Oops: DeLeo says Grid bill drafted incorrectly

House Speaker Robert DeLeo acknowledged a bill to extend the unemployment benefits of locked-out National Grid workers doesn’t do what he thought it would do.

The bill was approved with no debate during an informal session of the House on December 6. DeLeo issued a statement at the time saying the bill would extend the unemployment benefits of the 1,250 locked-out workers and assess the cost on National Grid.

CommonWealth reported that the bill as written would actually assess the cost on all of the state’s utilities, not just National Grid. But a spokeswoman for the House Ways and Means Committee, which drafted the legislation, insisted only the company locking out its workers would have to pay.

On Monday, DeLeo’s office acknowledged the bill wouldn’t do what he said it would do. In a statement to the State House News Service, a spokeswoman for DeLeo said the intent of the legislation was to assess the cost of the extended benefits on the shareholders of the utility that locked them out. “The Speaker intends to discuss the correction of this drafting error with the Senate President and, if necessary, the House stands ready to make additional changes if the bill is returned,” the statement said.

The legislative snafu comes at a time when legislative leaders are talking tough on National Grid but doing very little. Senate President Karen Spilka and Republican leader Bruce Tarr issued a strongly worded statement on December 9 threatening action against National Grid, but the Senate has done nothing so far. The Legislature’s Committee on Telecommunications, Energy, and Utilities held a raucus hearing on December 4 on a bill that would force National Grid to restore health benefits to its locked-out workers, but that measure, despite apparent support from most of the committee members, hasn’t moved.

The union continues to win the battle in the court of public opinion. Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen reported on how the union is doling out money to members who are struggling to make ends meet without a weekly paycheck. Cullen says hundreds of workers are taking nothing from the union so that other members can get what they need.

“The selflessness of the workers stands in dramatic contrast to a British-based company that made almost a $5 billion profit last year but still wants to wring concessions from the people who do the work,” Cullen wrote.

Meanwhile, National Grid and the two union locals representing the company’s steelworkers continue to negotiate, but a resolution remains elusive. The company is pressing the union to agree to diminished pension benefits for newly hired workers and some additional health care charges for all workers, but the union is refusing to go along even if the company offers sweeteners in other areas. For either side to give in at this point would mean the last six months of pain have been in vain.

BRUCE MOHL

 

BEACON HILL

The state Department of Public Utilities sets October 31, 2019, as the final, final date for Columbia Gas to finish all work related to the explosions and fires that rocked the Merrimack Valley. (Eagle-Tribune)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Mayor Marty Walsh renewed his support for Boston’s sanctuary status in the face of increasingly aggressive law enforcement activity by the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and a plea from its New England director for more cooperation from local authorities. (Boston Herald)

The Community Preservation Act has become a victim of its own success. (Wicked Local)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Things are not looking good for “Individual 1,” writes Jeffrey Robbins. (Boston Herald)

ELECTIONS

US Rep. Seth Moulton says he has “no plans” to challenge Sen. Ed Markey in the 2020 Democratic primary. (Boston Globe)

Fall River mayor Jasiel Correia filed objection with the city clerk to the recall petition seeking an election to toss him from office, saying invalid signatures were submitted by recall proponents. (Herald News)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Residents of a New Bedford census tract where income and education levels are low have the lowest life expectancy in the state. (MassLive)

French drug maker Sanofi has signed a lease for 900,000 square feet of space in new buildings going up in East Cambridge. (Boston Globe)

Two firms, including MGM Springfield, submit bids to take over management of Springfield’s Symphony Hall. (MassLive)

FoxRock Properties unveiled plans for its nine-story multi-use development in Quincy Center. (Patriot Ledger)

EDUCATION

Teachers at two West Roxbury high schools are girding for a Boston School Committee meeting tomorrow where a vote is expected on the recommendation to close the two schools. (Boston Herald)

Newbury College, which announced it will shut down this spring, recruited students last year spring from nearby Mt. Ida College as it shut its doors, meaning some students will now face two college closures in pursuit of a degree. (Boston Globe)

Robert Manning, chair of the UMass board, predicts a lot more colleges will go out of business over the next five years. He also says the nation doesn’t have a student debt crisis as much as a graduation rate crisis. He notes half of those who enroll in college, incurring debt in the process, never graduate. (Salem News)

Everett’s longtime school superintendent, Frederick Foresteire, has been put on leave while the city investigates sexual harassment allegations against him. (Boston Globe)

Chronic absenteeism is becoming a major problem in US schools. (Governing)

A Brewster couple donates their collection of Charles Dickens books and artifacts to the Worcester Polytechnic Institute. (Telegram & Gazette)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

A Texas federal court ruling overturning the Affordable Care Act would have devastating consequences in Massachusetts if upheld by higher courts. (Boston Globe)

TRANSPORTATION

T notes: The Fiscal and Management Control Board acts as if ex-GM Luis Ramirez never existed. … $10 weekend commuter rail fare remains in limbo. … Control board makes an early morning bus pilot permanent…. Advocates push for a rider and/or a person of color for the open seat on the control board. (CommonWealth)

As decision time nears on the “functionally obsolete” bridges over the Cape Cod Canal, Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack says she favors replacing the structures and adding an extra lane in each direction. The one catch? The US Army Corps of Engineers, not the state, owns the bridges. (CommonWealth)

An outside report says the Woods Hole, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket Steamship Authority has been penny wise and pound foolish, which contributed to the many mishaps this year. (South Coast Today)

CASINOS

MGM Springfield gaming revenues dipped in November. (MassLive)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Sean Ellis, who has been tried three times and served 22 years in prison for the 1993 killing of Boston police Detective John Mulligan before his last conviction was overturned in 2015, won’t be retried a fourth time, prosecutors announced. (Boston Globe)

Gov. Charlie Baker named one-time Boston city councilor Jerry McDermott to the Norfolk County sheriff’s position vacated by Michael Bellotti, who is now interim president of Quincy College. (Boston Globe)

MEDIA

The Los Angeles Times is launching a primetime news magazine television series. (Los Angeles Times)

PASSINGS

Former Boston police commissioner Francis “Mickey” Roache, who first made his mark leading the department’s Community Disorders Unit that focused on race-based crimes, has died at age 82. (Boston Globe)