More Than 1,000 in Massachusetts Died of Opioid Overdoses in Six Months

By Katie Lannan
State House News Service

Preliminary Department of Public Health data show 1,038 people died of opioid overdoses in the first six months of this year, an estimated 5 percent decrease from the same time period in 2020.

The preliminary data, presented by Acting DPH Commissioner Margret Cooke at a Public Health Council meeting Wednesday, includes both confirmed deaths and those estimated through a modeling process.

Cooke said the rate of opioid overdose deaths in Massachusetts increased 5 percent from 2019 to 2020, landing at 30.2 deaths per 100,000 residents or slightly below the 2016 peak of 30.6.

She said overdose deaths “have remained relatively stable” since 2016 despite a rise in the presence of the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl, which in 2020 was recorded in 92 percent of fatal overdoses where a toxicology screen occurred.

Previously released quarterly, the state’s opioid data is now published online twice a year, with the next report due in November. In May, the DPH reported a total 2,104 confirmed and estimated opioid deaths in 2020. Cooke’s presentation Wednesday showed 1,089 confirmed and estimated deaths in the first six months of 2020.

Leigh Simons Youmans, the senior director of health care policy at the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association, said the figures discussed Wednesday “demonstrate that the opioid crisis in Massachusetts is still just that: a crisis.” She encouraged people to “check in with those in their lives who may be battling substance use disorders and help them find the resources they need.”

“Our healthcare leaders and front-line providers continue to report that the virus has been a driver for substance use and personal mental health crises — particularly among people of color and individuals living in underserved areas,” she said in a statement.

Data presented to the council showed that confirmed opioid overdose death rates “increased significantly” for Black non-Hispanic males between 2019 and 2020, while decreasing for white non-Hispanic males. The overdose death rate for women rose in 2020, and the increase was higher for Hispanic and Black non-Hispanic women than for white non-Hispanic women.

Cooke said the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services plans to invest $40 million over the next four years “specifically for expanding access and enhancing services for Black, Indigenous and people of color communities.”

Dr. Edward Bernstein, a gubernatorial appointee to the Public Health Council and emergency medicine professor at the Boston University School of Medicine, asked during the meeting what the state has learned about the most effective practices for addressing opioids.

“I get letters from the Black community saying, you know, we’ve tried all this, what’s going to change?” he said.

Bernstein said access to mental health services, housing, jobs and education are all “key elements” and advocated for an approach that goes beyond public health alone to also involve community engagement.

Cooke said she agreed and that the state is “putting significant dollars” into a housing-first program that has been “seeing some great success.”

Lyons: Trump Willing to Lend “Helping Hand” in Massachusetts

Michael P. Norton
State House News Service

While former President Donald Trump has been a punching bag for Democrats in Massachusetts and an awkward topic for the state’s moderate Republicans, the chairman of the Massachusetts Republican Party is an unabashed Trump supporter and is newly touting his “one-on-one” meeting with Trump on Thursday.

In a fundraising email on Thursday night, Chairman Jim Lyons included a photo to mark the occasion of his meetup with Trump, which also included Lyons’ wife Bernadette. Referencing Republicans who recently committed to donating to the party if it underwent a leadership change, Lyons wrote, “We talked about the pay-to-play cabal’s $1 million bribe to ‘cancel’ my chairmanship of the Massachusetts Republican Party. I told him about our efforts to reform the MassGOP so that it works for you, the grassroots, and not the elites and the connected class on Beacon Hill.” Saying Trump “knows what it’s like to take on the establishment,” Lyons indicated that Trump is aware of the goings-on in Massachusetts, where Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, who has drawn support from unenrolled voters and Democrats to twice win elections, has not decided on whether to run for a third term.

“President Trump told me he’s with us all the way,” Lyons wrote. “He’s seen the work we’re putting in to bring a voter ID requirement to Massachusetts, ensure election integrity, and grow the grassroots. President Trump believes in Massachusetts Republicans … He knows we’re in the fight of our lives over the future of not just the Massachusetts Republican Party, but our commonwealth in general, and he’s willing to extend a helping hand.”

Last month, 16 individuals with a history of giving pledged to withhold donations to the GOP if Lyons remains in charge, according to The Boston Globe, and promised to raise $1 million for the party should it “reorient party leadership” and take “appropriate action to restore the Massachusetts Republican Party’s reputation.”

“The State Chair failed to denounce homophobia, used party resources to openly attack 29 of the elected Republican house members, is under investigation by law enforcement for potential campaign finance violations, and is facing calls for resignation from elected officials, past party Chairmen, and from major media outlets like the Boston Herald,” they wrote in a letter to the 80-member Republican State Committee. “Due to these events, we are no longer comfortable providing financial support to the MassGOP.”

Thursday’s meetup occurred at the Trump National Golf Club Westchester, which is located in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., according to a state GOP aide.

CDC Chief Signs New Eviction Moratorium Order

Michael P. Norton
State House News Service

Citing the emergence of the Delta variant, Centers for Disease Control Director Rochelle Walensky signed a new eviction moratorium order Tuesday that expires on Oct. 3 and applies to tenants in U.S. counties experiencing substantial and high levels of community transmission of COVID-19. The new order comes just days after the federal government’s previous eviction moratorium had expired.

According to the CDC, it issued the new order after determining the evictions of tenants for failure to make rent or housing payments “could be detrimental to public health control measures to slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.” The CDC said the moratorium allows more time for relief to reach renters, and for people to get vaccinated.

“The emergence of the delta variant has led to a rapid acceleration of community transmission in the United States, putting more Americans at increased risk, especially if they are unvaccinated,” Wolensky said in a statement. “This moratorium is the right thing to do to keep people in their homes and out of congregate settings where COVID-19 spreads. It is imperative that public health authorities act quickly to mitigate such an increase of evictions, which could increase the likelihood of new spikes in SARS-CoV-2 transmission. Such mass evictions and the attendant public health consequences would be very difficult to reverse.”

Downing Would Reinstate Emergency, Issue Mask Mandate

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Ben Downing is calling on Gov. Charlie Baker to issue a mask mandate that aligns with new federal guidance and believes the governor acted prematurely in ending the state’s COVID-19 state of emergency.

On the heels of updated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations laying out situations in which people who have been vaccinated for COVID-19 should continue wearing masks, the Department of Public Health on Friday issued new guidance advising that vaccinated people who are at higher risk for COVID-19, or who live with an unvaccinated adult or someone who is immunocompromised, mask up when indoors and outside of their own home.

Health and education officials also said they “strongly recommend that all students in kindergarten through grade 6 wear masks when indoors, except students who cannot do so due to medical conditions or behavioral needs,” stopping short of requiring face-coverings for the younger students who are not yet vaccine-eligible.

As of Monday, nine of the state’s 14 counties meet the CDC’s criteria for “substantial” or “high” virus transmission, making them areas where the federal guidance recommends everyone, including vaccinated individuals, wear masks in indoor public settings.

Downing on Monday said the Baker administration’s new guidance “both leaves school district administrators on their own to decide best practice on mask mandates and ignores the CDC’s updated guidance that vaccinated people should return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the country that are experiencing substantial or high COVID-19 transmission.”

“I urge Governor Baker to implement a mask mandate that mirrors the CDC’s updated guidance on COVID-19 transmission rates, affirmatively work with school districts on guidelines for mask mandates across the Commonwealth, and require vaccination of all state employees,” the East Boston Democrat and former state senator said in a statement. “Parents, workers, and families deserve much better than haphazard public health guidance from state leadership on Beacon Hill.”

To make sure the state can adhere to the CDC’s masking guidellines, Downing thinks Baker should issue another state of emergency, according to his campaign.

“Ben believes the Governor prematurely terminated the state of emergency and must declare another order to ensure Massachusetts can follow current CDC guidelines and keep our people safe,” deputy campaign manager Christina Gregg said in a statement to the News Service. “Based on CDC data released on Friday, four Massachusetts counties meet the criteria of a hot spot, while Gateway Cities across the state continue to struggle with high case rates due to early inequities and failures in vaccine distribution. Unlike the hands-off approach of the current Governor, a Downing Administration would work hand-in-hand with local community health partners to ensure they have the resources they need to implement a mask mandate and stay proactive in the wake of new data.”

The state’s mask mandate, in place since May 2020, came down on May 29, 2021 and the Baker administration replaced it with an advisory that unvaccinated people continue covering their noses and mouths in most indoor settings, with everyone required to wear masks in places like hospitals and public transportation.

The state of emergency Baker declared around COVID-19 ended on June 15.

Baker said Friday he is not considering declaring a new state of emergency. Asked that same day if guidance is as far as he is legally able to go without a state of emergency, Baker said, “I guess what I would say in answer to that question is, you know, talk to the lawyers.”

Baker, who has not yet said if he plans to seek a third term, said Friday that the state “is moving forward in this new normal and we’re moving forward safely” and that he expects “cities and towns to make adjustments to do what’s right for their specific school districts.”

He also spoke to the CDC’s choice to base its recommended protections on transmission levels county-by-county.

“What if you work in one county and live in another? What if you decided to go to vacation or out to dinner in one county and live in another?” Baker said in explaining why he opted for a statewide advisory. “And by the way, how is anybody supposed to keep track, given all the stuff that’s going on in their daily life, with a rolling seven-day average in which one of four elements is going to determine, based on whichever one is highest, whether or not a district is substantially at risk or significantly at risk?”

There were 4,366,853 people in Massachusetts fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Monday, according to DPH data. State health officials recorded 844 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, bringing the cumulative caseload to 672,488, with 197 patients hospitalized across the state with the virus.

Downing’s stance is at odds with another former lawmaker running for governor in 2022, Republican Geoff Diehl.

Diehl last week called for Baker to “reject” the CDC’s revised guidance mask guidance.

“The people of Massachusetts are smart and capable of making their own health decisions for themselves and for their families, including whether to get vaccinated or to voluntarily wear a mask,” Diehl said Thursday. “There is no need for government to keep interfering in our lives. Enough is enough.”

Massachusetts’ Gov. Baker administration announces transition at Executive Office of Public Safety and Security

Today, Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito announced the departure of Executive Office of Public Safety and Security Secretary Thomas Turco, III. Secretary Turco is retiring after more than 30 years of public service. The Administration also announced the appointment of current Undersecretary for Law Enforcement Terrence Reidy as Acting Secretary of Public Safety and Security.

“Since taking office, our Administration has been deeply committed to ensuring the safety and security of the residents, families and communities of the Commonwealth, and we are grateful for the leadership of Secretary Turco in pursuing that goal,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Tom has played an invaluable role in many major efforts to deliver a safer Commonwealth for all, including working with law enforcement, legislators and community justice leaders to deliver landmark police reform legislation. We appreciate his expertise and commitment to public service, and look forward to continuing to work with Acting Secretary Reidy.”

“Over the past three years Secretary Turco led the team at the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security and its agencies with purpose and dedication, and we wish him well in his retirement,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “His commitment to supporting the public safety of our local communities was unsurpassed and his thoughtful leadership was invaluable to our Administration. I want to thank Secretary Turco for his years of service and welcome Acting Secretary Reidy to this new role.”

“Public safety depends on all of us working together to build a culture of preparedness, responsiveness, and care for those in our communities,” said Public Safety and Security Secretary Thomas Turco. “I would like to thank the residents of the Commonwealth for their support of our work, the Governor and Lieutenant Governor for their confidence in me and my colleagues across our agencies whose collective partnership has advanced our vision of excellence. Knowing how our team will rise to this occasion empowers me to make this decision to spend time with my family who have been a source of unwavering support to me in my life of public service.”

“Serving on Secretary Turco’s leadership team at EOPSS has prepared me for the task of succeeding such an effective leader,” said Undersecretary for Law Enforcement Terrence Reidy. “I am honored to be appointed Acting Secretary of Public Safety and Security and lead a talented group of world-class professionals. Together with our partners in the Administration, Legislature, and local communities, we will fulfill our mission to sustain and increase public safety.”

“On behalf of the Massachusetts Major City Chiefs, I would like to extend our collective congratulations to Secretary Turco on his retirement,” said President of the Major City Chiefs, Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes. “Tom has been a phenomenal leader who we have benefited from. His wisdom, guidance, and ability to make the most difficult decisions has made the Commonwealth a safer place. His legacy will continue in our law enforcement community for years to come.”

“As Boston Police Commissioner, I experienced an extraordinary collaborative fusion under Tom Turco’s leadership,” said Retired Boston Police Commissioner Willie Gross. “Like Coach Belichick, he leveraged the strength of each local, state, and federal partner – challenging each to do their job and contribute to a shared mission. I thank his family for supporting Tom in his work to make the Commonwealth a safer place for all.”

Under Secretary Turco’s leadership, the Baker-Polito Administration has made several advancements on key public safety and security issues for people and communities across Massachusetts. Key accomplishments include:

• Collaborated with the Legislature and key stakeholders to develop, codify into law, and implement the foundation of the comprehensive 2020 police reform bill.
• Increased opportunities for implementing body cameras, including creating grant opportunities for municipalities and a dedicated program for more than 1,500 troopers within the State Police.
• Supported the Commonwealth’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic by helping to coordinate a statewide effort to distribute personal protective equipment and other critical supplies to first responders and other frontline workers.
• Led state-wide election security planning to ensure that residents could safely exercise their right to vote in the election as well as free speech.
• Developed the first-of-its-kind “Faith-Based Organization Safety and Security Toolkit,” an e-learning course for all houses of worship, faith organizations, law enforcement organizations, and first responders in the Commonwealth, and a similar workbook for large public venues.
• Supported funding for the Department of Fire Services to redevelop a former Department of Corrections site and create an academy in Bridgewater.
• Recruited and swore in 450 new State Troopers and oversaw the recruitment of the most diverse State Police class in history.

About Terrence Reidy:
Terrence Reidy has served as Undersecretary for Law Enforcement within the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security since 2019, where he has provided strategic leadership to the Massachusetts State Police, the Municipal Police Training Committee, and the Office of Grants and Research. In addition, Reidy served as a member of the Governor’s Task Force on Hate Crimes. Drawing on his prosecutorial experience collaborating with community leaders, he oversaw the creation of a hate crime resource guide for Massachusetts schools and partnered with police to ensure that every department in the Commonwealth has a trained, dedicated civil rights officer.

Prior to his work at EOPSS, Reidy was an Assistant Attorney General in the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office and Assistant District Attorney in Worcester and Suffolk Counties. His experience included supervising the Attorney General’s Enterprise, Major Crimes, and Cyber Crime Unit and the Worcester District Attorney’s Gang Unit. In Suffolk County, Reidy was promoted from District Court Prosecutor to Superior Court where he served in the Gang and Safe Neighborhood Initiative Units. In these roles, he developed collaborative relationships with federal, state, and local law enforcement as well as residents and community groups.

Beyond his work in government, Reidy dedicates time to volunteering as a coach for several youth sports organizations. He completed his undergraduate studies at Colby College and earned his juris doctor from New England School of Law.

MassHealth Coverage for Immigrant Children Called “Equity Issue”

Katie Lannan
State House News Service

More than 30,000 children and young adults in Massachusetts, including 1,650 with disabilities, are ineligible for comprehensive MassHealth coverage because of their immigration status, according to an advocacy group that backs a pair of bills aiming to extend coverage to that population.

Health Care for All is calling for lawmakers to pass a bill (H 1309, S 762) to expand comprehensive MassHealth coverage to all people under age 21 whose only eligibility barrier is their immigration status. Another bill (H 1310, S 763) would expand MassHealth’s CommonHealth plan to undocumented children and low-income young adults with disabilities.

“This is a health equity issue – immigrants face disproportionate barriers to care, and a lack of access to quality health care has been proven to have long-term negative impacts on children’s overall physical, cognitive and behavioral wellbeing,” Suzanne Curry, Health Care for All’s behavioral health policy director, said in a statement. “Especially in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Massachusetts legislature must pass the Cover All Kids bills this session.”

Both bills are sponsored by Sen. Sal DiDomenico and Rep. Dave Rogers and came before the Health Care Financing Committee for a hearing Tuesday. The sponsors said California, Washington, Oregon, Illinois and New York have taken similar steps. DiDomenico told the committee that a lack of accessible health care during childhood can have implications into adulthood, including a greater likelihood of developing chronic conditions and a reduced likelihood of performing well in school. “Both bills will break this cycle by knocking down barriers and expanding comprehensive health coverage to immigrant children and young adults living in the commonwealth,” he said.

Massachusetts House Approves Sports Betting

The House overwhelmingly approved a bill to legalize sports betting in Massachusetts on Thursday evening, but even before the vote, the question of whether to allow wagers on college sports emerged as a major sticking point between the House and Senate.

The House voted 156-3 to pass its sports betting bill (H 3977), something a bipartisan parade of representatives said was long overdue. Reps. Mike Connolly, Russell Holmes and Erika Uyterhoeven cast the three dissenting votes. Some said they hoped the House’s lopsided vote would send a message to the Senate, which has been less enthusiastic about sports betting, that the people of Massachusetts want to bet legally.

“I represent a district which borders New Hampshire. In Haverhill, you can literally walk across the border into New Hampshire and place a bet. I know that my constituents who partake in sports wagering would rather place these bets in their homes and in their own state and would rather have any revenue collected going towards benefiting their home state of Massachusetts,” said Rep. Andy Vargas of Haverhill.

For Rep. Dan Cahill of Lynn, Thursday’s vote was about something even simpler.

“Most important, it’s just fun. People are allowed to have fun,” he said. “And sports betting is fun.”

But even before the House took its vote Thursday to put some pressure on the Senate to act, House Speaker Ronald Mariano drew a line in the sand on Bloomberg Baystate Radio and declared that leaving collegiate betting out of any bill “probably would be” a dealbreaker.

“That’s a great point, but I tend to think it probably would be,” he said, adding that negotiations have not begun. “I find myself having a tough time trying to justify going through all of this to not include probably the main driver of betting in the commonwealth.”

Massachusetts has been considering whether to expand gambling here since the U.S. Supreme Court in May 2018 ruled that the nearly nationwide prohibition on sports wagering was unconstitutional and gave states the ability to legalize the activity.

“Some may say that this is bringing sports betting to Massachusetts. The fact is that our Massachusetts residents are already betting on sports. They’re either taking that short drive up to New Hampshire or to Rhode Island, where it’s legal, or they’re also going on their phones and using offshore applications, those sportsbooks, to bet or they’re also going to a bookie,” Rep. Jerald Parisella, who chairs the Committee on Economic Development, said while outlining the bill for the House on Thursday. “But what this does do is it brings it out of the shadows and into the light, and makes it legal in Massachusetts.”

Thirty states, including neighboring Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire and New York, have authorized gamblers to place legal bets on sports in some fashion. Meanwhile, illicit gambling continues to attract bettors in Massachusetts as well.

“We’re surrounded,” Parisella said.

The House bill would put sports betting under the purview of the Gaming Commission, require that all bettors be at least 21 years old and physically present in Massachusetts, and implement numerous consumer safeguards to protect against problem gambling similar to those put in place for casinos when Massachusetts expanded gaming in 2011.

MGM Springfield, Encore Boston Harbor, Plainridge Park Casino, the state’s two simulcasting facilities and racetracks that host live horse racing (right now the only one is at Plainridge Park) would be granted licenses to take in-person wagers as long as they meet rules and requirements of the Gaming Commission. They would be allowed to have between one and three mobile sports betting platforms, depending on the facility. Mobile-only operators could also seek licenses and every license would carry a $5 million fee.

“We estimate if all those licenses go out, the commonwealth could get $70 to $80 million just in licensing fees,” Parisella said Thursday.

A sportsbook’s revenue from in-person bets would be taxed at 12.5 percent and revenue from mobile wagers at 15 percent. Parisella said the higher tax on mobile operators recognizes the added costs that brick-and-mortar facilities would have and aims to drive customers to businesses that employ people in Massachusetts.

“I believe a conservative estimate is that we’ll raise about $60 million annually from the taxes on the sports betting,” Parisella said, citing a number higher than most previous estimates for sports betting in Massachusetts. “And as it gets matured, we believe that those numbers could rise.”

If college betting is not allowed, Mariano said, the revenue estimate would drop to between $25 million and $35 million annually.

“We are hopeful that the legislature will move quickly to establish a regulated market that will create jobs, protect consumers, and support the many Massachusetts businesses that are losing customers to neighboring states right now,” DraftKings Vice President of Government Affairs Griffin Finan said. “The time to act is now. We look forward to continuing to work with both branches to get a final bill over the goal line.”

An additional 1 percent tax would be levied on wagers placed on sporting events held in Massachusetts to be distributed proportionately between the facilities that hosted the events to be used for “sports wagering security and integrity.”

Rep. Ken Gordon explained last year that venues like Gillette Stadium or TD Garden will need the money to beef up their security “because they’ve got to protect against communication from someone who may be there to have a conversation that we don’t want to occur.”

The House bill would allow wagers on the outcome of college sports contests, but not on the performances of individual college athletes.

Whether or not to allow bets on college athletics has been a recurring theme in the three years that lawmakers have spent considering sports betting, and it is shaping up as the most significant difference between the House bill and Sen. Eric Lesser’s sports betting bill (S 269). That legislation is before the Senate Ways and Means Committee and is expected to be the Senate’s vehicle if or when it takes up the issue.

“If we are going to get a bill done, we both have to move,” Mariano said on Bloomberg when asked about the different feelings towards collegiate betting in the House and Senate.

Through a Rep. Paul McMurtry amendment, the House on Thursday added a provision to its sports betting bill that would allow the Gaming Commission to grant licenses to let some veterans’ organizations operate up to five slot machines. That is also likely to be a point of divergence with the Senate.

Ahead of the House debate Thursday, Lesser said he thinks his more reluctant branch is “ready to do this — if it’s done the right way.”

“I think we’re ready. Look, it’s been three years since the Supreme Court allowed states to move forward on sports betting. Since then you went from two states — New Jersey and Nevada — that had sports betting markets to 30. And again, almost all of our neighbors in almost all the states in the Northeast now have it,” Lesser, the Senate chair of the Economic Development Committee, said Thursday morning on NESN. “So it’s time. It’s time for Massachusetts to do this.”

The House and Senate are expected to take a summer break soon and it’s unclear when the Senate plans to take up a sports betting bill. Like the House, the Senate largely takes its workload one week at a time.

Though he said he thought the end of 2021 is a realistic expectation for sports betting to launch in Massachusetts, Lesser said “the Senate will, may or may not take something up in the near future.”

The House approved sports betting legalization last summer as part of an economic development bill, but the Senate turned down multiple opportunities to do the same. Lesser told the regional sports network that senators will likely key in on problem gaming and consumer protections if or when they debate the issue this session.

“It is, at the end of the day, a gambling product, and we do need to remember that. We have a lot of senators that are concerned about that and want to make sure that people who might have an addiction, people who might fall prey to bad activity, are protected,” he said. “So we’re going to make sure that any bill … has a lot of consumer protections in place and really sets a high standard for the quality of play.”

Sen. Cynthia Creem, the majority leader, is among those in the Senate who opposed casino gambling and have said they are not enthusiastic about sports betting. Creem said last session that she would be inclined to oppose its legalization and Sen. Jamie Eldridge, another casino gambling opponent, said he will work to prevent the state’s casinos from being allowed to take bets on sporting events.

Senate President Karen Spilka was among the opponents of a push to legalize casino gambling in 2010 before leading the successful effort in 2011 to get a redrafted casino bill passed and signed into law.

“There will be a lot of discussion,” she said in March, referring to sports betting. “I know a lot of members have had various ideas and thoughts about it, whether to do it or not do it, or how to do it. So there will be a lot of debate and discussion about it.”

Gov. Charlie Baker, who would be asked to sign any sports betting bill the Legislature passes, filed his own bill (H 70) to legalize the activity and has repeatedly written $35 million in sports betting revenue into his annual budget proposals.

The Gaming Commission, which would write the specific regulations for sports betting and oversee the activity under nearly every proposal on Beacon Hill, has remained neutral in the sports betting debate, but Executive Director Karen Wells has said the agency is doing what it can now to prepare for the possibility that it gets a new responsibility.

“We recognize that there is a significant interest in getting this going. I hear these representatives and senators talking about the finances and the money to the commonwealth, so we recognize there’s a public interest in us getting going as soon as we can,” she said last month during a hearing on the topic.

Massachusetts Ballot Campaign Taking Shape For Voter ID Proposal

Michael P. Norton
State House News Service

Massachusetts voters would be required to present identification to prove their identity at polling places, under an initiative petition that the head of the state Republican Party hopes to place on the 2022 statewide ballot. MassGOP Chairman Jim Lyons, a former state representative, announced the campaign in a Sunday, July 4 email in which he put out the call for at least 2,000 volunteers to help gather enough signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot.

“What’s clear to me, after serving eight years as a state lawmaker, is that Beacon Hill will never so much as debate the merits of voter ID laws, and that’s why we’re taking this question straight to the people,” Lyons wrote. In his email, Lyons linked to a Monmouth University Polling Institute survey in which 80 percent of respondents expressed support for requiring voters to show a photo identification in order to vote. The telephone poll was conducted from June 9 to June 14, with 810 adults in the United States.

Beacon Hill Republicans over the years have repeatedly pushed voter ID bills, which have failed to gain sufficient support to make it out of the Democrat-controlled Election Laws Committee. The coming debate over early voting and mail-in voting could give voter ID supporters a chance to offer their proposal. Opponents of voter ID proposals have asserted they could discourage eligible voters from casting ballots. Organizers behind initiative petition campaigns must file their proposed language, along with signatures from 10 registered voters, by the first Wednesday in August (Aug. 4 this year) to get in the running for next year’s ballot. Petitioners must collect an initial round of 80,239 voter signatures by early December, and a second round of 13,374 signatures next spring in order to keep their petitions on the 2022 ballot track.

Massachusetts Governor Baker Nominates James Budreau and Brian Glenny as Associate Justices of the Superior Court

Governor Charlie Baker announced the nominations of James Budreau and Brian Glenny as Associate Justices of the Superior Court. Attorney Budreau is a partner at Basil & Budreau, while Attorney Glenny currently serves as Assistant District Attorney for the Cape and Islands. Their combined legal experience totals 65 years.

“Whether in public service or private practice, Attorneys Glenny and Budreau have demonstrated a strong commitment to the communities they serve,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Should they be confirmed, I am confident their legal experience will serve the Commonwealth well on the Superior Court.”

“I am pleased with the nomination of these two very qualified and knowledgeable candidates,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “Their accomplished careers in the law make them well-equipped to serve on the Superior Court.”

The Superior Court, the trial court of general jurisdiction for Massachusetts, is committed to delivering high quality justice in a timely and fair manner in accordance with the rule of law. The Court’s 82 justices sit in 20 courthouses in all 14 counties of the Commonwealth. The Superior Court has original jurisdiction in civil actions over $25,000 and in matters where equitable relief is sought.

It also has original jurisdiction in actions including labor disputes where injunctive relief is sought, exclusive authority to convene medical malpractice tribunals, appellate jurisdiction over certain administrative proceedings, and may hold sittings for naturalization in any city or town. The Superior Court also has exclusive original jurisdiction of first-degree murder cases and original jurisdiction of all other crimes. If confirmed by the Governor’s Council, Attorney Budreau will fill the seat vacated by the Honorable Mitchell Kaplan and Attorney Glenny would fill the seat vacated by the Honorable Cornelius Moriarty II.

For more information about the Superior Court, visit their homepage.

Judicial nominations are subject to the advice and consent of the Governor’s Council. Applicants for judicial openings are reviewed by the Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) and recommended to the governor. Governor Baker established the JNC in February 2015 pursuant to Executive Order 558, a non-partisan, non-political Commission composed of volunteers from a cross-section of the Commonwealth’s diverse population to screen judicial applications. Twenty-one members were later appointed to the JNC in April 2015.

James Budreau
Attorney James Budreau has been a partner at the law firm Basil & Budreau since 2013. He specializes in both criminal and appellate law, as well as plaintiff employment, Title IX and tort defense issues. Prior to Basil & Budreau, he worked in his own law office from 1994 to 2013, practicing in criminal settings with a concentration on homicide cases that involved juveniles.

For two years starting in 2008, he was a member of the criminal section of the Boston Bar Association, where he developed teaching materials for the group. He taught employment law from 2003 to 2004 at Harvard University School of Law’s Hale and Dorr Legal Clinic. Prior to his own firm, he worked at the Law Offices of Blake Godbout as an associate in civil practice from 1989 to 1990. He began his legal career as a law clerk in the Massachusetts Superior Court, a position he held from 1988 to 1989. Budreau earned a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1983 before graduating from the Northeastern University School of Law in 1988.

He is a former youth baseball coach, lending his talents on the diamond in 2019 to the Jamaica Plain Regan League. From 2012 to 2017, he sat on the board of the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, working on education and community outreach initiatives. He was also a Jamaica Plain Center South board member from 2014 to 2016, where he worked on efforts to grow local business.

Brian Glenny
Attorney Brian Glenny has served as First Assistant District Attorney for the Cape and Islands since 2003. He has worked in the Cape and Islands District Attorney’s Office since 1987, where he began as District Court Assistant District Attorney. He became Superior Court Assistant District Attorney in 1990, a position he still holds today.

He also served as Second Assistant District Attorney from 1996 to 2002. Since 1991, Glenny has headed the Cape and Islands Child Abuse Unit, and has served as chairperson of the Cape and Islands Child Fatality Review Team since 2000. In 2004, he became Chief of the Cape and Islands Sex Offender Management Unit. Glenny was named Massachusetts District Attorneys Association Prosecutor of the Year in 2001. Prior to his service in the Cape and Islands District Attorney’s Office, he worked at the Law Office of Howard Potash and as an intern in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Springfield.

A 1982 graduate of Clark University with degrees in History and Philosophy, Glenny earned his Juris Doctorate from Western New England College of Law in 1985. He was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar in 1985 and the Connecticut Bar the following year. Outside of his work, Glenny has been a coach of the Sturgis East Mock Trial team since 2009 and a

Chang-Díaz Makes It Official: She’s Going For Governor

By Katie Lannan
State House News Service

Jamaica Plain Democrat Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz plans to officially jump into next year’s gubernatorial contest on Wednesday, launching her campaign with a knock on “Beacon Hill insiders” she describes as lacking urgency.

The first Latina elected to the state Senate and currently the only woman of color serving in the body, Chang-Díaz is rolling out a campaign video that touts legislative accomplishments around education funding and criminal justice reform.

“Those wins didn’t come easy. Beacon Hill insiders dragged their feet every step of the way, saying ‘think smaller.’ Instead, we fought unapologetically for the things working families actually need,” she says, according to the video’s script. “They said our ideas were impossible, we made them the law. The trouble is: that kind of urgency in our state government is still the exception rather than the rule. Too many leaders are more interested in keeping power than in doing something with it.”

Chang-Díaz joins a Democratic field that so far includes Harvard professor Danielle Allen and former Sen. Ben Downing, whose time on Beacon Hill overlapped with hers. On the Republican side, Gov. Charlie Baker has not yet said if he plans to seek a third term.

A former teacher, Chang-Díaz has served in the state Senate since 2009 and ran unopposed in her last two races. She co-chairs the Cannabis Policy Committee and the Joint Committee on Racial Equity, Civil Rights and Inclusion.

Along with stops in Springfield and Worcester, a campaign aide said Chang-Díaz plans to hold a kickoff event Wednesday afternoon outside Boston’s English High School, the site where Baker in 2019 signed a school funding reform law known as the Student Opportunity Act.

Chang-Díaz authored one of the bills that became the basis for that $1.5 billion law — which has not yet been implemented — and had pushed for years for an overhaul of the funding formula to better account for costs associated with teaching low-income students and English learners, special education and employee health care.

In the Senate, Chang-Díaz has been a voice for progressive causes from criminal justice reform to the more recent policing accountability law Baker signed last year. She was among the lead negotiators of the police reform bill and has also recently advocated for efforts to ensure greater equity in the state’s COVID-19 vaccination strategy.

In her video, Chang-Díaz discusses her family background, saying her mom was a social worker and her dad an immigrant who became NASA’s first Latino astronaut.

“If my mom can spend a lifetime helping kids escape poverty, surely Massachusetts can pass a Millionaires Tax to help more children get a better start in life,” she says. “If America can send a poor kid from Costa Rica to space, surely Massachusetts can green our infrastructure and close the racial wealth divide.”

More than a year ahead of the 2022 Democratic primary, the contest centers around candidates from the Boston area — Chang-Díaz lives in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood and her Senate district also includes parts of Dorchester, Hyde Park, Mattapan, Mission Hill, Roslindale, Roxbury, and the South End. Downing, who represented the Berkshires in the Senate, now lives in East Boston, and Allen resides in Cambridge.

Allen, the first Black woman to seek the Massachusetts governorship as a major party candidate, formally launched her campaign last week, critiquing a “pretty rocky start” on vaccinations and saying Massachusetts needs an “administration that sees the leadership ideas, the solutions that are emerging from the ground and invest in those, helps to scale them up.”

Downing, who in February was the first gubernatorial hopeful to declare, also did so with a call for urgency from Beacon Hill and criticism of the vaccine rollout. He’s said that, if elected, he would be “constantly pushing” his former colleagues in the Legislature for progress on issues including climate change, economic justice and racial equity.

Chang-Díaz announced in late March that she was “seriously considering” a run for governor. The next month, she took in more than $21,000 in donations, and as of May 31 her campaign account’s balance stood at almost $203,165, landing so far in the middle of the pack among declared Democrats.

While she was mulling it over, a “Draft Sonia Chang-Díaz” campaign circulated online, arguing, “In this critical time, Massachusetts needs a governor like Sonia Chang-Díaz to lead a movement of progressive change from the corner office, fighting for justice and equity across the Commonwealth.”

State Rep. Nika Elugardo was among those to say they’d signed the petition.

Allen’s campaign has about $283,279 in the bank, and Downing’s $111,399, according to the Office of Campaign and Political Finance.

Contributions that flowed in since Chang-Díaz first floated her bid include $250 from 2014 gubernatorial hopeful Donald Berwick, $100 from 2018 Congressional candidate Alexandra Chandler, and $1,000 from a former Senate colleague, Cape Air CEO Daniel Wolf.

Baker has more than $484,000 on hand, and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito’s balance is above $2 million, including the more than $47,800 she collected in May.

Chang-Díaz is not the only state senator eyeing a statewide run in 2022. Sen. Diana DiZoglio, a Methuen Democrat, is running for auditor, and others are said to be considering campaigns for higher office.

In the House, Rep. Tami Gouveia, an Acton Democrat, announced her run for lieutenant governor earlier this month.

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