Due to today’s blizzard conditions, all non-emergency state offices will be closed, legislative hearings and other State House activities have either been cancelled or postponed, and Gov. Charlie Baker has asked people to stay off the roads and for private employers to allow as many employees as possible to work remotely from home. The T has also announced some reduced services and warns of some delays.
Locally, most school districts and town offices have announced they will be closed for the day.
Gov. Baker, Energy and Environmental Affairs Matthew Beaton, Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack and public safety and transportation officials plan to hold a morning press conference to provide a winter storm update, MassDOT Highway Operations Center, 50 Massport Haul Rd, Boston.
As a major blizzard bears down on the state today, the MBTA, which has recently invested tens of millions of dollars to improve its operations during harsh weather conditions, will be under the performance spotlight once again today. At its web site, the T acknowledges it’s reducing some of its operations today, such as ferry services, Orange Line trolley trips and some commuter rail services. But it’s hoping to keep its other “core” services up and running, as reported by Shira Schoenberg at MassLive.
While the MBTA has announced plans to curtail some services today due to the storm, criticism is mounting over the T’s tentative plans to curtail future weekend commuter rail service, largely to save money. In fact, it’s already turning into a campaign issue. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Gonzalez labeled the proposal “unacceptable” and blasted the Baker administration for even considering it, reports the Herald’s Matt Stout. Other Democrats are also harshly criticizing the rail cutback, reports SHNS’s Andy Metzger at WCVB.
‘Porn Website Says It Will Plow Snow in Boston for Free’
We’re pretty sure the city of Boston doesn’t need, nor want, this type of help today. From Spencer Buell at Boston Magazine: “When Boston plow truck drivers get to work clearing snow during (today’s) big storm, they’ll have some help—from Pornhub. Pledging to assist anyone who ‘wants to get plowed,’ the adult entertainment site says it is sending out a fleet of branded trucks to clean the city’s streets and parking lots for free.”
Democrats switching convention from Lowell to Worcester
From Mark Sullivan at the Telegram: “In a location switch, the Massachusetts Democratic Party announced Monday it will hold its annual state convention at the DCU Center in Worcester on June 3. Democrats had originally had planned to hold this year's state convention in Lowell, but scheduling problems at the original venue, the Tsongas Center in Lowell, prevented the use of the facility for the full day.”
Setti’s campaign committee includes former Gov. Dukakis and other big-name Dems
While some Dems say that none of their party’s declared (or semi-declared) gubernatorial candidates are generating enthusiasm, Newton Mayor Setti Warren keeps racking up some big-name supporters. The latest evidence: Former Gov. Michael Dukakis, former state Treasurer Steve Grossman, former Vertex executive Josh Boger and dozens of others campaign and political activists are now listed as members Warren’s campaign finance committee, reports the AP at CBS Boston. It sure looks like some Dems are excited about Warren’s still unofficial candidacy, right?
Sal seeks lifting of some home-confinement restrictions
Former Massachusetts Speaker of the House Sal DiMasi, convicted on corruption charges in 2011, is seeking an easing of his home-confinement restrictions so that the 71-year-old can attend “more hospital and therapy visits and to participate in more exercise programs at the local YMCA,” reports the Globe’s Milton Valencia. DiMasi’s attorneys are asking that DiMasi abide by a 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew, Valencia writes.
Ex-FBI agent John Connolly to appear before Florida parole board
Meanwhile, disgraced former FBI agent John Connolly, an ex-Whitey Bulger pal now serving a 40-year sentence for second-degree murder, is scheduled to appear before Florida’s parole board to possibly establish a “presumptive release date to work toward,” reports the Herald’s Laurel Sweet, who notes that Connolly is technically not considered parole-eligible at this point.
Conservative Rick Green backs out of Senate race, urges GOP unity against Warren
Rick Green, a businessman and chairman of the conservative Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, has bowed out of a possible run for U.S. Senate and he’s urging Republicans to decide soon on a candidate to challenge U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, reports SHNS’s Matt Murphy at the Sentinel & Enterprise. Green’s move comes as Republican businessman John Kingston mulls a race for the Senate. State Rep. Geoff Diehl, former Sox hurler Curt Schilling and MIT alum Shiva Ayyadurai have also expressed interest in running in a Republican primary.
Pot backers: ‘The new law requires no legislative fixes’
From SHNS’s Colin Young at the Recorder: “Marijuana activists responded Monday to what it called a ‘false narrative’ that the marijuana legalization law passed last year by voters requires legislative fixes, and urged the new marijuana committee to focus instead on issues not addressed in the ballot law. ... ‘The new law requires no legislative fixes,’ Jim Borghesani, who acted as communications director for the successful Yes on 4 campaign, said.”
Warren (and analysts): Hundreds of thousands could lose health coverage in Bay State
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren warned yesterday that hundreds of thousands of people in Massachusetts could lose their health insurance coverage should Congressional Republicans pass legislation replacing the Affordable Care Act, writes Gintautas Dumcius at MassLive. "The Republican bill that's on the floor of the House right now would touch every family in Massachusetts and it would cause significant harm," Warren said in Quincy yesterday.
The Globe’s Felice Freyer quotes Health Care for All as estimating that 300,000 people would be dropped from MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program, based on the Congressional Budget Office projections. The cutbacks would be in the long-term, due mainly to reduced federal subsidies.
Separately, Warren also penned an opinion piece at Wicked Local in which she says the Republican plan would merely exacerbate the opioid-addiction crisis here and elsewhere by “slashing critical coverage and funding for substance use disorder and coverage for mental health.”
Kennedy steps into national spotlight with his criticisms of GOP health plan
Meanwhile, the AP’s Mary Clare Jalonick writes at MetroWest Daily News that U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III had led a relatively low-key life in Congress since he was first elected in 2012 – until House Republicans unveiled their health-care plan and Kennedy began ripping into the proposal, establishing himself as a major Democratic voice of opposition in the process.
From the Herald’s O’Ryan Johnson: “U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano took aim at his own party at a town hall meeting in Somerville last night, blasting Democrats for pursuit of ideological perfection over viable candidates. ‘I don’t believe in purity tests,’ Capuano said. ‘Perfection is our enemy ... not because we don’t want perfect candidates, but because perfect candidates don’t exist.’”
‘How Stan Rosenberg’s War Against Millionaires Screws Us All’
Writing at Boston Magazine, Colin Kingsbury says that the proposed ‘millionaires tax’ backed by Senate President Stan Rosenberg is similar to a get-rich-quick scheme that could end up harming Massachusetts. He warns that millionaires, faced with a bigger tax bite here, can always move out of state, that there’s no guarantee the extra tax revenues will be spent as stated by backers and that the new tax would create massive revenue uncertainties.
Could Massachusetts actually pick up a Congressional seat after the 2020 census?
After more than a 100 years of losing Congressional seats, Massachusetts could reverse the trend by nabbing a tenth seat in the U.S. House – if everyone is properly counted in the 2020 census, according to Secretary of State Bill Galvin, as reported at New Boston Post. “I think the census in 2020 is going to be a defining matter for our state,” said Galvin, who nevertheless worries whether enough immigrants will get counted.
The Herald’s Jessica Heslam this morning continues with her excellent series on the connection between sex trafficking and drug dealing in Massachusetts,profiling an ex-pimp whose first sex-trafficking act was to pimp out his 14-year-old girlfriend and then looking at how police street-corner stings have been largely replaced with police cyber sleuthing to disrupt the sex trade.
Body camera backers: Make the program permanent, not a perpetual pilot effort
From the Herald’s Antonio Planas: “Outraged body camera supporters are screaming politics as the motivation behind Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s decision to extend the police department’s pilot program another six months rather than moving toward full implementation. ... ‘It’s a political maneuver. ... Police vote and their families vote,’ said Segun Idowu, co-organizer of the Boston Police Camera Action Team.”
History in the making: State pushes historic designation for Boston’s Fish Pier
The Massachusetts Historical Commission has voted to recommend that the Fish Pier in South Boston’s waterfront area be included on the National Register of Historic Places, a move backed by Southie leaders and usually approved by the National Park Service, reports the Globe’s Jon Chesto.
From Shira Schoenberg at MassLive: “Massachusetts Treasurer Deborah Goldberg on Monday announced a pilot program to create college savings accounts for low-income middle school students in five cities. The cities are Springfield, Worcester, Pittsfield, Lowell and Haverhill. ‘Access to an affordable higher education provides a pathway to economic stability for many children and families,’ Goldberg said in a statement.”
Is Gov. Charlie Baker’s proposed assessment/tax on employers who don’t provide minimum health-care coverage to workers the rough equivalent of the 2013 ‘tech tax’ that outraged the technology community and forced lawmakers and then-Gov. Deval Parick to beat a hasty retreat? Michael Widmer, the former head of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, thinks so, calling the two revenue raisers ‘close cousins.’
First, did you know that New Hampshire, as a percentage of its population, has more Irish Americans than Massachusetts? Second, do you know the Massachusetts town with the highest percentage of people tracing their ancestry to Ireland? Hint: It starts with ‘M.’ Gerry Tuoti at Wicked Local has all the St. Patrick’s Day bragging-rights details and a town-by-town interactive map of the Irish in the Bay State.
Bristol Community College continues to build out its casino training lab and roll out its casino-focused courses even though the Wampanoag tribe’s nearby casino project has stalled in the face of legal challenges, Rebecca Hyman of the Taunton Gazette reports. School officials note that despite the proximity of its gaming lab—inside the Silver Side Galleria —to the proposed casino, the training program is meant to train dealers and others for casinos across the region.
Enjoying a competitive advantage after competitors Uber and Lyft pulled out of providing service in Austin, Texas during the South by Southwest Festival, Boston-based Fasten has instead stumbled in providing services there in the face of heavy demand, Kelly J. O’Brien of the Boston Business Journal reports. Uber and Lyft are boycotting the city after a fingerprinting requirement for drivers was put in place.
Despite some improvement, Massachusetts still gets a failing grade from the Nichols College Institute for Women’s Leadership on the number of women in key positions across the state, Scott O’Connell of the Telegram reports. The institute’s Women’s Leadership Index—which takes into account women in top roles in the corporate, public service and non-profit sectors— gave the state a score of 39 out of 100 this year, up from 37 in 2015.
Balloons could become part of Cape shark-spotting system
Cape officials will test a system this summer that uses balloons equipped with extra high-definition cameras to monitor beachside waters for shark activity, Doug Fraser of the Cape Cod Times reports. The balloons would offer a less-expensive supplement to the planes currently used to spot sharks.
We inaccurately attributed a WBUR story yesterday, on why so many in central Massachusetts supported Donald Trump, to another radio station. Our apologies. But this does give us another opportunity to plug a good story by Anthony Brooks.