The never-ending probation probe

The US Attorney’s long-running investigation of probation is apparently catching a second wind, with the Globe reporting that a Worcester grand jury is focusing on Democratic legislators, particularly House Speaker Robert DeLeo and his rumored use of probation jobs to gain an edge in the 2009 speaker’s fight.

The story focuses on how in the spring of 2008 the House, led by the DeLeo-led Ways and Means Committee, added $6 million more to the Probation Department’s budget than had been requested, setting the stage for a flurry of hiring by people associated with three lawmakers who ultimately sided with DeLeo in the speaker’s battle.

The budget maneuverings are drawing attention to the way legislation is processed on Beacon Hill. With little public debate around where money gets spent, and most deal-making occurring behind closed doors, there is little room for a public hashing-out of budget provisions in the annual process. Earlier this year, a CommonWealth review found that the Legislature is spending less time in session than it did 20 years ago, holding far fewer roll calls, and deciding on budget amendments largely out of public view.

The State House News Service reported last week that the Senate has passed a reform bill that would make changes to the way the budget is written, making the process an exercise based more on performance metrics than in previous years, and requiring more financial reporting. However, a key component that would have set each line item at zero every four years, also known as zero-based budgeting, was sent for study, effectively killing it. The House is expected to consider the bill this week.

It’s hard to know what to make of the Globe’s latest probation news report. Back in January, the Globe reported that the federal investigation was completed and indictments of more than a dozen lawmakers and state employees were imminent. In March, only former Probation Commissioner John O’Brien and two of his top lieutenants were indicted.

                                                                                                                                        –CHRISTINA PRIGNANO

BEACON HILL

In  an editorial, the Lowell Sun says the next Inspector General should not be a politician. The current IG, Greg Sullivan, a former state rep, irked the newspaper with an investigation of a Lowell city councilor.

The Herald has a request for State House parking logs rebuffed.

Lawmakers are expected to approve the annual two-day sales tax holiday.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Stoughton’s selectmen and School Committee are considering a plan to go paperless at their regular meetings and to use town-owned tablets to cut the cost of preparing and copying the informational packets for members each meeting.

Fall River voters will decide whether to adopt the Community Preservation Act when the question appears on the November ballot.

A decision on whether a landless Native American tribe in the Pacific Northwest can receive land taken by the government for a reservation will have implications for another landless tribe looking to build a casino – the Mashpee Wampanoag.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

Two years after Dodd-Frank reform legislation passed, many of its measures have not been adopted, the Globe reports.

Former US Rep. Anthony Weiner ponders a comeback.

ELECTION 2012

Democratic political consultant Dan Payne, in his WBUR column, urges Seth Moulton not to mount an independent campaign for the congressional seat currently held by John Tierney.

Maine Gov. Paul Lepage compares the IRS to the Nazi secret police a second time, NECN reports.

Conservative pundits appear to have the knives out for Mitt Romney, too, as they question why he won’t release his tax returns. Romney moves closer to Tim Pawlenty.

The MetroWest Daily News argues that the presidential candidates must face the “fiscal cliff” in store for the country if Congress doesn’t get its act together on taxes and spending issues by Dec. 31. The Washington Post analyzes the problem.

The Associated Press looks at health care reform as an issue between Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown. Via The Patriot Ledger.

Elizabeth Warren cleans up in Los Angeles and New York, raising more money in those cities than she has raised in Boston, the Globe reports.

The Herald lends Joe Kennedy III a cloak of inevitability.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The days of cyber-gambling cafes in Massachusetts may be numbered.

The Washington Post says it’s time to end online sales tax exemptions.

HEALTH CARE

As hospitals and birthing centers move away from giving infant formula to new parents, South Coast facilities are pushing to increase the rate of breastfeeding among new mothers.

The Berkshire Eagle wants to see more action on combating Lyme disease.

Kerry Kennedy may have had a seizure while driving, the New York Post reports.

The Globe weighs in on the health cost reform bill conference committee negotiations, which are said to be progressing slowly.

TRANSPORTATION

An accident yesterday on Route 24 that caused two more fatalities — the second fatal crash in three days — is once again putting the spotlight on the highway that officials say has become an increasingly dangerous road for horrific accidents.

A pedestrian and bicycle bridge linking Charlestown and Cambridge opens to much fanfare, the Globe reports. The bridge was the focus of a CommonWealth report on questionable federal stimulus spending earlier this year.

The Republican likes the idea of a new terminal at Bradley International Airport, but suggests that Connecticut needs to install some road signs pointing the way to Massachusetts.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Sen. Fred Berry of Peabody comes out in support of a controversial proposal that would give a financial boost to the builder of a gas-fired power plant on the site of the old coal-fired plant in Salem, the Salem News reports.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Boston church prays for the release of a pastor kidnapped in Egypt, NECN reports. The Globe reports the pastor offered himself as a hostage when his church group’s bus was intercepted.

MEDIA

The Beat the Press panel delves into the controversy over the Boston police union’s newsletter, Pax Centurion, which has been accused of running bigoted and racist commentary.