The Codcast: Talking among ourselves

What do criminal justice reform, the MBTA, and legal marijuana have in common? Other than the fact you can get busted for smoking and selling pot on the Green Line, not much.

But one other thing they have in common is they will be some of the more dominant issues in the coming year on Beacon Hill. How they are addressed and how the debate over them plays out will have an impact on the political fortunes of many in the State House, including Gov. Charlie Baker and any number of perceived and yet-to-be-identified potential challengers.

At CommonWealth, we try to give you a little more in-depth coverage of the issues but don’t always have the time to apply what we know to an analysis of where we think things will go. So as an end-of-year Codcast, Bruce Mohl, Michael Jonas, and I try to offer a little insight into some areas we’ve written extensively about.

Michael has been immersed in the issues of criminal justice and sentencing reform and sees what’s playing out around the country — a desire to reduce incarceration and recidivism rates through major policy overhauls– taking hold here. But unlike elsewhere, where conservatives are driving much of the reform out of an interest to save money, Michael thinks the traditional progressive motives of fairness and equity are what’s at work in Massachusetts.

I think the debate over potential changes to the marijuana initiative passed by voters will be among the loudest in the coming year, though not the most important. In the end, we think there will be changes and that Baker, for one, will come around on supporting an increase in the ballot-approved 3.75 percent excise on top of the 6.25 percent state sales tax. But after all is said and done, we will have legal weed so it will be all smoke and mirrors up until then.

Bruce says what happens with the MBTA won’t be known for years down the road but he thinks steps taken over the past year have laid the groundwork for Baker to take credit for changing the mindset of the public and the atmosphere over at the traditionally entrenched authority. But all three of us, regular T riders, agree nothing has changed in the immediate passenger experience.

And while we toss out a few names, we all concur no one has stepped forward from the Democratic party to grab the mantle of formidable challenger to Baker. Perhaps someone can make a name for him or herself with one of these issues in 2017.

– JACK SULLIVAN

 

BEACON HILL

Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz says she was “made nauseous” by watching a criminal justice working group ignore the pleas of activists to address incarceration issues. (MassLive)

One fix for the state’s new marijuana law would be to make it illegal to toke while driving, says a Herald editorial — but it’s not actually clear such a provision would have applied to a Gloucester man who slammed his car into a school bus this week after a morning blunt.

Rep. Jim Lyons of Andover wins a battle for a State House nativity scene. (State House News)

Advocates for a number of causes urge the Legislature to overturn Baker’s budget cuts. (Salem News)

The Baker administration says it’s bringing some order to the chaos that had been the approach to redevelopment of surplus state property. (CommonWealth)

Greater Boston looks back on 2016 and hands out grades to the state’s top pols.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Chantal Charles, who won a $2.9 million discrimination judgment against the city of Boston, says little has changed at City Hall since the decision was handed down. (CommonWealth)

The attorney general’s office has given legal approval to the proposed Framingham charter that will change the town to a city form of governance, moving the draft one step closer to being put before voters in the spring. (MetroWest Daily News)

The fine for failure to shovel your sidewalk could go as high as $1,500 in Boston under legislation that now awaits the governor’s signature. (Boston Herald)

Marion selectmen postponed a decision on issuing an aquaculture license to an oyster farm for expansion after residents complained the bigger operation would impede boating in the area. (Standard-Times)

New Bedford has been named the state’s most creative community by the Massachusetts Cultural Council. (Standard-Times)

Mayor Marty Walsh’s chief of staff, Dan Koh, is a man on the run. (Boston Globe)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

President-elect Donald Trump tweets that he wants to expand the nation’s nuclear arsenal. (Time)

Italian police say the 24-year-old Tunisian man believed to have driven a truck through a crowded Berlin market in a terrorist attack that killed 12 people is dead after a shootout in Milan. (Associated Press) A 31-year-old Italian relative of a Boston family that runs several North End restaurants was among those killed in the Berlin market. (Boston Globe)

More than 60 organizations identified as “hate groups” by discrimination watchdogs, including white nationalists and Holocaust deniers, have been granted non-profit status by the IRS. (Chronicle of Philanthropy)

ELECTIONS

Pollster Steve Koczela says Gov. Charlie Baker misses a key point in supporting the Electoral College. (CommonWealth)

There are signs that Attorney General Maura Healey may be opening the door a little to a possible 2018 gubernatorial run, says Joe Battenfeld. (Boston Herald)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The United Way, which has seen a drop in giving, is putting on “poverty simulation” skits at workplaces to drive home to would-be donors the stressful lives of those on the economic brink that the agency is trying to help. (Boston Globe)

A revision in the GDP showed the country’s economy grew 3.5 percent in the third quarter, the strongest pace in more than two years. (U.S. News & World Report)

EDUCATION

A Fall River mother was arrested and charged with assaulting outside the school a pair of middle school girls who she claimed had been bullying her 11-year-old daughter while school officials failed to respond to her complaints. (Herald News)

Sudbury officials have opted to join the Assabet Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School after voting earlier in the year to leave the Minuteman Regional voke-tech district. (MetroWest Daily News)

The Mashpee School Committee unanimously selected Interim Superintendent Patricia DeBoer to lead the district on a permanent basis. (Cape Cod Times)

Northeastern University is plunking down $5.3 million to buy a building along Huntington Avenue that is now home to a popular bar and pizza place. (Boston Herald)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Wellforce, which owns Lowell General Hospital and Tufts Medical Center, adds Melrose-Wakefield Hospital and Lawrence Memorial Hospital in Medford to its stable. (Lowell Sun)

Scientists have finally developed a vaccine to fight ebola they say is 100 percent effective. (New York Times)

TRANSPORTATION

Keolis says the on-time performance of its Worcester and Framingham commuter rail line has improved dramatically. (MassLive)

The MBTA’s parking revenue rises 22 percent over a five-month period, suggesting the transit agency may be rebounding after a theft problem was uncovered. (CommonWealth)

CRCC wins a contract to build subway cars for Los Angeles at its Springfield plant, which is nearing completion. CRCC already has a contract to build subway cars for the MBTA. (MassLive)

A federal judge dismisses a lawsuit by a taxi drivers group against the city’s laws governing ride-hailing firms such as Uber and Lyft. (WBUR)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

A new state study indicates a commercial food waste ban implemented in 2014 has created 900 jobs and stimulated $175 million in economic activity. (Telegram & Gazette)

Rockland voters will decide whether the town becomes the latest to adopt a community electricity aggregation plan that allows the town to buy power in bulk at a significant savings for all residents and businesses that don’t opt out. (The Enterprise)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Convicted serial killer Gary Lee Sampson speaks briefly in federal court during his death penalty retrial. (Boston Globe)