Today: Rethinking the medicine cabinet

 

Gov. Baker plans to help launch the MyOldMeds Massachusetts campaign, which will highlight state resources for returning unused medications and provide substance abuse treatment options. Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America President and CEO Steve Ubl and Massachusetts Police Chief Association President William Brooks plan to attend. At the Grand Staircase, 11:30 am.

 

Gov. Baker also is scheduled to be in studio on “NightSide with Dan Rea,” WBZ NewsRadio 1030, 8 pm.

 

Electrical workers plan to protest National Grid’s “continued push to outsource key work to contractors that could negatively impact public safety” with a standout at the State House. Boston Gas Local 12003 USW authorized leadership to call a strike against National Grid and its contract expires Feb. 28. Massachusetts Jobs with Justice will join the group. It will be held outside the State House, 12 pm.

 

State employees fill out GOP slate

As Gov. Baker pushes his slate of moderates for GOP state committee seats, about 20 of them are state employees, Shira Schoenberg of MassLive reports. “The state employees running for Republican State Committee include some well-known members of Baker’s administration: Dominick Ianno, chief of staff for the Office of Administration and Finance; David D’Arcangelo, director of the Office on Disability; Ryan Chamberland, director of Baker’s Western Massachusetts office; Laura Rigas, communications director for the Office of Education; and Peter Lorenz, communications director for the Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs,” reports Schoenberg. Under state law, state employees are not allowed to raise money for political causes, which some say should be one of the primarily roles of state committee members. http://bit.ly/1QxE5H7

 

Baker on ‘secret’ donations

“We follow all the rules, Frank, and as you know we follow all the rules.”

—Gov. Baker, in response to a question by Globe reporter Frank Phillips on disclosing the source of donations Baker has solicited for GOP state committee races. More here via the State House News Service: http://bit.ly/1Qx5glE

 

 

Baker promises MBTA OT crackdown

Gov. Baker reacted to revelations of loose overtime practices at the MBTA, saying, “I do think a lot of it has to do with how things were done. And things aren’t going to be done like that going forward,” Baker said, according to Matt Stout’s story in the Boston Herald. The highest earner on the T payroll was signing off on his own overtime on the way to making $327,000 last year. Overtime this year is has been reduced, Stout reports. http://bit.ly/1PZdgyo

 

Joyce won’t seek reelection

Sen. Brian Joyce said yesterday he would not seek reelection on the same day that a state representative in his district announced his intentions to run for the seat. “I have worked hard for Milton and achieved results, while always trying to abide by the rules. I will continue to work hard for Milton and all of the district but will not seek re-election,” Joyce said in a statement. Joyce was the subject of a Boston Globe report in January that explored a controversial, 10-year arrangement he engaged in for dry cleaning. Last week Joyce’s law offices were raided by the FBI and IRS. More from Matt Murphy of the State House News Service. http://bit.ly/1R0SM6j

 

Bill would expand death benefit for state workers

Lawmakers are considering a bill to expand benefits for state and local government workers killed in the line of duty, reports Christian Wade, State House reporter for several North Shore dailies, including the Salem News. “Legislation filed by Rep. Jay Livingstone, D-Boston — and backed by lawmakers including Reps. Frank Moran and Marcos Devers, both Lawrence Democrats — offer the one-time $150,000 payment as a death benefit to the families of any state or local government worker,” Wade reports. Current law awards payment to police, firefighters and paramedics killed in the line of duty. http://bit.ly/1TFlcbX

 

City Sports brand revival

Two New Jersey brothers who run a soccer retail company have bought the City Sports brand and plan to start operating an e-commerce site within weeks and open a brick-and-mortar store by the end of the year, the Globe’s Jon Chesto reports. http://bit.ly/1QxB5KY

 

Baker still undecided 

Less than a week before the March 1 state primary, Gov. Charlie Baker says he still hasn’t decided who will get his vote for the GOP Presidential nomination, Gintautas Dumcius of MassLive reports. Baker did say it’s “unlikely” he’ll vote for frontrunner Donald Trump.  http://bit.ly/1S0KAI2

Diehl backs Trump 

Trump did get his first endorsement from an elected Republican in the Bay State on Tuesday, with State Rep. Geoff Diehl of Whitman— a lead crusader in the effort to repeal automatic increases in the state’s gas tax—saying he’d back the real estate mogul, Garrett Quinn of Boston Magazine reports.http://bit.ly/1p2lGwn

‘Rattlesnake Island’ gets a hearing 

State wildlife officials laid out the rationale behind their plan to create a colony of timber rattlesnakes on the largest island in the Quabbin Reservoir to a crowd of about 200 Tuesday, assuring residents there will be no danger to the public, Bob McGovern of the Herald reports. Officials said the snakes will have monitoring devices implanted and that the first snakes would be located to the island early in 2017. http://bit.ly/1mXbOCq

Galvin upholds decision to keep Jones video from public 

Secretary of State William Galvin says Foxboro police acted property when they withheld surveillance video that showed Patriots player Chandler Jones as he arrived at the town’s public safety complex to seek medical attention after apparently ingesting synthetic marijuana, Colman Herman of CommonWealth Magazine reports. Galvin cited the privacy exemptions in the state’s public records law as a valid reason to withhold the video, which both the Herald and New England Cable News had sought.  http://bit.ly/1TyEsXs

BPD keeps cellphone tracker use in the dark 

The Boston Police Department is refusing to shed light on its use of secret cellphone trackers and is adhering to a non-disclosure agreement with the FBI that shields the information even from judges who are being asked to grant search warrants, according to a piece by Shawn Musgrave of the New England Center for Investigative Reporting published by the Globe and other outlets. The practice that has drawn the ire of privacy advocates and civil liberties groups has forced other jurisdictions to reveal how they use the tools. http://bit.ly/1mXa9ws

Worcester may tie tax breaks to ‘living wage’

The Worcester City Council is considering amending its policy toward granting tax increment financing agreements to require that workers who receive jobs created on projects that receive the property tax breaks be paid at least $15 an hour, Steven H. Foskett Jr. of the Telegram reports. http://bit.ly/1PZlWVF

How ‘Spotlight’ changed the legislative process 

Rep. Antonio Cabral recalls in a CommonWealth Magazine piece how the reporting of the Boston Globe’s investigative team, highlighted in the Academy Award-nominated ‘Spotlight’ movie helped a bill adding priests and other clergy to the ranks of mandated reporters of child abuse—one that had languished in the past—move quickly through the legislature.  “[T]he Globe stories changed everything,” the New Bedford Democrat writes. http://bit.ly/1La7sTU

 

Tall order at the White House

It’s no question that many people when they meet Gov. Charlie Baker are often forced to look up – and that includes President Barack Obama. At a Tuesday event celebrating the passage of Race Amity Day, Baker, who’s back from his whirlwind trip to D.C. where he attended meetings with his fellow state executives and dined with the Obamas, shared this comical exchange he and First Lady Lauren Baker had while at the White House:

 

“We got upstairs and did the photo line and got our picture taken with the President and the First Lady and my wife was complaining as we line up for the picture about being so short relative to the President and First Lady and me. The president looked at her and said ‘you’re not short he’s just crazy tall,’ ” Baker said.

 

Baker stands 6 feet 6 inches tall, according to a Boston Globe item printed during the 2014 campaign, which is a full five inches above the Commander in Chief. —Antonio Caban, State House News Service

 

 

 

Today: Guv at White House

 

Gov. Baker joins other governors visiting Washington for a meeting with President Obama, followed by a press conference. 10:30 a.m.

 

Senate President Stanley Rosenberg joins Jim Braude and Margery Eagan in studio for an interview on Boston Public Radio. WGBH-FM 89.7 and 1 Guest St., Brighton, 11 am.

 

The MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board reviews a report on bus maintenance — an area T officials have already highlighted as a cost driver – receive an update on an audit of MBTA overtime and hear an update on the commuter rail vendor’s improvement plan. 10 Park Plaza, 2nd floor conference rooms, Boston, 12 pm.

 

U.S. Senator and Democratic Party presidential candidate Bernie Sanders hosts a rally at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. According to an advisory, topics Sanders plans to discuss include “getting big money out of politics, combating climate change and making college affordable.” William D. Mullins Memorial Center, University of Massachusetts, 200 Commonwealth Avenue, Amherst, 4:30 pm.

 

Trump Effect stirs GOP fears

As Donald Trump continues to cruise toward the Republican nomination, others in the GOP are beginning to worry about the damage that could be left in his wake with other contests on the state level. “Polls have shown him performing poorly among women and minority voters, two groups the party needs to attract in greater numbers than it has in recent elections,” reports the Globe’s Jim O’Sullivan from Washington, where national governors associations were meeting this weekend. http://bit.ly/1Q4bkTk

 

Legalization lessons from Colorado

Legalization of marijuana is a mixed bag, reports Joshua Miller of the Boston Globe, who recently spent some time in Colorado, where the substance, in various forms, has been legal since 2014. Legalization brought in $135 million in tax revenue last year in Colorado while the state has the highest youth rate of marijuana use in the country. And there’s been an uptick in the number of kids admitted to the ER for accidentally eating THC-infused marijuana. http://bit.ly/1RW6dcu

 

IndyCar racing infrastructure arriving

The controversial IndyCar race, tentatively scheduled to roar through South Boston over Labor Day weekend, already has begun storing large barriers as Grand Prix of Boston prepares for the event. The Globe’s Jon Chesto reports the organizers have secured a short-term lease at the Marine Industrial Park in South Boston to store the concrete barriers.

http://bit.ly/1Q5e5Ue

 

Baker lags in implementing nursing home regs

The track record of nursing home company Synergy Health Centers, the New Jersey based firm that operates 11 nursing homes in Massachusetts, has made clear the need for additional regulations, writes blogger HesterPrynne. But the Baker administration has been slow in producing them as the administration continues its regulatory review. …“It was difficult to avoid the conclusion that protecting Synergy Health Centers from meddlesome governmental regulators was more important to the Baker administration than protecting elderly and disabled nursing home residents from Synergy Health Centers.” http://bit.ly/20PRhNw

 

New container bill would do away with Bottle Bill
The food and beverage industry endorses a new bill that would end the 5-cent bottle bill and replace it with a 1-cent container bill, one that would generate an estimated $135 million per year to go towards expanding curbside recycling. However, environmental groups say it would have a negative impact on municipal recycling programs. “Supporters of the measure, which is backed by the food and beverage industry, say the changes would boost recycling by more than 30 percent, reduce landfill waste and create more than 3,000 new jobs while reducing carbon emissions,” the Christian Wade, State House reporter for the Newburyport Times, reports. However, not everyone is as certain the new program would work. “The reality is the bottle deposit system is the most effective recycling tool in the state, if not the country,” executive director of the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group Janet Domenitz said.
http://bit.ly/1RhIoK2

 

Puppy mills target of pet sale bill
Boston City Councilor Matt O’Malley wants to ban pet stores from selling puppies, kittens and bunnies. The ban is intended to stop pet stories from selling animals from breeding mills. O’Malley said there are 120 municipalities that have a similar ban including Chicago and Los Angeles. Not everyone agrees with the ban. “I don’t see the logic here,” said Jim Gentile, owner of The Pet Shop in Brighton said to Brian Dowling of the Boston Herald. “I don’t see it helping. Does Weymouth or Cambridge sell bunnies? Are you pushing customers over the city limits?”
http://bit.ly/1mSlkGI

 

Financial engineering costing the T

The MBTA carries over $5 billion in debt, some of it at floating rates that it has hedged with derivatives called swaps, which basically are insurance against a sudden rise in rates. Those swaps, given the low interest rate environment, are costing the T about $26 million per year extra in interest, reports the Globe’s Beth Healy. The T is considering exiting some of its swap deals with Deutche Bank, which would cost $30 million. http://bit.ly/1TzZaY8

 

EPA orders costly cleanup in Charles River towns 

The Environmental Protection Agency is poised to issue regulations forcing communities along the Charles River to spend millions to prevent contaminated runoff, David Abel of the Globe reports. While the Federal government says it will help defray some of the costs, municipalities are expecting to spend millions to comply with the new rules. Franklin alone expects to spend $62 million over the next 20 years.  http://bit.ly/1OpBnlG

Towns lament ABCC overrules

Several towns in Central Massachusetts say their attempts to punish liquor license holders for selling alcohol to minors are being thwarted by the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, which often overturns local rulings on appeal, sometimes twice in the same case, Susan Spencer of the Telegram reports. The ABCC says the communities have overreached in cases where violations are identified through sting operations. http://bit.ly/1XHJmSk

Is history in Brian Joyce’s corner? 

Amid calls for the expulsion of Sen. Brian Joyce, Matt Stout of the Herald reports in his Pols and Politics column that the Massachusetts Senate rarely forces its members out, last doing so in 1977 and only then acting after the senator was convicted of extortion. Before that, the most recent example of state senators throwing one of their own out dates to 1913.  http://bit.ly/1Tu7I1n

Making the case for Deval 

WGBH’s Callie Crossley lays out reasons why Gov. Deval Patrick makes sense to be President Obama’s choice to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Antonin Scalia. Crossley: Some of her arguments: Patrick has never openly coveted a court seat, which would allow him to “keep his cool” during tough confirmation hearings. And even if the Senate rejected him, the experience could help raise his profile nationally.  http://bit.ly/1QtfMtY

Is a Romney endorsement coming? 

Reports that circulated over the weekend that former and two-time presidential candidate Gov. Mitt Romney would endorse Marco Rubio are being called “false,” Boston.com’s Nik DeCosta-Klipa of Boston.com reports. Rubio himself said no endorsement was in the offing—though he said he’d welcome it — and others report that Romney will likely wait until later in the nomination contest to anoit a candidate.  http://bit.ly/1QUPT6W

 

 

Today: Remembering Iwo Jima survivors

Marine Corps League Metrowest Detachment 1037 hosts a ceremony honoring those who survived the carnage of the Battle of Iwo Jima more than 70 years ago. After fighting across the Pacific Ocean, the United States military wrenched the island away from Japanese forces over 36 days of a battle that killed 6,800 American and 19,000 Japanese fighters, according to the U.S. Marine Corps History Division. A collation with lunch and refreshments in the Great Hall follows the ceremony, Memorial Hall, 11 am.

 

No fare: For commuters, a day of deja vu

 

Yet another commuting meltdown enveloped the much of the commuter rail yesterday, this time from a failed signal between South Station and Back Bay Station. The signal is maintained by Amtrak, making a cameo in local transportation malfeasance. Innocent commuters, as always, took it on the chin.

Until a year ago, a widescale systemic breakdown like this would barely merit a mention in the media. It was business as usual, no story here. After last winter’s epic snows severely crippled the entire commuting system and transportation became the dominant public policy story in the region, now even minor delays receive coverage. The Globe dispatched transportation reporter Nicole Dungca and three other staff to cover yesterday’s signal failure and ensuing chaos. They talked to commuters, and guess what? They’re pissed off. Pressure from the media and the riding public that consistently points out the embedded flaws in our second-rate public transportation system will help drive improvements.

The T needs money. Yesterday, Gov. Baker, speaking on Boston Public Radio, defended raising fares the way to fix the T. We beg to differ. A nearly 10 percent fare increase would raise about $50 million. The T pays over $420 million in debt service annually. Until the $8 billion in principal and interest the T carries on its books are restructured, fare increases will be a drop in the bucket and won’t move the needle on service reliability. The T also needs to secure a new, significant revenue streams to address the $7 billion plus in deferred maintenance and to build for the future.

Yesterday and today’s delays are being presented as an aberration. They’re not. They’re part of a persistent pattern that management reforms and fare hikes can’t solve alone. Good news: The T announced this morning that the signal has been fixed. http://bit.ly/1TttRhr

 

While it was a bad day for commuters, we learned just how bad the year was for Keolis, the commuter rail operator. The company lost $29.3 million in its first year of operation, reports Andy Metzger of the State House News Service. “My sense is that it has been a more costly endeavor than Keolis assumed going into it,” commented Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack. http://bit.ly/21ddU0v

 

 

Rosenberg: Joyce deserves due process

Senate members said Sen. Brian Joyce, whose law office was raided yesterday by FBI and IRS agents, would not call for his resignation, saying the legal process should be allowed to play out.

“I don’t rush to judgment, especially in a situation like this,” Senate President Stanley Rosenberg said. “An individual’s reputation, integrity is on the line. It affects himself, his family, his constituency, his career.” More on the perspective of other Senators and the pressure Joyce faces by the Globe’s David Scharfenberg. http://bit.ly/1PJx0pE

 

Senate President Rosenberg reinforced his position when he was presented with a letter outside his office calling for Sen. Joyce’s resignation by Paul Craney, executive director of the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance.

“We’re asking you to take the lead and show the rest of your colleagues that this behavior isn’t tolerated, and only you can do that,” Craney said to Rosenberg. “As of right now, everyone is looking at you and saying, ‘What is allowed under this Legislature?'”

“We have very high ethical standards. If the ethical standards have been violated, then the Senate will take action,” Rosenberg responded.

The debate was captured on video by the State House News Service’s Antonio Caban, and can be seen on the SHNS’s Youtube channel: http://bit.ly/1oOZg1w

 

 

Data breaches affect over 1.3 million Mass. residents

The growing volume of compromised personal data affected 1.3 million Massachusetts residents last year, a fourfold increase from 2014, reports the Globe’s Deirdre Fernandes. The single breach was at Anthem Inc., the health insurer where 78 million customers’ personal information was compromised, including over 650,000 in Massachusetts. http://bit.ly/1oOU51q

 

 

Yes, they’re watching: Employee monitoring grows

 

Software that tracks employees’ computer activities is increasingly being adopted in the workplace, as, we all know, the temptations multiply beyond Facebook and other social media, writes Katie Johnston of the Globe. “Other major time wasters: fantasy sports and cat videos. One company that started monitoring workers’ computers discovered they spent 80 hours watching feline hijinks in a single month, said New York human resources consultant Corinne Jones.” The monitoring is legal, although Sen. Marc Pacheco has introduced a bill to require employers to inform employees about their electronic eavesdropping. http://bit.ly/24e1KXE

 

MassHousing hires director in 10 minutes 

The Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency deliberated for just 10 minutes before naming a new executive director last month, Bruce Mohl of CommonWealth Magazine reports, citing minutes of the January meeting. The board entered executive session to discuss hiring “strategy’ — the topic was not on the board’s agenda for that day — but instead emerged and voted in favor of hiring Chief Financial Officer Timothy Sullivan to helm the agency.  In contrast, it took MassPort over a year to find its next leader, Mohl notes. http://bit.ly/24e2wnh

Who’s backing whom on Beacon Hill 

The Lowell Sun’s Kyle Plantz does a roll call of known Presidential endorsements on Beacon Hill and finds most Democratic Lowell-area lawmakers firm behind Hillary Clinton and a more varied set of endorsements on the GOP side.  http://bit.ly/1oskK3P

Charter waiting list at 34,000 

State education officials say the number of students on waiting lists to enter charter schools shrunk by 8 percent last year but still stands at 34,000, Kara Bettis of the New Boston Post reports. Although the state auditor and others have questioned the data, charter supporters say it demonstrates the need to lift the state’s cap on charters.  http://bit.ly/1RTisX8

Curtatone girds for battle with Wynn 

Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone said he won’t back down from what he expects to be a “vicious” campaign against his city from Wynn Resorts, which says the mayor’s decision to appeal an environmental permit would cost it $55 million a month, Brian Dowling of the Herald reports. “No amount of public harassment from Wynn is enough to stop us from addressing this issue,” he said.http://bit.ly/1Q57Pj0

Globe columnist Shirley Leung weighs in on the Somerville-Wynn issue, questioning the logic of Curatone’s legal action. “It’s a ridiculous claim considering that the 5.7 million square feet planned at the work-live-play Assembly Row development in Somerville would be nearly twice as big as the Wynn casino.” http://bit.ly/1PWbNa1

Worker says Baker team strong-armed her 

A state employee is accusing the Baker administration of using strong-arm political tactics to get her to back a Baker-chosen candidate for the state Republican committee, the Globe’s Frank Phillips reports. The Baker administration says no pressure has been applied, but Lisa Barstow, a GOP state committeewoman and director of community relations at the Department of Conservation and Recreation, said in an email peppered with all caps that the “hard anvil of the corner office came down on me with vengeance and no mercy” to get her to back candidate Peter Lorenz.  http://bit.ly/1owQVzx

Connecticut study may be boon for MGM 

MGM Springfield got some potentially good news from across the border in Connecticut, where a lawmaker wants to commission a study on whether the state should authorities a third tribal casino located just over the Massachusetts border, Dan Glaun of MassLive reports. The partnership of the state’s two Indian tribes, however, says no more study is needed and plans to move forward with plans to review proposals already submitted.   http://bit.ly/1Qq1kD0

 

 

Sunday public affairs TV

 

Keller at Large, WBZ-TV, 8:30 am. Congressman Stephen Lynch discussing war with ISIS, US foreign policy and the presidential race

 

DC Dialogue, NECN, 10 am, Rep. Stephen Lynch (D) MA and political analyst Scott Spradling

 

On the Record, WCVB-TV, 11 am:  Rep. Mike Capuano who discuss Green Line expansion as well as the nomination process for a new Supreme Court Justice.

 

This Week in Business, NECN, 12:30 pm, Mass Gaming Commission Chairman Steve Crosby and Greater Boston Chamber CEO Jim Rooney

 

Inside the Brand, NECN, 1 pm. Hosts Roger Berkowitz and Larry Gulko get inside stories from Dave and Busters CEO Dolf Berle and Polar Beverages CEO Ralph Crowley about their brands and how they evolve.

 

CEO Corner, NECN, 8:30 pm   Boston Celtics President Rich Gotham and Putnam Investments CEO Bob Reynolds give us an inside look into their major multi-year marketing agreement.

 

 

Today: It’s all things New Hampshire

Iowa has been evacuated, and New Hampshire becomes the center of the political universe for the next week. Donald Trump’s second-place finish validates the hope in some corners that his candidacy is more chimera than real after he underperformed against his poll numbers. The Globe’s Joan Vennochi writes: “Now [Trump] has to show his poll numbers in other states are something more than illusion. And he will have to answer another question: If he can’t win Iowa, where can he win?”

 

Also today: budget hearing, many primaries

House and Senate budget chiefs Brian Dempsey and Karen Spilka join other members of the House and Senate Ways and Means committees to launch public hearings on Gov. Baker’s $39.55 billion state budget proposal. Administration and Finance Secretary Kristen Lepore leads off the hearing, and Auditor Suzanne Bump, Treasurer Deb Goldberg, Attorney General Maura Healey, Secretary of State William Galvin and Inspector General Glenn Cunha are also have been invited to testify. Gardner Auditorium, 10 am.

 

Joint Committee on Housing accepts testimony on 37 bills pertaining to Chapter 40B, the law that produces affordable housing using the comprehensive permit process in certain communities. Room B-1, 10 am

 

The city of Boston and ArtsBoston host a series of free events to celebrate Black History Month, starting with a kickoff celebration with Mayor Marty Walsh. Boston City Hall, third floor mezzanine, 12 pm.

 

The MBTA conducts a public hearing on the two fare hike proposals, aimed at raising between $33.2 million and $49.4 million. 10 Park Plaza, second floor Transportation Library, Boston, 5 pm.

 

It also is primary day for three House seats. Elections for vacant seats will be held in Brockton, Peabody, and Fitchburg.

 

In Suffolk drama, Globe editorial backs McKenna

In the soap opera between embattled Suffolk University president Margaret McKenna and the university’s board of trustees, the Boston Globe editorial board has sided with McKenna. “The trustees, who are supposed to look out for the best interests of the nonprofit university, must confront an uncomfortable possibility: that they, and not McKenna, are the problem.” http://bit.ly/1NOCtax

 

The board definitely is the problem, writes longtime Suffolk University political science professor John C. Berg in CommonWealth magazine. “On the one hand, there is a strong hope that McKenna can lead us forward to a period of strength; on the other, there is a profound fear that the trustees will once again set us back through their micromanaging of the university’s day to [day] operations and sacking of yet another president.” http://bit.ly/1STQ5sQ

 

And some Suffolk trustees are baffled by what’s going on, including Jennifer Nassour, the former head of the Massachusetts Republican Party. “For some reason the rest of us are being kept out,” she said in Globe reporter Laura Krantz’s update of the ongoing controversy. http://bit.ly/1m9rt19

 

 

Pollack won’t opine on millionaire’s tax

Now the score within the Baker administration on the millionaire tax is: No: 1; undecided: 1. Secretary Transportation Stephanie Pollack, asked after yesterday’s MBTA Fiscal Control Board meeting, said she had “no position” about the ballot question that would tack a surtax on incomes over $1 million. Andy Metzger of the State House News Service notes that Pollack provided written testimony in favor of transportation revenue in 2013 when she worked at Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University. http://bit.ly/1g3AhR6 (paywall)

 

Charter school principal excluded from  meeting with Rosenberg

A meeting in Greenfield with Senate President Stan Rosenberg organized by a group opposed to the expansion of charter schools blocked a charter school principal from attending, Shira Schoenberg of MassLive reports. Peter Garbus of the Four Rivers Charter School in Greenfield read a story about the impending meeting, but wasn’t allowed in the private home where it was being held. “I thought to myself, why does this even need to be a private meeting? What is there to talk about that can’t be discussed in an open meeting?” Garbus said.

 

http://bit.ly/1QWRVrG

 

Town of Medfield pays computer hackers ransom

This just in by John Ellement on BostonGlobe.com: “The town of Medfield paid a $300 ransom to hackers who installed a virus that completely disabled the municipal computer network for about a week, the town reported Tuesday.” http://bit.ly/1QEsbOF

 

Rosenberg slams Baker’s UMass funding plan 

Senate President Stan Rosenberg is calling Gov. Baker’s proposed 1.4 percent increase in funding for the University of Massachusetts system “woefully inadequate” and says the legislature will work hard to find a way to boost funding, the Daily Hampshire Gazette’s Dave Eisentadter reports. Rosenberg said he hears often from business leaders concerned about graduates leaving UMass burdened by student debt. http://bit.ly/205qZpZ

Millions at stake as MBTA sues Amtrak 

The MBTA has gone to court in a bid to avoid paying out $30 million this year alone to Amtrak for the cost of maintaining rail lines they share, the Boston Business Journal’s Greg Ryan reports. The T is arguing that an agreement to allow Amtrak to use the T’s Attleboro Line in exchange for maintenance and upkeep trumps a decision by a commission created by Congress to require equal cost-sharing. http://bit.ly/1nKgbC4

Fantasy sports companies scramble to keep cash flowing 

The decision by the main payment processing vendor for daily fantasy sports sites to stop handling payments to the sites has the companies searching for alternatives, Curt Woodward and Don Adams of the Globe report. The vendor, Vantiv, said Friday it would drop the sites by the end of the month. Boston’s DraftKings is not affected immediately, as a judge has issued a restraining order enforcing the contract between the two that runs until the middle of next year.  http://bit.ly/23Gswrk

Technical schools laud Baker funding plan 

Leaders of technical and vocational high schools are applauding Gov. Baker’s plan to boost funding for them in the fiscal year 2017 budget he unveiled last week, the Lowell Sun’s Amelia Pak-Harvey reports. Such schools in and around Lowell — and other so-called Gateway Cities — have some of the longest waiting lists, with more students than they can take each year. http://bit.ly/1SpZlFt

Clark is apparent target of swatting hoax 

U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark, who has sponsored a bill in Congress to make it a federal crime to cause a police response without cause, has become an apparent victim of the very swatting hoax she is targeting, the Globe’s Joshua Miller reports. Police descended on Clark’s Melrose home Sunday night after receiving an automated call reporting an active shooter at the address. http://bit.ly/1VGdpbB

The T tries to quantify ‘overcrowded’ 

The MBTA’s Fiscal Control Board is trying to put hard numbers on what constitutes an over-crowded subway car, CommonWealth Magazine’s Jack Sullivan reports. The T has surveyed thousands of riders and even staged focus group tests that involved seeing how many riders could squeeze into a confined space before others would refuse to join the fray. One finding: 18 percent of riders would force their way into a car, no matter how crowded it was when the doors opened.  http://bit.ly/20DMb8S

Anti-Narcan Facebook post gets Weymouth firefighter suspended 

The city of Weymouth has suspended a firefighter who took to social media to argue that addicts should be allowed to die from overdoses rather than treated with Narcan, the Patriot Ledger’s Christian Schiavone reports. Mark Carron, an 11-year veteran of the department, has been suspended 90 days without pay, Mayor Robert Hedlund announced on Monday. In the since-deleted Facebook post, Carron called Narcan “the worst drug ever created” and said most addicts saved with the treatment return to using a short time later. http://bit.ly/1o1W6qD

Lawrence gets OK to hire Spanish-speaking cops 

After initially saying no, state officials have now cleared the way for the city of Lawrence to hire seven new police officers specifically because they speak Spanish, the Globe’s Travis Andersen reports. The state’s Human Resources Division gave Lawrence an exemption from the so-called Castro consent decree because the new officers possess a specific skill in high demand in a city where half of the residents are Spanish speakers.  http://bit.ly/1SBhjTu

Why Stephanos landed at WCVB

Maria Stephanos will join WCVB as an evening anchor, a move that made sense given the position of the other competing stations, writes Gayle Fee of the Herald. Stephanos, who left Fox suddenly in September, will begin Feb. 29. http://bit.ly/23GBUeC

Jeffrey Gold MD

By Jeffrey S. Gold

For a state that prides itself on providing superior healthcare services for its citizens, Massachusetts is emerging as the state that no other state wants to emulate. No matter how much policymakers tinker with the state’s delivery of healthcare, we have the distinction of being one of the costliest systems in the nation – if not the costliest.

And as Governor Baker rolled out his fiscal 2017 budget this week with a projected $635 million deficit hanging over us, it was quickly evident that the cost of state-funded healthcare continues to be a voracious budget consumer.

The more complex the system becomes with highly structured programs and sophisticated cost containment efforts, the more expensive it gets. A 19 percent increase in the cost of the MassHealth program for low- and moderate-income patients in 2014 (much of which was triggered by the unintended automatic enrollment of an additional 379,000 new members at MassHealth) now threatens the viability of other necessary state programs.

Experts don’t agree on how to fix our health care system, but the most frequently cited cost drivers are the cost of prescription drugs; overutilization of our hospital emergency rooms for non-emergency primary care; escalating prices for medical procedures; and unnecessary diagnostic tests.

What health care experts agree on is that the fewer primary care physicians there are in proportion to the number of specialists, the higher the rates of mortality from heart disease and cancer. That decline in the number of primary care physicians also correlates to a higher number of low-birth weight babies and higher mortality. A health care system once focused on prevention has given way to one built on expensive intervention.

Patients who spend time with their primary care physician are more likely to be diagnosed for diseases and are less likely to use an emergency room for primary care. They tend to be healthier and better able to avoid preventable and expensive healthcare crises.

When we opened the first direct primary care practice in Massachusetts a year ago, we stepped off the hamster wheel that most primary care physicians experience every day. As direct primary care physicians, we have reduced the number of patients we see by two-thirds, which allows us to spend as much as an hour or more with our patient. We don’t accept insurance so we don’t spend a third or more of our day charting notes for insurance reimbursement.

Many of our patients have high-deductable insurance policies that cost less so they can afford the average monthly $75 fee that we charge. Instead of seeing 25 patients a day, direct primary care physicians typically see no more than 10. What they get is our undivided attention and a thorough assessment of health issues and lifestyle concerns.

A study by the health policy journal Health Affairs of an emerging direct primary care practice in Washington State found that the Qliance direct primary care practice they studied was nearly half the cost to the patient when they purchased a low-premium, higher deductible plan. A nonsmoking 53-year-old man who would have paid $11,068 for a one-year $1,000 deductible plan instead bought a higher-deductible plan costing $5,532 annually (plus another $828 for his Qliance membership) for a total of $6,360. Even with the more expensive $2,500 deductible plan, the annual cost was about $4,000 less.

The appeal for primary care physicians is a manageable day where we get to spend time with our patients and use our diagnostic skills to keep them healthy. In other words, we get to practice medicine and be the doctors we wanted to be while our patients have our undivided attention.

Massachusetts has yet to join about 15 other states that have filed or passed legislation that define DPC practices as outside the scope of insurance, but the move toward a direct primary care system is inevitable as policymakers begin to understand that our assembly-line healthcare system is largely benefitting insurance companies, pharmaceuticals and large hospital systems. Patients and their primary care physicians seem to be the least regarded part of this system.

The essential relationship between a doctor and patient is based on time spent, not technology. It is obvious that we need a course correction when a highly respected national medical journal thought it needed to study – and report – what we already knew, that “patients want their physicians to look at them — not their computer screens — while in the exam room.”

Sometimes the best solution to a complex problem is actually the simplest.

Jeffrey S. Gold, M.D., is the founder of Gold Direct Primary Care in Marblehead

 

 

Today: Walsh’s SOTC address; pot findings ‘eye opening’

Mayor Marty Walsh will give the annual State of the City address at Boston Symphony Hall tonight. His speech will focus on education, according to reports. Eric Levenson of Boston.com previews the speech here, checking in on the mayor’s promises from last year: http://bit.ly/20bm4WH

 

Pot legalization advocates and opponents can hear what a Massachusetts senate delegation learned on a visit to Colorado last week as Sen. Jason Lewis chats with Boston Public Radio hosts Jim Braude and Margery Eagan, noon, WGBH 89.7.

 

Antonio Caban of the State House News Service has posted an interview with Sen. Lewis this morning. “Back from what he called an ‘eye-opening trip,’ Sen. Jason Lewis says Massachusetts needs to be prepared for challenges, including the need for increased financial resources to regulate the industry, if voters legalize marijuana use by approving a ballot question in November.” http://statehousenews.com/

 

While the legalization of marijuana is debated, police brought charges against Bill Downing, a well-known advocate for legalization, on distribution charges. http://bit.ly/1PcRav7

 

Gov. Charlie Baker will deliver remarks at the opening of the MassArt Design and Media Center. 3:30 p.m., MassArt Design and Media Center, 621 Huntington Avenue, Boston.

 

The MBTA holds the first of several hearings on eliminating “late night” weekend service. 10 Park Plaza, second floor, Boston, 10 am.

 

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Quinsigamond Engineering, Science and Technology Center, 2:30 pm.

 

 

 

Millionaire tax debate debuts today

The issue likely will simmer in the political background until 2018, but today we’ll get a preview of what likely will become a very intense debate: a state surtax on million-dollar earners. A petition is slowly making its way to the 2018 ballot that proposes a surtax on incomes over $1 million – a four percentage point premium, moving the rate for the second million, and any millions after that to about 9 percent. If you’re unfortunate enough to make only $999,000, you would still pay the 5.1 percent income tax rate.

 

Advocates say we need the money (which the ballot language targets for education and transportation) and progressive taxation that begins at the $1 million level is only fair. Opponents will say the targeting the wealthy will only encourage their migration out of state, send a negative message about the Massachusetts political climate and damper growth. It should be noted that most states have progressive rates, and some, of course, have no income tax at all. Here are the highest marginal rates on state income taxes in the US (source: the Tax Foundation):

 

California: 13.3%

Hawaii: 11%

Idaho: 7.4%

Iowa: 8.98%

Maine: 7.95%

Minnesota: 9.85%

New Jersey: 8.97%

New York: 8.82%

Oregon: 9.9%

Vermont: 8.95%

Wisconsin: 7.65%

 

More fun facts: There were about 12,500 million-dollar earners in Massachusetts in 2013 who earned a collective $42.7 billion. Meanwhile, in advance of today’s hearing, 71 economists have signed a petition endorsing the millionaire tax, the State House News Service’s Andy Metzger reports in this preview: http://statehousenews.com/news/2016119 (paywall)

 

 

The action intensifies in NH, the land of indecision

 

What are voters thinking in the Granite State as the presidential primary draws near on Feb. 9. Apparently many, upwards of 40 percent, are not sure who they’re going to vote for, which only intensifies the frenzied campaigning of the candidates down the stretch, reports Christian Wade, State House bureau chief for the several Massachusetts papers, including the Lawrence Eagle Tribune. “New Hampshire voters are notorious for keeping their options open until the last minute,” Wade quotes Andy Smith, a political science professor at the University of New Hampshire. “These aren’t party activists, they’re just regular voters, and the majority of them won’t pay attention until Election Day.” http://bit.ly/209Eh71

 

GE river cleanup still ongoing

While Boston celebrates the decision of General Electric to move its headquarters to the Seaport, western Massachusetts hasn’t forgotten GE’s history, including the polluting of the Housatonic with PCBs, whose $250 million cleanup is ongoing, reports Gintautus Dumcius of MassLive, and the full scope of which is yet to be decided. http://bit.ly/1StFZyF

 

Pittsfield hasn’t forgotten GE’s decision to leave town. The company once employed 13,000, and in the 1970s began phasing out jobs. “There’s a faction of the populace here that just loathes GE to this day both for leaving and also for leaving PCBs that have to be cleaned up,” one former GE employee told MassLive’s Shira Schoenberg. http://bit.ly/1JW7IFk

 

Suffolk Construction hits casino jackpot

Boston’s biggest construction firm has landed the coveted contract of building Wynn Resort’s Everett casino. Wynn Resorts has tapped Suffolk Construction to oversee construction of its Everett resort casino, awarding John Fish’s company a contract worth $1 billion, the Globe’s Todd Wallack reports. Fish began courting Wynn immediately after he won the Eastern Mass. casino license and the contract is the largest single deal in Suffolk’s 33-year history. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Fish said.  http://bit.ly/1T121YZ

 

 

Oh no, here comes the snow

Reports of a big weekend storm already have Gov. Baker and Mayor Walsh on alert. They spent “five to ten minutes” discussing the weather, Baker told the Herald, as a storm approaches that could hit Friday night and last throughout the day and evening on Saturday. (If a significant storm does materialize, you can bet its approach will be covered as if a tsunami were approaching Boston Harbor.) http://bit.ly/1JecXjL

 

Senate to debate hands-free driving bill Thursday

One of the top items on the agenda of the Senate when it reconvenes Thursday is a hands-free driving bill that would also “make it illegal to enter information by hand into a GPS device while behind the wheel,” the Associated Press reports. The bill would ban talking on cell phones while driving; first-time offenders would receive a $100 fine. More from the AP here: http://bit.ly/1ZJA90K

 

DiMasi seeks pension payments 

Thomas Kiley, attorney for former House Speaker Sal DiMasi, plans to argue before the Supreme Judicial Court next month that DiMasi is owed $127,000 in pension payments withheld since his conviction on corruption charges, the Herald’s Laurel J. Sweet reports. Kiley plans to argue that DiMasi should have continued to receive monthly payments of nearly $5,000 up until the time the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up his appeal.  http://bit.ly/1OD4Ny8

Top line in place, real budget work begins 

With state budget writers in agreement on how much to spend in the next fiscal year, the real work of budget-building now begins, WGBH’s Mike Deehan reports. Gov. Baker and lawmakers now begin the difficult process of deciding where to spend the $26.86 billion.  http://bit.ly/1lqnLzy

Another state in play for DraftKings? 

Daily fantasy sports site DraftKings may have to deal with legal battles in yet another state, as officials in Maryland are pressing lawmakers to take up regulation of the burgeoning industry during the current legislative session, according to the Boston Business Journal’s Sara Castellanos. http://bit.ly/1Rxytmd

Data show black males most likely to be stopped

Black men are most likely to be stopped by Boston police, according to data the ACLU sued the department to have released, Boston.com’s Allison Manning reports. Some 60 percent of those stopped by police for questioning or investigation were black males, compared to the overall black population of 25 percent in the city. http://bit.ly/1Zye4gf

 

 

Today: The GOP debates; Lynch chats

Solar talk: Reps. Jonathan Hecht and Frank Smizik and Sen. Jamie Eldridge host a discussion about the community benefits of solar and the policies required to grow the shared, low-income, and municipal solar markets, Room 428, 11 am

 

Expect updates on the Health Connector, trumpeted as a Baker administration success, as the Health Connector Authority meets. The agenda includes executive director’s report, 2016 open enrollment and outreach update, and a “state innovation waiver consideration update.” It will be held on the 21st floor, One Ashburton Place, Boston, 2 pm.

 

Congressman Stephen Lynch joins Joshua Miller of the Boston Globe for “LIVE Political Happy Hour,” sponsored by Suffolk University. At the Modern Theatre, 525 Washington St., Boston, 5:30 pm

 

GOP Candidates contending for the White House gather in South Carolina for their first debate of the year. Candidates will again be split into two tiers based on polling data, with tier two candidates featured in a debate airing at 6 p.m. The undercard is at 6 pm; the main event starts at 9 p.m. with Fox Business anchors Maria Bartiromo and Neil Cavuto as moderators.

 

Coming tomorrow: Eviction protest

City Life/Vida Urbana plans a rally tomorrow in Dudley Square, 6:30 pm, to protest forced evictions. The rally will be held in front of 9-13-15 Ruggles St. According to the announcement, “In 2015, owners decided to clear out the building and convert to luxury housing. There are 5 families left in this 15-unit building, all low and moderate income, working class people of color, all long-term tenants. They all face eviction in coming weeks.”

 

 

GE wanted us as much as we wanted them

General Electric may not want to admit it, but it probably wanted to relocate here more than local business and political leaders wanted them to come. GE craves access to the newest innovations in health care, cleantech, robotics, and you name it. If GE was going to move and stay on the East Coast, Boston was the natural and really only choice.

Of course, political leaders have to pay tribute, in the form of incentives, in these recruitment situations, otherwise corporations feel disrespected. A $120 million state incentive number was thrown into the relocation announcement, but there few details on the specific inducements. The city has offered another $25 million in property tax breaks. It’s likely GE could have squeezed another city harder, but it would have ultimately been short-changing itself, for what it really wants is access to intellectual capital. Here are a few thoughts on the big news:

One of the most humorous promises by the state: A “Commitment to existing local transportation improvements in the Seaport District.” There are significant rush-hour gridlock issues in the Seaport, so it will be interesting to see what improvements are in store.

GE will indeed pay taxes: Known for its ability to avoid corporate taxes, GE’s move here will provide plenty of state income tax. Those 800 good jobs taxed at the 5.1 percent rate will yield serious revenue. GE CEO Jeff Immelt made $18.5 million in 2014. That would have generated close to $950,000 alone in Massachusetts income tax. More to the point, GE should be the classic gift that keeps on giving as it invests in startups and serves as a magnet for other companies.

One of the biggest winners: The nonprofit community, particularly those involved with STEM education and workforce development. GE will want to be a good corporate citizen and local nonprofits will benefit.

 

The Globe’s Jon Chesto, who broke the story yesterday, has a fuller overview here: http://bit.ly/1RlGdYu

The Boston Business Journal gets reaction from local business leaders: http://bit.ly/1P1zmmF

It’s better than winning the Olympics, says the Globe’s Shirley Leung: http://bit.ly/22ZVW38

About those tax incentives. WGBH’s Adam Reilly presses Mayor Walsh on the topic. http://bit.ly/1PZSU7V

 

 

80 amendments later, House passes opioid bill

The House passed an opioid bill last evening after hours of debate and some 80 amendment proposals. Republicans sought to restore stricter provisions in the bill, including allowing hospitals to involuntarily hold addicts for 72 hours, but were unable to prevail. The bill now contains a provision giving doctors 24 hours to conduct a substance abuse evaluation of a suspected addict. Much more on the bill, which moves back to the Senate as competing bills get reconciled, here by MassLive’s Shira Schoenberg: http://bit.ly/1RmA7XE

 

Northeastern adjunct strike averted

Recently unionized Northeastern University adjunct facility reached an agreement with the university yesterday, averting a planned walkout on January 19, according to an announcement released this morning by SEIU Local 509. The three-year agreement “makes significant progress in compensation and course stability, professional development and the faculty role in decisions that affect their work,” according to the union.

 

Three Powerball winning tickets sold

Early reports indicate that winning Powerball numbers were sold in Florida, Tennessee and California, putting an end to the frenzy that led to a $1.6 billion jackpot. Had a winning number been sold in Massachusetts, the state would have reaped significant rewards, reports Colin A. Young of the State House News Service. But even as it played out, the extra ticket purchases will help state coffers. http://bit.ly/231drjP (paywall)

 

Meanwhile, two $1 million Powerball tickets were sold in Massachusetts. http://bit.ly/231gA2T

 

Audit smacks judges over probation fees 

Judges across the state are unevenly collecting monthly probation fees, according to a report released Wednesday by State Auditor Suzanne Bump. According to MassLive’s Shira Schoenberg, judges routinely waived the fees without documentation or requiring public service instead and in some cases collected fees from those not required to pay. “Our audit found that rather than justice being impartial, the fate of many residents has instead been a matter of geography and dependent on which court supervised them during their probation period,” Bump said. http://bit.ly/1P2oq8m

Data storage hampering cop cams in Worcester 

Officials in Worcester have run into a hurdle in their efforts to outfit police officers with body cameras, install dashboard cams in cruisers and increase video surveillance at city police stations: the cost of storing all that video. The Telegram’s Nick Kotsopoulos reports that city manager Edward Augustus Jr. hopes to present a plan to the City Council for moving forward later this year. “There are phenomenal costs associated with the storage of that volume of video,” he said, noting that video would have to be kept for up to three years. http://bit.ly/1PZPmCE

Warren endorsement still heavily coveted 

Democratic presidential candidates continue to hold out hope they will receive the endorsement of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the lone female Democrat in the Senate who has yet to support Hillary Clinton, the Globe’s Annie Linskey reports. Linskey details the relationships between Warren and both Democratic front-runners, speculates that Warren may wait until the nomination is locked up and notes that much of Warren’s power base comes from the same supporters who are keeping Bernie Sanders hot on Clinton’s heels in the polls. http://bit.ly/1Q7DgJK

Sex offender info disappearing 

The state’s Sex Offender Registry Board says it is removing 40 names a day from its database as it moves to comply with new guidelines form the Supreme Judicial Court, the Patriot Ledger’s Neal Simpson reports. Meanwhile, a backlog of new offenders awaiting classification is expected to continue to grow until the board catches up with its reclassification work.  http://bit.ly/1ZwWApL

Walsh wants to toughen residency rules 

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh says he wants to toughen the residency requirement for city employees, though his proposal carves out numerous exceptions for current police employees and his own staffers, the Globe’s Andrew Ryan reports. http://bit.ly/1SOQuvG

 

Headline of the day: “Police remove deer suspected of being kept at a pet in East Boston” http://bit.ly/1SPfvH6

 

 

Boston’s highest rated Uber driver speaks

Boston magazine interviews a Boston Uber driver who won a driver rating contest before she moved to the West Coast. http://bit.ly/1RGlIGe

 

Quote of the day

“The issue facing lawmakers today is not whether marijuana should be legalized, the issue before lawmakers today is how marijuana should be legalized.” — Dick Evans, chairman of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.

 

 

 

Today: Fantasy sports returns while Crosby says the Legislature should act

Most of the drama in fantasy sports in the past few months has been taking place in New York, where Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has been pursuing top fantasy companies FanDuel and DraftKings as illegal gambling entities. Yesterday, in a white paper released by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, Stephen Crosby urged the Legislature to actively determine the legality of daily fantasy sports. “Until this legal uncertainty is resolved — which can only be done by the Legislature — the citizens of Massachusetts, DFS players, and DFS companies alike (including one of the leaders, DraftKings, which is located in Boston), will find their activities risky, and the DFS future utterly uncertain,” Crosby wrote.

This sets the stage for Attorney General Maura Healey’s public hearing today on her proposed consumer protection regulations for the fantasy sports industry, which will be held at 100 Cambridge St., 2nd floor — rooms B thru D, Boston, 10 am.

 

Also today: Baker on the radio, SOTU tonight

Mayor Walsh offers keynote remarks at the Corporate Mentoring Summit, an annual event hosted by Mass Mentoring Partnership, 11:30 am, at Ernst & Young, 200 Clarendon St.

Gov. Baker returns to the airwaves for an “Ask the Governor” segment, noon, WGBH FM 89.7.

President Obama’s State of the Union address begins at 9 pm tonight.

 

T closes some of its operating deficit; buyouts coming

Some positive financial news emerged from the T’s Fiscal Management and Control Board yesterday: the structural deficit has been cut in half for the first five months of the fiscal year, to $51 million. Higher revenues and some cost savings on energy helped. Now the T is getting ready to implement an early retirement program, with the goal of eliminating 300 positions. CommonWealth magazine’s Bruce Mohl has more financial details. http://bit.ly/1W20Bgc

 

The Green Line Extension: New price tag coming

There’s yet more T news. The T has brought in a new team to run the Green Line Extension project, including Jack Wright, a former Big Dig manager. A new price tag for the project, which was budgeted at $2 billion but was facing cost overruns of another $1 billion, is expected in April, Matt Stout of the Herald reports. http://bit.ly/1RIUZad

 

The T needs repair parts from museums

Yet capital needs appear to be endless at the T, and the need to replace its fleet of Green Line rail cars came up at yesterday’s meeting. The price tag: about $1 billion. Many of the Green Line cars are old, but the 10 cars that service the Mattapan Line date to 1945, reports the State House News Service’s Andy Metzger. “At times we actually need to reach out to trolley museums to get components and parts to be able to keep these vehicles in revenue service,” Chief Operating Officer Jeff Gonneville told the board. http://bit.ly/1JGYwoa (pay wall)

 

Almost everybody’s in favor of the GMO bill. Why won’t it pass?

A bill to require labeling of genetically modified food sits in the Legislature with the sponsorship of 155 of 200 lawmakers, writes blogger HesterPrynne. But will Massachusetts move forward and follow Vermont, which passed a labeling bill in 2014 that will go into effect this July if it prevails over legal challenges? Ms. Prynne makes the case for the legislation here: http://bit.ly/1Rj1IZZ

 

Ted Cruz’s case against himself

Harvard Law professor and constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe weighs in on the recent controversy about Ted Cruz’s eligibility to serve as president, saying the candidate’s “originalist” judicial philosophy about interpreting the constitution would, ironically, rule him out. http://bit.ly/1Zh4Rsp

 

The Massachusetts Competitive Partnership flexes some muscle

It is the business group for big-shots only: The Massachusetts Competitive Partnership, where only CEOs (or former CEOs) of very large Massachusetts companies can join. The Globe’s Jon Chesto explores the impact of the group, which includes the likes of John Fish, Abby Johnson and former Raytheon CEO Bill Swanson. While it conjures memories of the Vault, the once all-powerful group of Boston business leaders, Massachusetts’ economy is far more diversified a generation later.

http://bit.ly/1ZoS8td

 

Senator Joyce’s dirty laundry

An offer for free dry cleaning that Sen. Brian Joyce took advantage of for 10 years – that’s the story of the former Randolph dry cleaner. Or was the dry cleaning in exchange for Joyce’s legal services? That’s what Joyce, through his lawyer, claims. You be the judge, in this interesting tale by Globe reporter Andrea Estes. http://bit.ly/1OnLFnM

 

Group plans $18 million charter lobbying effort 

A deep-pocketed nonprofit coalition has launched the first salvos of what could be $18 million worth of spending aimed at swaying lawmakers to ease the state’s charter school cap, the Globe reports. Great Schools Massachusetts— a group led by Gov. Baker’s chief campaign strategist — and other organizations have begun the push with targeted mailings to certain state senate districts, including that of Senate President Stan Rosenberg.  http://bit.ly/1ZpCgGK

Be our guests 

Members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation have announced the guests they will bring to Tuesday night’s final State of the Union speech from President Obama, the Globe reports. A 9-year-old Syrian refugee will attend as a guest of Congressman Seth Moutlon, while Sen. Ed Markey will highlight the issue of gun violence with his guest and Sen. Elizabeth Warren has invited a UMass Lowell student to illustrate the issue of college debt. http://bit.ly/1ZY4LYM

Supreme Court says no to T speech case 

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to take up a free speech case involving the MBTA, Boston magazine’s Garrett Quinn reports. The American Freedom Defense Initiative had sued the T in 2013 after it refused to run their pro-Israel ads. The T has since updated its advertising policy. http://bit.ly/1JHomsl

MGM emails detail tension with city 

Emails between MGM and city workers in Springfield show the casino company took steps to avoid being responsible in the future for $64,000-per-day penalties if it was late in delivering its downtown casino, laying some of the blame on disagreements over the preservation of an historic building, MassLive reports. The issue, discussed in emails obtained through a records request, has since been resolved after MGM pushed its expected opening date back a year to avoid nearby highway construction.  http://bit.ly/1RztX6Q

Harshbarger to lead RI school probe 

Former Attorney General Scott Harshbarger has been tapped to lead an investigation into St. George’s, the Rhode Island private school under fire for its handling of abuse cases dating to the 1970s, the Globe reports. http://bit.ly/22X9i02

Cities face fees in panhandling cases 

The cities of Worcester and Lowell, which lost court cases over their ordinances that sought to limit panhandling in downtown areas, now face sizable  legal bills from the law firm that worked on behalf of the ACLU in the cases, the Telegram reports. Goodwin Procter has billed Worcester for just over $1 million in costs and fees, and is seeking $736,000 from Lowell. Both cities have called the costs unreasonable. http://bit.ly/1SfEN1y

 

 

Today: More on T finances; DeLeo to discuss opioid bill

 

Gov. Baker will present the Soldier’s Medal to Staff Sergeant Geoffrey Curtis for heroic efforts performed at the Boston Marathon bombing in the Governor’s Office, 11:15 am.

 

More conversation about the Green Line Extension: MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board meets to discuss the Green Line Extension project and the fiscal 2016 budget. Chief Administrator Brian Shortsleeve will also give updates on overtime and absenteeism. At 10 Park Plaza, third floor, Boston, 1 pm.

 

Opioid bill: House Speaker Robert DeLeo, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Brian Dempsey, Rep. Elizabeth Malia and Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez hold a press conference to discuss the opioid abuse prevention bill that is expected to hit the floor for debate and a vote on Wednesday. House Members Lounge, 1:30 pm.

 

The Friday night news dump, revisited

The Baker administration announced cuts and other maneuvers to close a $320 million budget gap at just before 5 pm on Friday. The late Friday afternoon news dump feels like an anachronism, dating back to when people got their news in print and would ignore the Saturday paper. The bad news inspiring the Friday treatment was the $50 million in direct budget cuts, with dozens of cuts getting reduced or eliminated, including a reduction in transitional aid to families with dependent children ($750,000) and a Big Data Innovation and Workforce Fund ($1.5 million). The administration plans to close the bulk of the gap with revenue gains through the rest of the year. The commonwealth already is $114 million ahead of plan in tax revenue. See David Scharfenberg’s budget cut story in the Globe here, and the list of cuts can be seen here.

 

Bigger problems await – about $1 billion budget gap forecast for Fiscal Year 2017. It’s from a structural imbalance, fancy words that that indicate the state budget is built to spend more than it takes in. A billion is a big number, and perhaps it will inspire another Friday evening news dump. Last Friday’s was worthy of a few laughs, as WGBH’s Mike Deehan graphically provided below.

 

Senators to leave for fact-finding trip on pot

A group of eight senators will travel this week to Colorado to explore the ramifications of legalizing marijuana. “There may also be particular provisions in the ballot question where lawmakers have concerns,” state Sen. Jason Lewis, the leader of the trip and chairman of the Senate special committee on marijuana told the Globe’s Joshua Miller, “and may want to at least debate a different approach.” A referendum question to legalize marijuana appears destined to be on this fall’s ballot. http://bit.ly/1RhNVCT

 

Breaking: Committee votes on $15 per hour legislation revealed

Breaking this morning: Some sleuthing by State House News Service reporter Andy Metzger reveals who on the Committee on Labor and Workforce Development voted for a bill in to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour for big box retailers and fast food establishments. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Dan Wolf, cleared the committee by a 4-2 margin, without the identities of the supporters or opponents made public. http://statehousenews.com/ (pay wall)

 

Mayor to back lobbying rules

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh says he is going to propose regulations for lobbyists at City Hall that could require more transparency to the public. “If you came into this building and you’re representing anybody — whether it’s McDonald’s or CVS or a developer — you’re going to have to register as a lobbyist to do business,” Walsh said to the Globe. Walsh said the restrictions would model state lobbying laws, which require lobbyists to disclose what they are lobbying on and who their clients are. He said he will file his plan next month.
http://bit.ly/1UIGEKk

 

What Mass. Republican surge?

Congressional Democrats in Massachusetts will waltz back into office, facing little to no resistance, reports the Herald’s Joe Battenfeld. “The state GOP is all but conceding the nine congressional races in the face of an expected surge of Democratic voters in the presidential contest, focusing on keeping the few local offices and legislative seats they hold.” http://bit.ly/1kZTQ0Z

 

Delivery problems persist for Globe

Thousands of Sunday papers went undelivered as the Boston Globe’s delivery problems persisted and more newsroom personnel were called to help deliver the paper. Dan Adams of the Globe provides an update here: http://bit.ly/1mQ6FMJ

 

And in case you missed it, Michael Levenson’s Sunday Globe feature explored the lives of newspaper carriers. http://bit.ly/1VZfP5O

 

Derailment raises safety questions 

Last week’s derailment of a commuter rail train in Andover raises larger questions about the safety of railroad tracks in the Merrimack Valley which are used not only by MBTA trains but by locomotives hauling crude oil and other hazardous materials, Christian Wade reports for the Eagle-Tribune. Officials believe the track in Andover was damaged by cold temperatures, which led to last Tuesday’s early morning derailment of a nearly empty commuter train that caused no injuries. http://bit.ly/1ZmUVTu

Pro teams back transgender rights bill 

Supporters of a bill to extend anti discrimination protections to transgender individuals say all five professional sports teams in the city now back the measure before the legislature, the Globe reports. The Red Sox had previously backed the bill and now the Patriots, Revolution Bruins and Celtics will come out in favor of its passage, possibly increasing the pressure on Gov. Baker, who is widely expected to veto the bill.  http://bit.ly/1ZfTUaB

Trump’s Mass. office vandalized 

Vandals struck Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s new Massachusetts office over the weekend, the Herald reports. The office in Littleton was defaced with graffiti calling the controversial candidate a “Nazi” and “pig.” http://bit.ly/1ZmX3e8

Toll change revives license plate debate 

A measure that would require Massachusetts to issue easier-to-read license plates may get new life as the Mass Pike makes the shift to open-road tolling, the Herald’s Hillary Chabot reports. The EZ-ID plate legislation was first filed more than a decade ago to help make plate numbers easier to remember but has never advanced.  http://bit.ly/1ZfRbho

Feds make Mashpee tribe’s status official 

Federal officials finalized their recognition of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe on Friday, clearing the way for the tribe to begin work on a Taunton casino as soon as this spring, the Cape Cod Times reports. The tribe noted that the publication of its federal recognition in the Federal Register comes after no legal challenges were filed to its efforts to take 321 acres of land in the state under its control. ““This cements our right to self-determination now and for future generations,” tribal council Chairman Cedric Cromwell said in a release. http://bit.ly/1PRUAjN

 

God bless the lobbyists

Lobbyists, often cast as villains in popular culture, received some succor from a godly agent on Wednesday at the start of the first formal session of the House. Father Rick Walsh of the Paulist Center, right down Park Street, beseeched a higher power to bless the work of lawmakers and others within the State House. “We ask your blessing also upon the legislative agents who work on behalf of various organizations. May they also seek the wellbeing of those who lack their resources,” Walsh said from the rostrum. After the benediction, Rep. Smitty Pignatelli remarked that about the only group left unmentioned was the press.

—Andy Metzger, State House News Service

 

Fascinating film – Boston by Streetcar, circa 1906

What did Boston look like in 1906? Here’s one of the earliest known films of Boston, taken by street car from Downtown Crossing to Copley Square. It’s amazing how much Boston has changed, and how much it hasn’t.

http://bit.ly/1SJn95D

 

‘Spotlight’ reporter attends Golden Globes

Actress Rachel McAdams brought Boston Globe journalist Sacha Pfeiffer as her date Sunday night to the Golden Globes. McAdams portrays Pfeiffer in the movie Spotlight, which is about Globe journalist breaking a story about sex abuse in the Catholic Church. Pfeiffer tweeted a picture of her Golden Globe ticket with the caption “Last Sunday I delivered @BostonGlobe to stranded subscribers. This Sunday, thanks to @SpotlightMovie, I’m doing this.” More on boston.com here:

http://bit.ly/1ZfNPuD

 

Mark your calendars: Walsh’s State of the City address is scheduled for Jan. 19 at Symphony Hall. Baker’s State of the Commonwealth address will be Jan. 21.

 

Baker, year 2: A different reality sets in

Gov. Charlie Baker took the oath of office a year ago today, and the consensus is he’s hit the cover off the ball. Year two, however, will present a different set of challenges, as the Globe’s David Scharfenberg writes in an incisive analysis. One is being on the hook for government services, such as public transportation, that are really hard to fix. The other, less-discussed challenge, is the emergence of strong ideological differences with Democrats on controversial issues, including charter schools and criminal justice reform.

 

The Globe’s Frank Phillips takes a look at the Big Three, assessing their individual challenges as the 2016 political season begins. http://bit.ly/1RdqrP7

 

Let the digital health revolution begin

It’s not every day that the Governor, the Speaker of the House, the Mayor of Boston, the former CEO of Raytheon, and the president of Boston Children’s Hospital are in a room together. But yesterday marked the emergence of a public-private partnership designed to put Massachusetts in the forefront of the digital health industry. Usually economic initiatives have lofty price tags. But this one, originated and driven by the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership, a business group, would is a highly economical effort to win the lion’s share of what is predicted to be a $32 billion market. The commitment is $250,000, according to a story by the Boston Business Journal’s Jessica Bartlett. She breaks down the initiative here: http://bit.ly/22NHZ8y

 

Does Bernie have a fighting chance in Mass.?

Bernie Sanders will open his Massachusetts campaign office Saturday in Charlestown, and he has the endorsement of Sen. Jamie Eldridge. The question is, how strongly is Massachusetts feeling the Bern? WGBH’s Mike Deehan looks at Sanders’ chances in a state that last had Hillary Clinton comfortably leading by about 25 points in a fall poll. But what about the passion for Sanders in the state, where 30,000 people would assemble to hear him speak? “The challenge for the Sanders camp is to capitalize on that raw enthusiasm and channel it into an effective grassroots campaign,” Deehan writes. http://bit.ly/1n7w5Gb

 

NBC plans to dump WHDH

In a move that is sure to shake up the local TV industry, NBC announced yesterday it plans to sever its longtime affiliate relationship with WHDH and build out its own station in Boston. Comcast, the owner of NBC, already owns NECN and Telemundo Boston in the local market. WHDH owner Ed Ansin told the Globe’s Shirley Leung he will fight the move through the FCC on several grounds. “I have a feeling a year from now we will still be the NBC affiliate. That’s how serious we think the violations are,” Ansin said. Ansin said he met yesterday with Sen. Ed Markey about the matter. http://bit.ly/1kPJnoL

 

Henry’s critical tweet

John Henry, who has 450,000 followers on Twitter, took to the social media platform Wednesday to criticize Emily Rooney’s story about his role in the ongoing delivery problems at the Globe, saying he ignored internal warnings the changeover wasn’t going to work. Tweeted Henry: “WGBH now has added a fiction writer to its news lineup. Makes for great stories!” No social media response from Rooney as of yet, but expect Rooney and others to weigh in on the delivery debacle tonight, 7 pm, on “Beat the Press.”

 

And here’s some criticism of Henry’s open letter about the delivery crisis from a reader who just wants her paper: http://bit.ly/1Rdpnef

 

Kennedy takes on Iran’s missile testing

Congressman Joe Kennedy plans to introduce a bill to expedite the procedure for imposing additional sanctions on Iran. The move comes after Iran’s recent test of a ballistic missile and reflects frustration with the slow response from the Obama administration. “No response is in effect, a response… if responses are nonexistent, ineffective or delayed, those are also responses,” Kennedy told the Washington Post. http://wapo.st/1VNrmoK

 

EMC job cuts loom

The fallout from Dell’s acquisition of Massachusetts’ tech bellwether, EMC, has yet to be felt, although the restructuring costs that have been put aside — $250 million – suggest a large number of job cuts. EMC cut 2,100 jobs in 2014 at an estimated cost of $120 million. “Michael Dell knows how to run a big business in a low-cost way. He knows how to compete in a commodity business, and he knows there’s a lot of cost to be taken out of EMC,” one observer tells the Globe’s Scott Kirsner. http://bit.ly/1S87Iov

 

Less bock for your buck? 

Eggs prices “will almost certainly go up” if voters if November support a ballot initiative that would require egg-laying hens be kept in cage-free conditions, the Globe’s Joshua Miller reports. Estimates for the increase range from a few cents to 80 cents per dozen, or about $12 a year for the average egg-eater. bit.ly/1PSsua5

DeLeo skeptical on T fare hikes

House Speaker Bob DeLeo says he isn’t yet convinced the MBTA needs to raise fare and pass prices now, the Herald reports. DeLeo says all other options for boosting revenue should be explored before prices are hiked. “The fares, I feel that that really should be our last item that we address,” he said. bit.ly/1S83j4V

And see Bruce Mohl of CommonWealth magazine’s analysis of how the intent of the Legislature – to limit fare increases to 5 percent every two years – was usurped by a single word change in the 2013 transportation bill. http://bit.ly/1n7GvFx

T discounts eyed for low-income riders 

The Globe, meanwhile, reports that in the face of planned fare increases, the T is exploring ways to offer discounts to low-income riders, something that has proven difficult to implement in other cities. Advocates say the approach would help keep public transit affordable for those who rely on it the most, but the revenue that would be lost is seen as a major hurdle.   bit.ly/1PSx1JG

Warren unloads on GOP, NRA

Seeking to provide cover for President Obama’s executive actions on access to guns, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren says Congress must now take up the fight to tighten gun controls to prevent Obama’s actions form being un-done by a future president. Writing in CommonWealth Magazine, Warren singles out some Republican presidential candidates for their rhetorical responses to Obama. bit.ly/1OEef7U

After deleting, Walsh now says texts are public record 

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has shifted his stance and now says texts send to and from his work phone are public records, WCVB’s Mike Beaded reports. Walsh had previously deleted messages sent to his work phone, making it impossible for the city to respond to public requests for them. Walsh’s new stance is also a contrast with Gov. Baker’s, whose office has insisted texts are not subject to the state’s public records law.  bit.ly/1OfcHNV

Will Pike condition keep tolls in place? 

The western end of the Massachusetts Turnpike is supposed to go toll-free early next year as the agency pays off long-term bonds. But officials say the Pike’s overall condition and need for repairs may mean the tolls stay in place longer, the Telegram reports.  bit.ly/1Ro7Y2N