Headlight law surcharge gets attention — after the fact

How much of a deterrent is a $5 ticket for failing to have headlights on in tandem with windshield wipers when it’s raining? Not much. How about tacking a surcharge worth hundreds of dollars on to your auto insurance? Now Massachusetts gets the attention of every driver in the Commonwealth.

Few deny that using windshield wipers together with headlights during inclement weather is a good safety practice. What caught the attention of Gatehouse Media papers such as The Patriot Ledger is that Rep. David Linsky, a Natick Democrat, managed to get the headlights-windshield wiper bill passed during an informal session where measures can clear the chamber on a voice vote.

Cue nanny-state-style outrage when the new law went into effect in early April and drivers realized that their insurance rates could skyrocket thanks to a $5 ticket.  Republican House members also complained, but only after the measure went into effect.

Some insurers were puzzled, too. “It kind of hit us all by surprise,” Donna McKenna, a Massachusetts Association of Insurance Agents vice president, told Wicked Local Newsbank. “It came up kind of fast, and we were surprised to learn it is surchargeable.”

The surcharge was a surprise. In 2010, when Gov. Deval Patrick signed into law the ban on texting while driving, it did not include an insurance surcharge. At the time, groups such as the Safe Roads Alliance argued that texting while driving should incur the same penalties as driving impaired by alcohol consumption.

Linsky plans to amend the headlight law to remove the surcharge provision. Republican Reps.James Lyons of Andover and Shaunna O’Connell of Taunton have countered with a bill that would repeal the law altogether.

Lack of debate on Beacon Hill continues to foster an environment of inconsistent outcomes. “That’s the Beacon Hill legislative style,” a Patriot Ledger editorial noted. “Thousands of bills are filed in a typical session, and a handful or so are widely discussed outside legislative hearing rooms…Mistakes are made when bills aren’t adequately debated.”

-GABRIELLE GURLEY

 

BEACON HILL 

At the request of Gov. Charlie Baker, the six members of the MassDOT board resign. (Associated Press)

Globe editor Brian McGrory chats up Baker before an audience at the JFK Library. Baker says he will never run for president and isn’t even planning to “kibitz” about those vying in 2016. He also continued to maintain a wait-and-see attitude toward a Boston 2024 Olympics. (State House News Service)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Suffolk DA Dan Conley announces that no criminal charges will be filed in connection with the 2014 Back Bay fire that claimed the life of two Boston firefighters. (Boston Herald)

Boston’s Zoning Board of Appeal postpones a decision on approving the conversion of a South Boston Catholic school to condos, angering residents who oppose the change and who say the developer is trying to wear them down through delays. (Boston Herald)

The proposed redevelopment of the long-empty Chen Building in Haverhill wins approval of the City Council. (Eagle-Tribune)

MARATHON BOMBING TRIAL

Prosecutors begin to make their case for a death sentence in the penalty phase of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s trial. Among the first witnesses they call: The father of Krystle Campbell, one of the the three victims to die in the bombings, and Celeste Corcoran, who lost both legs in the blasts. Kevin Cullen ponders the impression made on jurors of a photo introduced yesterday that shows Tsarnaev offering a middle-fingered salute to a security camera in a holding cell on the day of his formal arraignment in July 2013. (Boston Globe) Families of victims are outraged at the display of callousness. (Boston Herald)

CASINOS

If they can’t build a casino at Suffolk Downs in Revere, Mohegan Sun figures it might as well put one…at the international airport in Seoul, South Korea. (Boston Globe)

The owner of the Twin River casino in Rhode Island is looking to buy the slot parlor in Newport and relocate it to Tiverton, just over the border from Fall River, and have it operating before a casino is built in the southeast region of Massachusetts. (Herald News)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

An agreement in the Senate on a sex trafficking bill has paved the way for a confirmation vote Thursday on attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch. (New York Times)

The head of the Drug Enforcement Administration is resigning after coming under criticism for not firing agents who allegedly participated in sex parties with prostitutes paid for by drug cartels. (US News & World Report)

Wendy Kaminer asks why Ben Affleck tried to suppress the fact that one of his ancestors was a slaveholder. (WBUR) Affleck says he’s sorry for his effort — though it’s one of those cases where it’s hard to know whether he’s sorry for his acts or for being caught. (Boston Globe)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY 

The Supreme Judicial Court rules that Boston cab drivers are properly considered “independent contractors.” A lawsuit on behalf of drivers had sought to have them ruled employees and entitled to the benefits and protections that would come with such designation. (Boston Herald)

Former Boston Redevelopment Authority director Tom O’Brien is trying to pull off a double bottom line deal that sees a glimmering new tower built in downtown Boston — and helps build a new school and gives the friars of Holy Name Province a new church. (Boston Globe)

EDUCATION

Emails from a Tennessee teenager sent to Brockton and Whitman-Hanson Regional high schools that closed the schools down earlier this month threatened a “Columbine or Sandy Hook like massacre but far worse.” (The Enterprise)

HEALTH CARE

Last call for cigarettes: New Orleans, where few things are regulated, has banned smoking in bars. (New York Times)

TRANSPORTATION

Ferdinand Alvaro, who resigned from the MassDOT board in 2013, offers a board perspective on the state’s transportation problems as Gov. Charlie Baker removes six of the seven members of the current board from their positions. (CommonWealth)

A Natick company that teaches people about jobs in the marijuana-growing industry wants to place ads on MBTA trains and stations, but the agency has not approved the request and officials are mulling whether it violates T policy. (Patriot Ledger) Meanwhile, a federal judge rules that New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority must accept ads from a pro-Israel group that show an Arab-looking man next to the words, “Killing Jews is worship that draws us close to Allah.” ( New York Times)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

As the New England governors prepare to meet Thursday on energy issues, the debate over natural gas pipelines and renewables intensifies. National Grid’s Marcy Reed said the region needs two new gas pipelines, but Joel Wool of Clean Water Action says Grid doesn’t give a watt about energy costs. Peter Rothstein of the New England Clean Energy Council says the governors should move cautiously on gas infrastructure expansion. (CommonWealth)

New York City launches a plan to reduce its waste output 90 percent by 2030 and to halt all shipments of trash out of state. (Time) The plan also includes initiatives to address income inequality. (New York Times) CommonWealth reported on the generally dismal state of trash disposal in Massachusetts in January.

A former president of the Harvard Undergraduate Council explains how she became a convert to the cause of pushing the world’s richest university to divest its holding in fossil fuel companies. (Time)

The Oklahoma Geological Survey draws a link between wastewater disposal wells associated with oil and gas drilling and earthquake activity. (Governing)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

A Randolph man charged with “upskirting” at the Kohl’s department store in Hingham was released on personal recognizance, ordered not to use cameras, and barred from going into any Kohl’s store in the state. The man’s lawyer, though, said his client will fight the charge because the women whose buttocks he photographed don’t have a “reasonable expectation of privacy” in a department store aisle as required under the law. (Patriot Ledger)

Lawyers for convicted killer Aaron Hernandez have filed a motion asking the trial judge to ignore the jury verdict and enter a finding of not guilty on the murder and firearms charges. (Herald News)

Several district attorneys say a problem with Breathalyzer machines is putting their readings in doubt and undermining some prosecutions. (Gloucester Times)

The Justice Department opens an investigation into what led to the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody in Baltimore. (Baltimore Sun)

MassINC Research Director Ben Forman says Massachusetts needs to reverse course on mandatory minimum drug sentences. (CommonWealth)

A North Shore program is helping people released from prison find work. (Salem News)