The ghosts, ghouls and goblins have departed for a lengthy slumber, All Saints’ Day is here, and believe it or not, it’s almost time for another extended legislative break.
Only two weeks are left before the end of formal sessions for 2023 under legislative rules, leaving a narrow window for lawmakers to finish any major business they want or need completed before the calendar flips to 2024.
Remember: this is the Legislature we’re talking about, where the prevailing attitude holds that very little absolutely must be finished before 11 p.m. on July 31 of an even year. Still, we know at least a few contours of what to expect in the final burst of activity before the holidays.
Health care reform is at the top of the list in each branch, albeit with the House and Senate appearing for now to be on different pages. House Speaker Ron Mariano plans to pursue a vote on legislation overhauling the long-term care sector with new oversight, staff supports and infection control protocols, while Senate President Karen Spilka has pledged a vote on yet another attempt to wrangle prescription drug prices.
The House just seems to have no appetite for the prescription-drug piece, which has cleared the Senate before to avail, and Spilka has not had much to say vis a vis long-term care. Be on the lookout for an “I’ll pass yours, you pass mine” in 2024, a la sports betting for mental health care enhancement in ’22.
There’s also an avalanche of unresolved spending. The House has yet to take up a more than $2 billion supplemental budget Healey filed seven weeks ago to close the books on fiscal year 2023, which ended June 30. That’s the vehicle for the much-discussed $250 million Healey wants to inject into the emergency shelter system, and it also seeks to close a budget gap in FY23 because tax revenues fell below expectations.
Lawmakers might also opt to revive pieces from previous proposals that never made it across the finish line, like allowing contract renegotiation for a hydropower project and helping school districts absorb higher special education costs.
Beyond those items, the agenda is unclear. We wouldn’t be surprised if a late-arriving pet project emerges in either branch (think: wage transparency) and we also wouldn’t be shocked if lawmakers decide to give themselves a six-plus-week vacation from formal sessions without doing much more.
Decision likely today on emergency shelter cap
All eyes on Beacon Hill will be turned today toward Pemberton Square, where Suffolk Superior Court judge Debra Squires-Lee is expected to rule on a request for a temporary restraining order blocking the Healey administration from imposing a waiting list and promulgating emergency regulations to implement a cap on how many families it will provide immediate shelter under the state’s 1983 right-to-shelter law. This case not only has its obvious humanitarian aspect, but also is a fiendishly difficult policy problem to solve, as well as a political one — the progressive voices that form a major part of Gov. Maura Healey’s underlying support were turned against the intentions of the administration yesterday, and as the weather gets colder and if the migrants keep coming, the tension is only likely to grow. — MassLive | Boston Globe | SHNS
Governor outlines her approach to granting clemency
Gov. Maura Healey Tuesday laid out the approach she will use to decide whether to grant clemency to convicted criminals who seek relief. The approach, her staff said, was shaped to “address unfairness and systemic bias in the criminal justice system.” Healey’s version of a document expected of governors states, according to her office, that she “will consider whether issuing clemency would address a miscarriage of justice and if continued incarceration would constitute gross unfairness.” Healey, the document states, will use clemency for, among other things, “promoting equity and fighting racism.” — SHNS
Howie C. Look$ at Jonathan Z.
With the special election to replace Sen. Anne Gobi just around the corner, as they say, Howie Carr looks at Democratic candidate Rep. Jonathan Zlotnick through the lens of OCPF, running down the Democrats who’ve got Howie in a mild lather because they’ve donated to the Democrat. Howie spares Republican candidate Rep.Peter Durant the same examination. He urges a vote for the Republican on the grounds it will strike a blow for better balance on Beacon Hill — Boston Herald
College still pays off – especially for Mass. university presidents
Nine college presidents in Massachusetts made $1 million or more in 2022, according to a list assembled by the Boston Business Journal. The lowest-paid member of the $1 million-plus crowd, Merrimack College President Chris Hopey, made $1.2 million. The highest-paid on the list, Northeastern University’s Joseph Aoun, made $2.9 million. The highest-paid public university president, UMass head Martin Meehan, made $756,000. — Boston Business Journal
Brandeis Center chides Harvard for honoring professor
A referee appointed by Harvard University determined in the spring that Kennedy School of Government professor Marshall Ganz demonstrated anti-Semitism in his response to three students’ project proposal, but the school’s official newspaper nevertheless cheered Ganz for earlier civil rights work, a Jewish civil rights organization alleged. The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law asserted in an open letter noting the Ganz matter that Harvard has failed to sufficiently address anti-Semitism on campus. Ganz teaches on “Leadership, Organizing and Civil Society,” his Harvard website states. The Boston Herald, which reported on the letter, wrote that Harvard and Ganz did not respond to requests for comment. — Boston Herald
Second-largest city in N.E. tries ‘micro’ approach to homelessness
Worcester, New England’s second-largest city by population, just opened some very small apartments in an attempt to address the city’s homelessness problem. A new Worcester Housing Authority -owned building has 24 of what the agency is calling “micro” studio apartments, each with a bathroom and kitchenette. The units also will come with access to mental health services and job training. — WBUR
In Newton of all places, school DEI critics gaining a foothold
Some Newton residents are arguing that the public schools’ heightened interest in diversity equity and inclusion programming is taking a toll on their academic performance – a pattern some activists in the liberal community argue can be seen in falling standardized test scores. One Newton parents’ organization advocating for a retreat from DEI efforts gathered more than 300 signatures on a petition seeking the creation of a panel to advise the School Committee on some academic matters. — WGBH
Boston.com readers rebuff City Council on renaming Faneuil Hall
Boston.com asked Bostonians what they thought of the City Council’s move to start the process for renaming Faneuil Hall, a move councilors attributed to Peter Faneuil’s participation in the buy and selling of enslaved persons. Of 1,365 readers who responded, 80 percent argued for keeping the existing name. Among the arguments put forth was that changing the name would remove an impetus for continuing to discuss the troubling aspects of Faneuil’s legacy. The ultimate decision will lie with the city’s Public Facilities Commission. — Boston.com
Progressive super PAC with Wu ties gets into council race
Gintautas Dumcius of CommonWealth follows the money as a newly created progressive super PAC is throwing its support behind at-large Boston City Council candidate Henry Santana, setting up a deep-pocketed clash with the Forward Boston PAC in the race’s final days. — CommonWealth
Saugus charter changes may be coming, but city push has faded
Voters in Saugus will seat a 9-member charter-review board at next week’s election and Charlie McKenna of the Lynn Item reports the rare opportunity has attracted a crowded field of 27 candidates. However, while the charter-review process began with a push to go big and finally make Saugus–population 28,000–a city, most candidates say they favor less extreme changes. — Lynn Item
Worcester State details security enhancements after fatal shooting
As students returned to classes for the first time since a still-unsolved fatal shooting on campus, Worcester State College officials told parents local and state police will continue to have a presence on campus, that a private security firm has been hired to staff residence hall entry desks and that restrictions on campus visitors will remain in place. — Worcester Telegram