Boston rent control plan on the ropes

What do you call the opposite of a trial balloon?

A deep-six signal?

Whatever the term for it, it sure looks like legislative leaders are giving it some play when it comes to Boston’s home-rule petition to reestablish rent control in the city.

Mayor Michelle Wu has made reining in rents a centerpiece of her housing policy. She got the City Council to sign off on a home-rule petition that would let Boston regulate rent increases, something that was outlawed via a 1994 statewide ballot question ending rent control.

That sent the measure to Beacon Hill, where it must win approval of the Legislature and governor to take effect.

There has been skepticism all along about the Legislature’s interest in opening the door to rent control, but this week that wariness seemed to become something closer to outright antipathy.

WBUR’s Steve Brown reported yesterday that the home-rule petition, filed by first-term Boston state Rep. Sam Montaño, has drawn no cosponsors thus far.

What’s more, House Majority Leader Mike Moran of Brighton pointed to the fact that the House overwhelmingly rejected reinstating rent control as part of an 2020 economic development bill.

“A lot of members will say, ‘What is the point of even bringing this up?’ Because the overwhelming majority of us took a position on this two years ago,” Moran told Brown. “Do we bring it up every two years? There’s other things we can talk about with regard to housing. Why are we letting this take up oxygen?”

As the top deputy to House Speaker Ron Mariano, it seems safe to assume that Moran’s views reflect those of the Speaker.

The bill has been assigned to the Joint Committee on Housing, but there appears to be no rush to schedule a hearing for it.

“My focus right now is on taxes and the budget,” Sen. Lydia Edwards, an East Boston Democrat and co-chair of the housing committee, said Tuesday.. She said there’s a lot that can be done in those two areas to help address the housing crisis for renters as well as would-be homeowners, citing the proposed increase in the state tax deduction for renters and funding for public housing as examples.

“If it’s this summer, I’d be surprised. It might be this fall,” Edwards said of a hearing date on the Boston bill. Edwards has not staked out a position on the Boston home-rule bill.

The comments from Moran and Edwards, key players in the bill’s fortunes on Beacon HIll, can’t be very comforting to Wu – they are both close political allies of the mayor’s. Add House Ways and Means chair Aaron Michlewitz of the North End, another key Wu ally, who, Politico noted last month, voted against the 2020 amendment to restore rent control, and Wu could be muttering to herself the old adage that begins, “With friends like these…”

MICHAEL JONAS

 

FROM COMMONWEALTH

New offshore wind procurement: Playing catch-up because of a round three offshore wind deal gone bust, Gov. Maura Healey announced the state’s fourth offshore wind procurement for up to 3,600 megawatts of power.

– The deal allows the two offshore wind farms seeking to cancel their round three contracts to participate in the latest RFP,  although they may face some minor penalties in the scoring process. That means five companies in total can bid in a process that is not expected to wrap up until near the end of 2024.

– In a nod to the economic uncertainty that derailed the third round, the new proposal allows bidders for the first time to submit bids indexed to inflation, so prices can adjust depending on changing economic circumstances.

– Cost is a concern as economic conditions remain uncertain and a price cap that required the price of electricity to keep dropping is gone. While many on Beacon Hill want to use the contracts to promote onshore economic development, Sen. Michael Barrett of Lexington warned that accepting higher power prices in return for onshore development may not make sense if greater use of clean electricity is the key to fighting climate change. Read more.

OPINION

Rein in PBMs: Todd Brown of the Massachusetts Independent Pharmacists Association blames pharmacy benefit managers for much of the runup in prescription prices and urges lawmakers to rein them in. Read more.

 

FROM AROUND THE WEB             

 

BEACON HILL

Former lieutenant governor and attorney general Frank Bellotti turns 100 today, a milestone the Herald celebrates by saluting the political icon – and getting him to offer a testimonial to the tabloid.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Town Meeting in Sheffield bans 5G cell phone towers, despite a legal warning the move could trigger  challenge by cell phone companies. (Berkshire Eagle)

Fairhaven Town Meeting voters will decide whether to ban plastic goods like disposable shopping bags and miniature alcohol bottles, as well as weigh a town budget that will entail a Proposition 2½ override. (New Bedford Standard-Times)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Vermont becomes the first state in the country to allow non-residents to request medications to bring about their death. (New England News Collaborative)

Migrants in search of housing are straining the resources of Boston area hospitals where they are showing up looking for help. (Boston Globe)

ELECTIONS

John Moran and Bill MacGregor won Democratic special election primaries for vacant Boston state rep seats yesterday and are poised to join the House with no Republican nominee on the ballot in either race in the May 30 final election.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

A new report quantifies the exodus of workers in the child care industry in Massachusetts. (WBUR)

EDUCATION

The Cambridge Matignon School, a co-ed Catholic high school, will close in June after 75 years. (Boston Globe)

UMass Amherst will lay off 124 employees in its fundraising division due to “compliance issues” that university officials identified last fall. The campus unions, along with some state and federal representatives, say this forced privatization of jobs risks employee benefits and job security. (MassLive)

ARTS/CULTURE

GBH explores how jail-based arts programs are leveraged to help inmates use their time productively and better prepare them for release.

TRANSPORTATION

The MBTA says corroded straps holding a utility box are responsible for it falling onto a passenger on the platform at Harvard Station. (Boston Globe)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

A key legislative committee in New Hampshire approves legislation that would give utilities more flexibility in how they purchase electricity on behalf of their customers. Restrictions on utility purchases hindered the businesses during the recent runup in electricity prices and put a dent in the pocketbooks of their customers. (Eagle-Tribune)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Worcester city councilors voted 8-3 to approve funding for police officers who wear body cameras to receive an annual stipend of $1,300. (Worcester Telegram)