Gubernatorial Candidate Forum
Click for more videos at Gubernatorial Candidate Forum
House boosts minimum wageBOSTON – The Massachusetts House approved a bill Wednesday night that would increase the state’s hourly minimum wage from $8 to $10.50 over the next two years, with local legislators arguing beforehand that was more than businesses could bear.
The legislation, which passed on a 123-24 vote, also would overhaul the state’s unemployment insurance system and provide basic work standards and protections for nannies and other domestic workers.
The Senate has already approved separate minimum wage and unemployment insurance bills. The Senate bill would increase the wage to $11 per hour over three years and link automatic increases to the rate of inflation.
Gaming panel officially awards slots machine license to Penn National for PlainvilleBy Max Lewontin, Sun Chronicle, Statehouse correspondent
BOSTON — State gaming officials voted unanimously to award the state’s first and only slots machine license to Penn National Gaming’s proposal for Plainridge Racecourse this morning after representatives for the company said they had no objections to the conditions cited by the panel.
“In addition to regulators, we’re partners now,” said Stephen Crosby, the state Gaming Commission chairman.
“I think Penn National is ready to get to work, they’re going to Plainville after this meeting,” Crosby said.
“The people of Plainville spoke very clearly,” he said at a press conference after the vote. “They’re accustomed to having a gaming facility, they’re used to the traffic issues and there was very little organized opposition.”
“They really voted with their feet with this one,” Crosby added
Legislators hope to remove firearms licensing for carrying pepper sprayBy Max Lewontin, Sun Chronicle, Statehouse correspondent
BOSTON – State lawmakers are hoping for action on several bills that would allow citizens to buy pepper spray and chemical Mace without going through the time and expense of getting a firearms identification card.
“We need to waive that requirement to allow women to purchase pepper spray for self-defense purposes,” said Rep. Jay Barrows, R-Mansfield, who is a co-sponsor of one of the bills.
Currently, Massachusetts residents who want to carry pepper spray must be over 18 and pay $100 for a firearms identification card. The process is the same as obtaining a firearms license, with wait times ranging from four to six months, said Jim Wallace, executive director of the Gun Owners Action League.
Wallace called the current law “ridiculous.”
Opiate abuse hits area hardBy Jonathan Riley, Sentinel & Enterprise, Statehouse Correspondent
BOSTON — Senate President Therese Murray has called it an epidemic. A legislative committee has been formed to study it. And with opiate abuse increasing across the state and the nation, North Central Massachusetts has been one of the areas hardest hit.
“I think it’s evident how big the problem is,” said Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, D-Leominster, chairwoman of the Senate’s Special Committee on Drug Abuse and Treatment Options. “If you look at any newspaper almost any given day, you see cases of overdoses or arrests for possession.”
That media coverage got an added boost with the overdose death of actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman in New York City earlier this month.
Flood Plain-MainBy Francesca Barbato and Alexandra Shi，State House correspondent
BOSTON – Massachusetts coastal and riverside property owners are facing a double threat from rising sea levels.
The extensive damage to coastal New Jersey and sections of New York City caused by last year’s Superstorm Sandy is being called a preview of what Massachusetts will face sometime in the future.
But another storm is already breaking for many along the state’s coast and rivers in the form of rising property insurance premiums. These costs are likely to surge into adjacent areas of the state as a federal insurance program, often the last resort for waterfront residents, sets higher rates and extend flood plain designations to neighborhoods and towns once considered safe.
The projected effects of climate change and the resulting escalation of insurance rates will affect more coastline dwellers. State officials and real estate experts fear long-term ramifications on property values, tax collections and the construction business.
Flood Plain-ImpactBy Yuan Ma and Loren Savini,State House correspondent
Superstorm Sandy wreaked $28 million worth of havoc in Massachusetts a year ago October, cutting power to 400,000 customers and forcing evacuations in low-lying areas from Dartmouth to Plum Island.
It could have been much worse.
According to Preparing for the Rising Tide, a study by the Boston Harbor Association, if the Sandy had hit Boston five and a half hours later – at high tide rather than low tide – floodwaters could have floated boats in the Back Bay. The Charles River would have overflowed into Cambridge’s Harvard Square. More than 6 percent of Boston would have been under water.
Massachusetts coastal and river areas can’t hope to escape such destruction forever. A variety of studies by government and private organizations warn that climate change will intensify storms and raise sea levels, increasing the threat to coastal and riverfront areas.
Flood Plain – InsuranceBy Lisa Hagen and Alex Hyacinthe,State House correspondent
BOSTON – Massachusetts is being swamped with horror stories of skyrocketing insurance premiums for homes on the water’s edge and – more recently – in adjacent areas once considered safe from flooding.
Members of the state legislature and the congressional delegation say they are hearing of rates jumping by as much 1,000 percent, driven by changes in a federal insurance program and data suggesting more properties are at risk from rising ocean levels and climate change.
Rep. James Cantwell (D-Marshfield) says he has heard of premiums increasing as much as $60,000 per year. Other lawmakers have similar stories.
“The highest one I’ve seen was $60,000,” U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) said. “The house was only worth $250,000. In roughly four years you’ve basically paid for your house.”
Flood Plain – MitigationBy Gina Curreri and Carol Kozma, State House correspondent
Threats of rising flood levels are slowly changing the face of many Massachusetts communities.
Existing waterfront properties are moving up or back to escape potential flooding. Other structures are going away entirely, leaving a buffer area to blunt future floods. Municipalities are updating construction codes to require heating and cooling systems be moved from vulnerable basements to higher floors.
These changes are being made for reasons beyond mitigating storm damage. By securing structures or moving them up and out, property owners can literally rise above new flood plain designations, reducing the cost of their insurance.
Anne Herbst, Hull’s conservation manager, said more people are considering “freeboarding,” the process of elevating homes above predicted flood levels. Hull’s planning board now offers a one-time $500 credit against permitting costs to those who build two feet higher than required elevations.