• On Wednesday, March 16th, MassDOT officials unanimously agreed to support a bid by two minority-owned developers seeking to construct a combination of laboratory space, housing, and retail options on a parcel of state-owned land in Boston. The project on the 1.4-acre "Parcel 25," which stands mostly vacant on Kneeland Street where the Leather District and Chinatown meet, would add 600,000 square feet of mixed-use development, overseen by companies with women and minority representation. While MassDOT in the past typically accepted the highest-paying bid, Undersecretary Scott Bosworth said the department this time around deployed the "Massport model," which equally weights four criteria: ground rent and finance; diversity and inclusion; a bidder's ability to execute a project; and exceptional design and public realm contribution, which includes affordable housing. Altogether, 100% of the project's development, financing, ownership, and operations would come from minority- or women-owned businesses, as would 51% of its design and 20% of its construction.

 

  • On Thursday, March 17th, Governor Baker filed a $9.7 billion infrastructure bond bill, H.4561. The legislation will begin debate over years of investments in the state's roads and bridges, aging public transit, and infrastructure mitigation/adaptation for climate change. The bond bill calls for $5.4 billion in highway funding, $2.2 billion for the MBTA, $591 million for regional transit authorities, and $1.4 billion to improve environmental infrastructure, according to Baker. Massachusetts is in line to receive about $9.5 billion over the next five years under the roughly $1 trillion infrastructure law President Joe Biden signed in November, representing a combination of reauthorized and newly approved funds. Baker noted that to make use of the money, lawmakers need to approve the range of spending on transportation and infrastructure projects upfront, including portions that will be covered by federal funds. Baker explained the bill contains two major buckets: $6.2 billion representing a "combination of state and federal money" that will flow through existing formula programs over the next five years, and $3.5 billion to boost the state's chances of winning additional federal dollars available via grant programs.

 

  • On Monday, March 14th, Speaker Ronald Mariano noted that a leadership shuffle in the House will likely take place in the next few weeks, and it could stretch beyond the vacant majority leader position. Former Majority Leader Claire Cronin resigned in January to become U.S. ambassador to Ireland, and Mariano has been operating without a designated top deputy since, and he told reporters he ‘is waiting to name a successor because of unspecified "other changes" that may lurk on the horizon’. Mariano did not offer any specifics about what other changes may come, but at least one other member of his leadership team, Representative Golden of Lowell, has taken steps toward leaving. Golden, a 14-term veteran Democrat who serves as one of four division leaders for Mariano, applied to become the next city manager in his hometown of Lowell. Another member of Mariano's inner circle, Second Assistant Majority Leader Joseph Wagner of Chicopee, is not seeking reelection but is poised to remain in the House for the rest of 2022.

 

  • On Monday, March 14th, the State House News Service noted that implementing last year's climate law will also require more than a dozen new jobs in the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. During a budget hearing, Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Kathleen Theoharides detailed the portions of Governor Baker's $48.5 billion fiscal year 2023 budget bill, noting that the spending plan includes $337 million in funding for EEA, a $14 million or 4% increase over the current year's budget, and most of the increase proposed for EEA's budget would go towards Theoharides' office itself rather than in the agencies under her guidance. She said her office would see $54 million in funding, a $9.6 million increase, including $2.3 million to pay for her office's responsibilities under the roadmap law. Theoharides said the roughly $2.3 million outlay reflects an increase of seven full-time positions across EEA agencies as well as consultant work to establish the required emissions sublimits for various sectors, set emission standards for environmental justice communities, analyze economic and employment implications, and to do forecasting related to greenhouse gas emissions.