State Ethics Commission meets with an agenda that includes details on legislative task force, update on new SFI electronic filing application, enforcement intake metrics, and executive director's compensation and terms of employment, Room 619, One Ashburton Place, Boston, 9 a.m.
Rep. Jonathan Hecht has reserved the Great Hall for an annual BLIND Day event, State House, from 9:30 a.m. through 3 p.m.
Gaming Commission meets with votes expected on Suffolk Downs requests for capital improvements and promotional fund payments, approval of Plainridge Park's 2017 racing officials, Plainridge's request for approval of a 20 percent pentafecta wager, Mass. Thoroughbred Breeders Association's Finger Lakes racing request, and recoveries of unclaimed winnings from racetrack, 101 Federal St. - 12th floor, Boston, 10 a.m.
Ways and Means hearing
A joint House and Senate Ways and Means fiscal 2018 budget hearing will be held on energy, environment and transportation issues, with Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack expected to testify, Endicott College, Beverly Auditorium, Wylie Conference Center, Beverly, 10 a.m.
Baker on the air
Gov. Charlie Baker is scheduled to appear on ‘Boston Public Radio,’ WGBH-FM 89.7, 12 p.m.
Healey at Tufts Medical
Attorney General Maura Healey speaks about her office's work to address the opioid epidemic as part of the Tufts Medicine Addiction and Opioid Epidemic Seminar Series, Tufts Medical School, Wolff Auditorium, 800 Washington St., Boston, 12:30 p.m.
DeLeo tours wind center
House Speaker Robert DeLeo plans to join a group of House members to tour MassCEC's wind technology testing center, 80 Terminal Street, Charlestown, 2 p.m.
Boys and Girls Club tour
Gov. Baker, Secretary of Public Safety and Security Daniel Bennett, local legislators and others tour the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Haverhill, 55 Emerson Street, Haverhill, 3 p.m.
St. Pat’s Day dinner
Sen. Eileen Donoghue co-hosts the city of Lowell's annual St. Patrick's Day Dinner, with Gov. Baker, Lowell Mayor Ed Kennedy, Reps. Rady Mom and David Nangle, District Attorney Marian Ryan, UMass President Marty Meehan, UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacqueline Moloney and comedian Lenny Clarke expected to attend, UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center, 50 Warren St, Lowell, 5 p.m.
Lessons from women who ran
Five female former statewide officeholders -- Martha Coakley, Kerry Healey, Evelyn Murphy, Shannon O'Brien, and Jane Swift -- will share a stage for the first time to discuss lessons from their years in public service, hosted by Boston Mayor Martin Walsh's Office of Women's Advancement, Faneuil Hall, 2nd Floor, Boston, 6 p.m.
DeLeo on the air
House Speaker Robert DeLeo is a guest on ‘Nightside,’ WBZ-AM 1030, 8 p.m.
Coalition throws its support behind Baker’s insurance assessment plan
Many in the business community may despise the Baker administration’s plan to slap an assessment on firms that don’t provide basic health coverage for workers. But a powerful coalition of health care providers, faith groups, community organizations, labor unions and advocacy groups are countering that opposition by voicing support for the controversial proposal, reports SHNS’s Colin Young at the Worcester Business Journal. It’s a classic divide-and-conquer strategy, not that we’re saying anyone pushed the group to make the announcement.
Trump jeers, Healey and ACLU cheer Hawaii judge’s travel-ban ruling
While President Trump harrumphs over a federal judge’s ruling against the administration’s latest travel ban, Attorney General Maura Healey is calling the Hawaii judge’s decision a “victory for the rule of law” while the ACLU’s Carol Rose says the move is a “victory for freedom and our American values,” reports the Globe’s Milton Valencia and John Hilliard. In Nashville, Trump called the ruling an “unprecedented judicial overreach” and complained it “makes us look weak,” the New York Times reports.
Btw: In a separate Washington lawsuit, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has joined other Democratic mayors in filing a friend of the court brief supporting a legal challenge to the president’s revised travel ban, reports Shannon Young at MassLive.
The Donovan Family Feud heads to Washington
Did anyone in the Trump administration bother to do a background check on James Donovan before nominating him for the number two job at Treasury? Granted, this may be a case of the sins of the father being laid upon the children. Still, from the Globe’s Deirdre Fernandes: “The 50-year-old North Shore native, along with his siblings, has been embroiled in a long-running dispute with their father, John Donovan Sr., that involved allegations of attempted murder, a frame-up, and a battle over millions of dollars and acres of waterfront property.”
Sununu and Rivera are now big pals in the fight against opioid trade and addiction
Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera and New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, who recently blamed Lawrence for the Granite State’s opioid crisis, have patched up their differences and are working together to fight the opioid epidemic, writes the Herald’s Chris Villani. “We are supposed to get back together this week,” Rivera said. “I think we are in a special place.”
‘Brookline’s liberal reputation is once again being tested’
Phillip Martin at WGBH reports on how deep divisions are developing in Brookline over the town’s move to terminate the jobs of two African-American police officers amid allegations of racial harassment. More than 200 people showed up at recent hearing on the controversial termination move.
MBTA would set a record, of sorts, by eliminating weekend rail service
From the Globe’s Nicole Dungca: “The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s new proposal to save money by eliminating commuter rail service on weekends would make it unique among the 10 busiest commuter rail systems in the country. No other major commuter rail system shuts down service for the entire weekend, according to a review by the Globe.”
The controversial idea is also catching flak from western Massachusetts, where Matt Szafranski at Western Mass Politics & Insight doesn’t like the cutback idea one bit. But here’s something interesting: In an editorial, the Herald notes the MBTA suspended suburban rail service in a cost-saving move back in 2012, so this latest move is not completely unprecedented, though the Herald suspects “an element of Washington Monument syndrome at work here.” I.e. What is the Baker administration really after?
Tito gets his ‘sexy back,’ but he’s still an underdog
We’ll let the Globe’s Meghan Irons explain the ‘sexy back’ reference. As for the rest of the story, mayoral candidate Tito Jackson is most definitely facing an uphill battle against Mayor Marty Walsh, who’s turned anti-Trumpism into a political art form, as Irons reports.
In a NYT Sunday Magazine piece on how the Democrats have transformed into the ‘party of no,’ Charles Homans writes how U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other Democrats plotted their anti-Trump strategy of basically emulating (our words) the Republicans’ just-say-no strategy during the Obama years. Bonus quote: Harry Reid reportedly told Warren “she needed to think seriously about running for president in 2020.”
Despite all the talk about the need to build smaller (and more affordable) residences in Massachusetts, “tiny homes are garnering only tiny interest from Massachusetts home buyers,” according to survey results released by the Massachusetts Association of Realtors, writes Jim Kinney at MassLive. It’s not a big surprise. Home buying and renting are two different things. Most of the “micro” units being built or planned today are urban rental units, largely for younger people without a family, while older folks with families, well, tiny homes just don’t cut it.
Sanchez: Panel found higher payments to big hospitals are justified
Despite disagreements among members of the Special Commission on Provider Price Variation, Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez, the panel’s co-chair, writes at CommonWealth magazine that a few common themes did indeed emerge from the group’s sometimes contentious proceedings: “Commission members agreed that higher payments are justified for high-quality providers and providers that care for sicker or high-cost patients. The commission also agreed that patients receiving emergency services or those cared for without their knowledge by an out-of-network provider should not be subject to a surprise bill.”
Fidelity, MassMutual and others working with Healey on ways to cut student debt
Representatives from Fidelity Investments, John Hancock Financial, Citizens Bank, MassMutual and other firms have been meeting with Attorney General Maura Healey’s office about finding ways to reduce students’ college debts, reports the BBJ’s Greg Ryan, who notes representatives from Harvard, Northeastern and other colleges are participating in the talks. The goal is to come up with recommendations by this summer. Fyi: Just yesterday Healey was unveiling a new online tool to help college applicants better understand financial aid packages, as reported by Shira Schoenberg at MassLive.
President Trump’s nominee to lead the Food and Drug Administration netted $156,000 in consulting fees from Boston’s Vertex Pharmaceuticals and another $258,000 from other drug-industry firms that he’d be overseeing as a regulator, reports the BBJ’s Max Stendahl. Scott Gottlieb, a former FDA official and a fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, received the fees between 2013 and 2015 and they’re drawing increasing scrutiny on Capitol Hill, Stendahl writes.
After months of teeth-gnashing over the potential loss of an iconic part of the Boston landscape, a deal was reached Wednesday to keep the Citgo sign in Kenmore Square “for decades to come,” Adam Vaccaro and Tim Logan report in the Globe. Related Beal, which now owns the building on which the sign sits, and Citgo Petroleum Corp. struck the deal after a lengthy negotiation session in a City Hall conference room convened at the behest of Mayor Marty Walsh.
Bump asking for more time and money to finish health-cost study
From the Herald’s Matt Stout: “A study lawmakers ordered nearly five years ago to see if the state’s health care law is reining in costs is turning into its own budget-buster, with plans to arrive a year late and carry a projected $2 million price tag — hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars more than anticipated.” Stout reports Auditor Suzanne Bump is asking for more time and money to finish the study.
Plans blossom for Boston Flower Exchange re-development
Every time you turn around, it seems another Boston neighborhood is undergoing major (and largely welcome) change. The latest from the Globe’s Tim Logan: “The new owners of the former Boston Flower Exchange in the South End unveiled their plan for the site Wednesday night, envisioning four lab and office buildings, with thousands of tech and life sciences jobs, built around a 1-acre public plaza lined with restaurants, retail, and a new cultural center.”
Many retailers like the idea of ending twice-a-year clock changes
About a third of recently surveyed retailers in Massachusetts said they wouldn’t mind permanently shifting to Daylight Saving Time throughout the year, i.e. ending the spring-forward-and-fall-back tradition of changing clocks twice a year, reports Gintautas Dumcius at MassLive, citing survey results from the Retailers Association of Massachusetts. “If we can extend those daylight hours longer into the evening, that's when people go shopping, that's when they are incented to go out to dinner," said Jon Hurst, head of the association.
Is political polarization mainly a right-wing phenomenon?
The headline on media critic Dan Kennedy’s piece at WGBH is a little misleading (“A Major New Study Shows That Political Polarization Is Mainly A Right-Wing Phenomenon”). Here is Dan’s more nuanced lead: “A major new study of social-media sharing patterns shows that political polarization is more common among conservatives than liberals — and that the exaggerations and falsehoods emanating from right-wing media outlets such as Breitbart News have infected mainstream discourse.”
The words “more common” make a heck of a difference, for both sides, right and left, seem to be getting more ideological (and polarizing) by the day. But the Columbia Journalism Review report does make it clear that many conservative voters are increasingly getting their news from a “distinct and insulated media system” anchored around Breitbart, of Steve Bannon fame, i.e. one side is getting more ideological and strident than the other, not that the other isn’t ideological and strident.
Meanwhile, it’s not easy being a young Trump supporter in Newton
Also at WGBH, Stephanie Leydon writes about Newton North High School students and Donald Trump fans who ended up getting the full social-media treatment for their political views. One of the students, who is Jewish, was labeled a Nazi. The father of that student is not happy with the school’s response to the online onslaught.
Longmeadow DPW worker killed by train during storm
This is very sad: A long-time Department of Public Works foreman driving a snowplow during Tuesday’s storm was struck and killed at a rail crossing by an Amtrak train in Longmeadow, reports Patrick Johnson at MassLIve. “Officials have said visibility at the time of the accident was likely poor,” Johnson writes.
Rattlesnake group to take public comments at meeting after all
The Rattlesnake Review Working Group looking at possible timber rattlesnake breeding locations around the Commonwealth now says it will accept public comments at its upcoming meeting, reversing an earlier policy to accept only written input, Emily Cutts of the Hampshire Gazette reports. The group next meets in Ware on March 22.
The Lowell School Committee voted Wednesday to bar Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents from entering the city’s schools or even receiving information about students from the district without a court order, Todd Feathers of the Lowell Sun reports. The unanimous vote came after the superintendent told the board several students or their families have received deportation warnings in recent weeks.
Switch to city seen as economic boost for Framingham
With less than a month before voters go to the polls to decide whether to switch from a town to city government, charter commissioners in Framingham are laying out an argument for change that includes a streamlined development review process that wold boost the community’s economy. Jim Haddadin of the MetroWest Daily News reports that commissioners who reviewed potential charter changes see electing a mayor as a way to give the community a single voice and vision that would help unclog the development pipeline.
The Charles River Conservancy is seeking public input on how to design a swim park in the Charles so that it would draw the most use, Donna Goodison reports in the Herald. The swimming park would be about the size of an Olympic swimming pool, cordoned off from the rest of the river—which the conservancy says is safe for swimming for most of the summer—and located at North Point Park on the Boston-Cambridge border.