelcomed photo-snapping? No one appears to be in a hurry to take advantage of the new freedom.
Casinos to pay more fines for taking college bets
All three of the state’s licensed casinos will be paying fines to the Mass. Gaming Commission after additional instances of each one taking illegal bets on Bay State college teams. Encore Boston Harbor will pay $10,000 in penalties while both MGM Springfield and Plainridge Park will fork over $20,000.
Law firm targets Greenfield school board after delay in approving Christian school
A national law firm is accusing the Greenfield School Committee of delaying its review of a proposed Christian private school because of its religious ties after members asked for more information about what they saw as problematic curriculum on topics such as slavery and evolution. Mary Byrne of the Greenfield Recorder has the details.
New Bedford City Council could step in to pause on nip ban
Not so fast. Members of the New Bedford City Council who opposed a ban on the sale of nip bottles of booze say they could exercise the council’s right to “press pause” on the Licensing Commission’s unanimous decision to start the ban within 90 days, Frank Mulligan of the Standard-Times reports.