Window Into The State House

Lawmakers appear ready to ban handheld phones in cars   SHNS’s Katie Lannan (pay wall) and MassLive’s Shira Schoenberg report that House lawmakers appear ready to go along with the Senate in banning handheld cell phones in cars – and a vote on a ban could come as soon as next week. Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, supports the measure. The Globe’s Matt Stout reports that House Speaker Robert DeLeo is planning to discuss with other chamber leaders a “two-pronged bill” that would address distracted driving and concerns that a ban could lead to racial profiling.  
  Baker and Spilka on budget surplus: Handle with care   Sure, there’s more than a few people on Beacon Hill who would love to spend what may be a rather large end-of-year state budget surplus, thanks to a huge influx of tax-collection revenues in April. But SHNS’s Matt Murphy reports that Gov. Charlie Baker and Senate President Karen Spilka believe a large bulk of any surplus, which could conceivably reach as high as $1 billion, should be socked away in the state’s reserve fund. The Herald’s Mary Markos reports that others are cautioning that last month’s tax-collection windfall is probably just a one-month affair.  
  Pork busters? Not these GOP lawmakers   The Globe’s Victoria McGrane and Matt Stout report how some Republicans have expressed shock and dismay at the recent behind-the-scenes budget antics of the Democratic-controlled House. But behind the scenes Republican leaders were grabbing whatever tax dollars they could get for their districts, in an old-fashioned display of “budget pork” spending.  
  ‘Mnuchin Gives Richie the Bird, Not Trump’s Taxes’   From the AP at MassLive: “Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has made it official: The administration won’t be turning President Donald Trump’s tax returns over to the Democratic-controlled House. Mnuchin told Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., in a Monday letter that the panel’s request ‘lacks a legitimate legislative purpose’ as Supreme Court precedent requires.”  The NYT reportsthe case is now likely headed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Meanwhile, Matt Szafranski at Western Mass Politics & Insight provides some background info on the controversy, as well as providing us with the headline above.   
  Lelling defends charges against judge: ‘There’s nothing political about this case’   U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling last night defended his office’s charges against a sitting state judge accused of helping an undocumented immigrant to escape detention by an ICE agent, saying that there was “nothing political” about the indictment and that it was a strict “rule-of-law case.” Appearing on WGBH’s Greater Boston, Lelling also took swipes at state and local prosecutors now criticizing his move, noting that none of them stepped forward to initially complain about the judge’s actions. WGBH staff and the Globe’s Danny McDonald have more.  
  T’s ambitious repair program runs into a problem: Lack of staffing   CommonWealth magazine’s Andy Metzger and the Globe’s Adam Vaccao report that the T is rethinking the pace and approach towards its ambitious big-bucks plan to fix the transit agency’s infrastructure in coming years. Among the problems: It currently doesn’t have the staff to handle an immediate flood of repair projects.   
  Metco moves to a lottery system to choose students   It makes more sense than the current quasi-birthright system. From the Globe’s James Vaznis: “The days of Boston families signing up their children for the Metco program as soon as they are born are now history. Massachusetts education officials have given the voluntary school integration program permission to choose students through a lottery instead of on a first-come first-serve basis, in an effort to bring more fairness to those who get in. Under the changes, announced Monday, parents will be able to submit applications only in the fall for the following school year.”  
  Ex-GOP chair Nassour announces run for Boston City Council   Jennifer Nassour, the former chair of the state Republican Party and a Back Bay resident, has announced she’s running for the Boston City Council seat now held by Josh Zakim, who isn’t seeking re-election following his failed primary bid last year for secretary of state. Though council elections are non-partisan affairs, Universal Hub notes of Nassour: “If elected, she might be the first city councilor to publicly identify as a Republican since John Sears left in 1981.”  
  Rollins, Creem and Maila: Don’t forget women in criminal justice debate   In a Globe opinion piece, Suffolk DA Rachael Rollins, Sen. Cynthia Creem and Rep. Liz Malia say more focus is needed on the plight of female inmates being released from state prisons: “The state has a dearth of community-based residential reentry services for women as they make the often difficult transition from incarceration back into the community. It’s time for that to change.”  
  Prosecutors ask SJC for tighter bail rules   Speaking of criminal justice, from Christian Wade at the Salem News: “Prosecutors asked the state’s highest court on Monday to expand the list of criminal offenses under which suspects can be kept in jail because of the danger they pose to society. The case before the Supreme Judicial Court involves the release on bail of a 49-year-old Lawrence police officer who is accused of engaging in sexual acts with a 13-year-old boy.”  
  Healey fines companies for asking job applicants about criminal histories   One more criminal-justice related item, from Shira Schoenberg at MassLive: “Two Massachusetts companies – Brooks Brothers and DesignWerkes – have been fined $5,000 each and required to remove from their job applications questions about applicants’ criminal histories. Attorney General Maura Healey’s office also sent warnings to 17 other companies requiring them to remove similar questions from their job applications.”  
  Boston cop whose gun was stolen by two R.I. strippers is fired   There seems to be unspoken societal unanimity on this one. From Marc Fortier at NBC Boston: “A Boston police officer who allegedly had his gun stolen from him by two exotic dancers earlier this year has been fired. Boston police confirmed Monday that Officer Emanuel Brandao was terminated as of March 31. He was placed on leave immediately following the incident. No further details were released.” Are further details – or explanations – even required?  
  Settled: Utility, communities to announce gas explosion deal   Columbia Gas has reached a deal to settle lawsuits from the communities of Lawrence, Andover and North Andover to fund costs associated with the September 2018 natural gas explosions and fires, Kristin LaFratta reports at MassLive. The payouts are expected to cover the direct costs communities bore in responding to the disaster as well as other work, such as repairs to roads dug up to address the over-pressurization issue blamed for the blasts.  
  Nurses push staffing ratios that voters rejected only last year   File under ‘If at first you don’t succeed …’ From the BBJ’s Jessica Bartlett: “Six months after losing an expensive battle to establish limits on how many patients a nurse could have at one time, the Massachusetts Nurses Association is backing legislation that would lay the groundwork for creating patient limits. The legislation, sponsored by state Sen. Diana DiZoglio and state Rep. Dan Ryan, would ask the Department of Public Health and the state’s Health Policy Commission to hire an independent researcher” to study various nursing issues, including staffing.  
  Despite joy-ride breach, Massport says Worcester airport security sufficient   Everything’s fine. Massport says no new security measures are planned for Worcester Regional Airport after a man allegedly jumped a fence and took a fuel truck on a brief joy ride onto the runway, George Barnes reports in the Telegram. Massport says both it and State Police determined security measures already in place in Worcester are sufficient.  
  Friendly’s and Garelick Farms owner explores possible sale of units   Frankly, we’ve lost track of how many times Friendly’s has been sold, carved up and/or restructured over the years. From Jim Kinney at MassLive: “The Friendly’s ice cream manufacturing business is for sale — along with Lynn-based dairy company Garelick Farms — as parent company Dean Foods Co. looks to restructure in the face of competition and declining milk consumption.”