Massachusetts State House

Happening Today:

10 a.m. | A $20 billion grant program through the EPA for investments in clean housing gets a celebratory kickoff with Sen. Ed Markey, Gov. Maura Healey and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu. | Franklin Field, 91 Ames Street, Dorchester

2:15 p.m. | It's monthly meeting day for Gov. Maura Healey and Treasurer Deb Goldberg. | Governor's Office

2:45 p.m. | Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and public health officials highlight the city's vision for a recovery campus on Long Island. | Boston Police Harbor Patrol, 9 Terminal Street, Seaport, Boston

9 p.m. | Republican presidential candidates compete in the first debate hosted by Fox News in the runup to secure the GOP nomination. Eight candidates so far have qualified. | Fox News hosts Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum are set to moderate. | Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee

It’s a big year for public education in Massachusetts. New policy rollouts costing roughly a half-billion dollars owe their funding to the state’s new cash cow — a wealth tax on Bay Staters earning over $1 million. Lawmakers and supporters say it’s a long-term investment that will bolster the state’s economy for everyone. Business groups say they’ll be watching to see if that claim bears out. 

“Some of these investments that ended up in the final budget — early college and career pathways — those are things that we support and that can help address the skills gap we know exists,” said Elizabeth Mahoney of the Massachusetts High Technology Council. “But tracking is important. Going forward we need to make sure we are investing these dollars in programs that actually work.”

Policy rollouts — from free school meals to in-state rates for immigrants without legal status to free community college tuition for nursing students and other groups — will give an immediate boost to students on an individual level. But only time will tell if there’s a net gain for the state’s economy.

Zooming out, the collection of new education-focused policies approved in the $56 billion state budget is a life raft for a state economy with serious issues. Massachusetts is staring down a massive workforce shortage that’s already affecting most industries with 115,000 open jobs. That’s predicted to grow by 21 percent by the decade’s end without intervention as high costs and stagnant wages drive residents out of the state.

The free community college for nursing students, and a behavioral health loan repayment program, directly target workforce shortages beleaguering health care, as medical professionals burnt out by the pandemic leave the industry en masse. Massachusetts last year spent $1.5 billion on temporary labor, a more than 600 percent increase over the fiscal year that ended in September 2019.

The new moves, supporters say, also help low-income and minority residents, which could provide a counterbalance to the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision undoing affirmative action — boosting diversity on campuses and eventually, in the workforce. Equity advocates say lowering the barrier of entry for higher education is also a step in the right direction toward closing the racial wealth gap. Studies show how degrees have a direct correlation with earning potential.

This week Democratic lawmakers like Gov. Maura Healey and Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll highlighted more than $140 million in awards relieving school debt for 3,000 primary care and behavioral health providers across the state. Mahoney said it’s important to make sure awards are going to incentivize in-demand career paths. 

Another roughly half-billion in investment from the wealth tax targets infrastructure improvements, which Mahoney called “another important piece of the puzzle” in keeping an exodus of fleeing businesses and residents in the state.

“It’s important we don’t lose sight of the other challenges, like addressing the high cost of living and lack of housing, and that’s why we really need to see a tax-relief package that addresses all of these challenges,” Mahoney said. Healey and Senate President Karen Spilka say they expect to roll out a tax cut plan by the end of the year.

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Make Way… for another kind of “Storrow’d” on Boston’s Storrow Drive

Robert McCloskey lives. Traffic on the road alongside the Charles River on the northern edge of the city was backed up for another reason yesterday as drivers had to hit the brakes and make way for ducklings and geese taking a leisurely stroll across the busy city street.

Twitter: @OnlyinBoston

Spilka, Healey expecting tax cuts before end of year

A long-awaited tax cut plan should be finalized by the end of the year, Gov. Maura Healey and Senate President Karen Spilka both said yesterday. Matthew Medsger for The Boston Herald reports the pair of Democratic leaders hope the joint conference committee working to iron out the differences in proposals for more than two months now will soon have a compromise bill. House and Senate plans being considered both offer cuts to help seniors, renters and low-income families, but a major difference between the pair is a House proposal to cut the short-term capital gains tax rate from 12 percent to 5 percent.

The Boston Herald

Feds approve offshore wind farm south of Martha’s Vineyard 

Plans for an offshore wind farm in view from the Aquinnah cliffs on Martha’s Vineyard were approved by the U.S. Department of the Interior yesterday, reports Ethan Genter for the Vineyard Gazette. Revolution Wind received the final greenlight from the federal agency to start construction on its farm about 14 miles southwest of the island. The project is the fourth major offshore energy development to receive approvals, joining Vineyard Wind, South Fork Wind and another off New Jersey. It will supply about 700 megawatts of electricity to Rhode Island and Connecticut with plans to build about 65 turbines.

Vineyard Gazette | Martha’s Vineyard Times

Springfield cops want disciplinary records removed, hours after they go public

It didn’t take long for one of the state’s more troubled police departments to push back on a new state database of public disciplinary records for law enforcement. The Herald’s Chris Van Buskirk says Springfield has petitioned state regulators to remove hundreds of entries associated with its officers from an online disciplinary records database only hours after it launched. The department is looking to remove more than 220 of its 417 complaints and “numerous officers” from the database maintained by the Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission.

The Boston Herald

Massachusetts Planned Parenthood union close to first agreement 

In the latest push amid a wave of unionizing workers across industries, employees at the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts in Boston reached a tentative agreement with management late last week that would immediately raise wages and expand parental leave, reports Hannah Reale for GBH. The contract — which has not yet been approved by members — would be the first contract negotiated with a union at the nonprofit, since nearly 200 workers voted to join the 1199 SEIU last July. A vote has not yet been scheduled. If approved, it will be retroactive to July 2022 and last through December 2025.


Black, Hispanic patients admitted and return to hospital at higher rates

Black and Hispanic residents are using hospital services at higher rates than other groups, show new state data that point to uneven challenges in accessing primary care and in the quality of care received. Jessica Bartlett for The Boston Globe writes that a new state report showed many Massachusetts residents struggle to access high-quality, affordable, and timely health care and that systemic inequities and institutional racism exacerbate these issues for many communities of color.

The Boston Globe

Residents divided on rent control question

Rent control is facing a challenge as supporters of the controversial policy disagree on the best strategy forward and a lack of consensus threatening to undermine the fledgling movement. The Globe’s Emma Platoff reports it’s also up against skepticism on Beacon Hill and well-funded opposition from the real estate industry. A group of progressive activists and elected officials, largely from Cambridge and Somerville, are pushing to put the issue before voters on the 2024 ballot but a coalition of housing advocacy organizations argue the smarter course would be to continue pressing the Legislature to take action.

The Boston Globe

Boston once had 24-hour train service, will it ever again?

There’s a desire for late-night, 24-hour train service in Boston. But GBH’s Jeremy Seigel reports that figuring out whether that’s actually possible is a bit more complicated. At the tail end of the 19th century, the Boston Elevated did run train service 24 hours a day — something many MBTA riders may not know. So why don’t we have late-night service anymore? It’s a question the radio station is tackling in research in collaboration with Axios Boston on nightlife in the city.


Massachusetts retailers losing $2 billion a year to organized theft rings

Criminal theft activity in Massachusetts is costing retailers at least $2 billion a year, reports Rick Sobey for The Boston Herald. Dick’s Sporting Goods on Tuesday said rampant theft is seriously impacting its bottom line. Dick’s reported that its profit slipped in the second quarter and blamed theft at its stores, and the report “is not surprising,” Retailers Association of Massachusetts President Jon Hurst told the Herald.

The Boston Herald

Forging friendship: Nonprofits target ‘epidemic of loneliness’

A new report that found the country is contending with an “epidemic of loneliness,” has spurred work to forge connections. The Friendship Project is a nonprofit effort designed to reduce social isolation — particularly for people with disabilities or mental health conditions — by helping them build relationships with others This work is rooted in more than a moral imperative to help people. WBUR’s Priyanka Dayal McCluskey reports a growing body of research shows loneliness has profound implications for physical and mental health. People who are socially disconnected have a 29% higher risk of heart disease, a 32% greater risk of stroke and a 50% increased risk of dementia for older adults. 


Springfield mayoral hopefuls battle it out ahead of preliminary 

Western Mass Politics reports candidates for mayor of Springfield have begun to face off in formal settings with three weeks until the Sept. 12 preliminary. Until this month, Mayor Domenic Sarno’s rivals have largely made their pitches on the trail and at community events. This month, therapist David Ciampi, at-large Councilor Justin Hurst, Council President Jesse Lederman and State Rep Orlando Ramos have the chance to challenge the mayor to his face when candidates will do battle at a debate that Focus Springfield, the city’s public access station, and Western New England University are holding. But last week, a debate at Mt. Zion Baptist Church, organized by a coalition that included Pioneer Valley Project, the Springfield NAACP and the Pastor’s Council, featured some spicy moments and the sharpest rebukes to Sarno’s 16-year reign in years.

Western Mass Politics

Let it rain: It was a particularly wet one in New England this summer, meteorogists shed light on why

It’s been raining cats and dogs in New England this summer where cities across the region had some of their wettest Julys on record, reports Adriana Martinez-Smiley for GBH. Flooding devastated Vermont and New Hampshire issued a record number of flash flood warnings. Crops in Western Massachusetts were devastated. National Weather Service meteorologists say the frequency of the downpours is not normal. Research shows that climate change is driving extreme precipitation in the Northeast, as well as particular weather patterns that settled over New England this summer, contributing to the intensity of the rain.


Whoa: Gardner planners pull back on horse-racing zoning change 

The Gardner Planning Board says more time is needed to study a proposed zoning change that would clear the way for a thoroughbred horse racing facility. Stephen Landry of the Gardner News reports some residents are already pushing back on the plan, which Baystate Racing, LLC has said will create 150 local jobs.

Gardner News

Getting the F out: Brockton won’t automatically fail students who miss

Students in Brockton schools will no longer be given automatic failing grades if they miss class repeatedly, ending a policy the district’s superintendent called “outdated.” Christopher Butler of the Enterprise reports the new policy calls for each case of chronic absence to be handled individually. 

The Brockton Enterprise

Springfield will use grant funds to study casino’s impact on drinking and driving  

The state’s Gaming Commission will fund a study of the impact MGM Springfield resort casino is having on the number of people driving under the influence of alcohol in the city and surrounding communities. MassLive’s Jonah Snowden reports nearly $200,000 in community mitigation funds will help extend ongoing programs aimed at finding ways to keep the roads around the resort safer.


Provincetown crier ends Bay State championship drought 

They heard him loud and clear. Daniel Llata, who spends most of his summer days dressed in colonial garb and shouting “Hear ye” in front of Provincetown Town Hall has won the title of best Town Crier in the country, Rasheek Tabaassum Mujub of the Cape Cod Times reports. 

The Cape Cod Times

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Erin Tiernan was a Editor and Author of MASSterList