Massachusetts State House

Happening Today:

9 a.m. | It's back to school — almost — in Boston where Mayor Michelle Wu will discuss preparations for the first day back and paints crosswalks in school zones. | Trotter Elementary School, 135 Humboldt Ave, Roxbury

10 a.m. | Senate President Karen Spilka and other officials get a firsthand look at flooding damage affecting businesses in North Andover and opening a sinkhole in Haverhill. | Jaime’s Restaurant, 25 High Street, North Andover, and 5 Ford Street, Haverhill

10:30 a.m. | Gov. Maura Healey swears in new Suffolk County Register of Probate and Family Court Stephanie Everett. | Governor's Ceremonial Office

11 a.m. | LGBT pride is still going strong in Provincetown where Sen. Julian Cyr introduces 2023 the Carnival Parade Grand Marshal Jason Carter for a drag story hour. | Provincetown Public Library, 356 Commercial St.

5:30 p.m. | Boston Harbor Now hosts a night of free, family-friendly activities at Moakley Park, featuring dinner, yard games, music and art and crafts. | Moakley Park, 1187 Columbia Rd., Boston

6 p.m. | A Coalition of voting reform groups launch a campaign to implement ranked-choice voting in Boston municipal elections, where 62 percent voted in favor of implementing the system in a failed 2020 statewide ballot initiative. | Boston City Hall

In Massachusetts, home-rule petition shapes the local law of the land — a system that leaves cities and towns at the mercy of the Legislature when it comes to enacting everything from the mundane to major policy changes. 

Local petitions can address a range of complex issues, such as whether a town should implement ranked-choice voting or legally recognize domestic partnerships of three or more people — as Somerville has and Arlington is considering. Boston has sent at least nine home-rule petitions to Beacon Hill this year — including ones proposing rent control, placing a 2 percent tax on some real estate sales and expanding the number of restaurant and bar liquor licenses, to name a few.

Filed an average of 150 days ago, all except one petition to give Boston a seat on an MBTA board, are still pending. An amendment to the just-passed budget gave the city a long-wanted seat on the transit oversight board, rendering the petition moot. Three Boston petitions have seen hearings, session records reviewed by MASSterList reveal. And high-priority bills that would give Boston the option to cap rents or tax high-dollar property sales to raise money for affordable housing are stuck in limbo until lawmakers decide to act.

Any home-rule petitions still stagnant come the end of the current legislative session next year will die on the vine and must be refiled to find progress in a new session. Like most other legislation, home-rule petitions get snagged in the snail’s pace of lawmaking on Beacon Hill.

A Boston City Council staff analysis found out of roughly 100 home-rule petitions Boston filed with the Legislature from 2011 to 2021, fewer than half became law. Successful petitions, puttered around Beacon Hill for about 10 months on average before lawmakers granted final approval. 

Petitions finding eventual success tend to be administrative — similar to one currently lying in wait that would waive the 39-year-old age cutoff to become a Boston police officer — but for just one specific person. Unlike every current home-rule petition proposing substantive policy change, the petition dealing with police age requirement saw a quick hearing less than two weeks after its April 6 filing. Reported out of committee just over two months later, it is now poised for passage as it waits a third reading by the Legislature — one of few bills (home-rule or otherwise) to see progress at all in a session that’s so far been the least productive in roughly four decades

By contrast, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu’s much-watched rent control petition — filed on the same April day, as the police petition — is still hanging in no man’s land awaiting a hearing before the Joiint Committe on Housing. Chairwoman Sen. Lydia Edwards of East Boston has loosely targeted October to open discussion on rent stabilization, a version of which the House shot down in 2020.

Housing advocates have pivoted amid lawmakers’ tepid reception of rent control, shifting focus to a petition for permission to tax high-dollar real estate sales to raise money for affordable housing. Boston and about a dozen other towns are behind it.

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Eyesore no more: Town turns strip mall into new housing that could point to potential solution for statewide shortage

Breathing new life into what had become defunct strip malls in Woburn, the town netted 325 new apartments of which 25% were affordable. It’s a potential solution to address a growing housing shortage that’s sent rents soaring statewide. GBH’s Liz NeisLoss reports more than 3,000 strip malls across Greater Boston are “underutilized, underperforming or obsolete,” according to a Metropolitan Area Planning Council study, which found they’d be ideal for helping solve the region’s housing crisis. If only 10% of those old malls were rebuilt to add 


Suicide on the rise in Massachusetts after years of decline

A slight increase in suicides in Massachusetts last year is the first bump in suicides in the state in four years, reports Lynn Jolicouer for WBUR, who notes it comes as suicides nationally reach an all-time high. State officials overseeing suicide prevention are concerned the uptick could signal the post-pandemic problem has hit home in the Bay State. Preliminary CDC data show 626 people died by suicide in Massachusetts. That’s up 3.6% from 2021. 


Not cooking with gas: With climate in mind, some towns look to ban open-flame cooking in restaurants 

Restaurants opening in 10 Massachusetts cities and towns after next year will likely to do so without gas hookups. The municipalities are also seeking state approval to ban the use of fossil fuels in new buildings, including single-family homes, apartments and condos, retail shops and offices, reports Boston Business Journal’s Greg Ryan. While the ordinances in question vary by town, with several exempting restaurant cooking for now, all are part of a larger statewide push to move away from fossil fuels in an attempt to reduce carbon emissions and address climate change.

Boston Business Journal

Everett politician says she was targeted in racist attack

An Everett City Council candidate who is Haitian was targeted with an effigy of a burned human head left next to her campaign sign last month. The Globe’s John Hilliard reports she is demanding justice and a broad, public condemnation of racist behavior from city leaders. Police are investigating who placed the effigy by the sign.

The Boston Globe

Spilling T: MBTA safety chief headed out

The MBTA’s top safety official will resign after three years on the job, MBTA General Manager Phil Eng announced yesterday. Ron Ester has presided over T safety amid intense scrutiny from the public and federal regulators over safety failures, reports Chris Lisinski for the News Service. He leaves on Aug. 30. Officials did not give a reason for the coming separation.

State House News Service

Anyone but him: New PAC opposing Boston Councilor Ricardo Arroyo to fund opposition campaigns

Opponents are organizing to unseat Boston City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo, an official from one of the city’s most prominent political families, reports Chris Van Buskirk for The Boston Herald. A group linked to many top Democrats in the state on Monday launched an independent spending committee to fund opposition campaigns ahead of a preliminary election next month where Arroyo will fight to keep his seat. The “Enough is Enough” independent expenditure political action committee was filed with the state’s campaign finance office by the Chick Montana Group.

The Boston Herald

On the airwaves: Candidates in heated Springfield mayoral race take battle in TV

Candidates in Springfield’s crowded mayoral race are spending thousands on TV ads in a trend Western Mass Politics editor Matt Szafranski reports is expected to spur more candidates to buy air time as three frontrunners have now taken their platforms to the airwaves. Sitting six-term Mayor Domenic Sarno was the first to grace local living rooms facing fierce competition from five local politicians and community leaders looking to dethrone him. Ads are slated to run up to the Sept. 12 preliminary to pick the top two contenders who will face off on the ballot in November.

Western Mass Politics

UMass Chan data breach compromises up to 134,000 people

The state is reaching out to more than 134,000 people currently or previously enrolled in certain state programs whose personal information — potentially private medical and financial data — may have been affected in a data breach of UMass Chan Medical School records, reports Colin A. Young for State House News Service. State officials say exposed data varies by person, but in each case includes the person’s name and at least one other piece of information like date of birth, mailing address, protected health information like diagnosis and treatment details, Social Security number, and financial account information.

State House News Service

Some Boston renters paid double to apply for apartments, worker stole $100,000 from would-be tenants

Rental prices may feel like robbery these days in Boston but some prospective Hyde Park, Dorchester and Roxbury tenants were actually stolen from — to the tune of $100,000 in rental application fees authorities say they were double charged for. A 29-year-old employee for the property management firm they used pleaded guilty to charging them twice as much for security deposits as her employer normally would, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office reports. Universal Hub reports a judge continued her case without a finding for two years, which means that if she stays out of trouble during that time, she can seek to have the case dismissed. She faces a hearing on Oct. 10 to set the amount of restitution she’ll have to pay.

Universal Hub

AG Campbell targets $1.5 million in grants to turn around ‘devastating’ maternal morbidity rates

Motivated by the “devastating statistics” of worsening severe maternal morbidity rates, particularly among Black people, Attorney General Andrea Campbell announced $1.5 million in grant funding to 11 community organizations yesterday, reports State House News Service’s Alison Kuznitz. The money will invest in doula and perinatal mental health workforce, training more multilingual caregivers, and expanding lactation services, among other initiatives, she said.

State House News Service

As school year looms, Methuen still uncertain of migrant student count 

School officials in Methuen say they don’t know how large of an influx of students they’ll see from migrant families being temporarily housed by the state at a local motel when school opens in just two weeks. The Eagle-Tribune’s Monica Sager reports the town believes 111 migrant families, many with school-age children, are being housed at the local Days Inn.

The Eagle-Tribune

Updated policy limits gender expression in Worcester Catholic schools 

Neal McNamara of Patch reports on new policies now in place at Catholic schools in the Worcester area that will effectively ban open same-sex relationships and expressions of gender beyond the ones students were assigned at birth. The policies come after a June directive from Bishop Robert McManus and are drawing condemnation from LGBTQ rights groups.


Hamilton Rodrigues is running for Brockton mayor. But where does he live?

The Brockton Election Commission has removed the name of mayoral hopeful Hamilton Rodrigues from the local voter roles, a move Rodrigues says is part of a political plot to keep him off the ballot. The Enterprise’s Chris Helms reports the city says Rodrigues triggered the move himself and notes that residency disputes around mayoral election are kind of Brockton’s thing. 

The Brockton Enterprise

Land rush: Framingham puts out call for site of future community center 

Let’s make a deal. Framingham Mayor Charlie Sisitsky, who has made building a community center a major focus of his administration, is now on the hunt for a parcel of land to locate the facility, which he hopes will include an indoor pool. Jesse Collings of the MetroWest Daily News has the details.

MetroWest Daily News

Erin Tiernan was a Editor and Author of MASSterList