With help from Lisa Kashinsky
NEW SCHOOL RULES? — The Supreme Court is due to rule in a pair of cases that could reshape college admissions and loan repayments for hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts residents.
Justices are weighing whether to allow President Joe Biden’s program to wipe out up to $20,000 in student debt per borrower to proceed. Gov. Maura Healey, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Ayanna Pressley have been among the biggest proponents of the program that could significantly aid Massachusetts residents saddled with a combined more than $30 billion in federal student loan debt.
And how the court rules on lawsuits challenging admissions practices at Harvard and the University of North Carolina will determine whether colleges and universities can continue using race as a factor in deciding which students to admit.
Should the Supreme Court’s conservative majority rule against the universities, as schools are bracing for, it would throw a wrench into the affirmative action programs that institutions lean on to increase diversity in their student bodies. Colleges argue it would likely lead to a drop in diversity on their campuses.
State leaders are already taking steps to mitigate potential fallout. Healey on Wednesday formed a new advisory council of 42 school leaders, civil rights experts, diversity advocates and students who will work “to break down barriers of access to higher education, particularly for those who have been historically marginalized and our students of color,” co-chair and Higher Education Commissioner Noe Ortega said in a statement.
The state is also launching an awareness campaign aimed at drawing attention to existing programs that help students with college and career planning. The effort is particularly targeted toward Gateway Cities.
State Sen. Lydia Edwards is floating another idea: a bill that would end preferences for legacy students in admissions at public and private colleges in the state. More than three-quarters of colleges in Massachusetts still had a legacy preference during the 2021-2022 school year, according to data compiled by Education Reform Now.
“The very people who are suing claiming that they were banned or barred from those elite institutions and blaming people of color — Black people, specifically … have consistently missed or ignored the fact that they are more likely to have been blocked or banned from admissions from a legacy preference,” Edwards told Playbook.
Getting colleges and universities — who lean on wealthy alumni for big donations — to get behind the bill could be a challenge. But if the high court does end affirmative action, “schools will have to do something,” Edwards said. “This is something immediately that they can do, a direct response.”
And the way the state responds could become another key pillar in Healey’s “come to Massachusetts” pitch.
“We want to send a clear message to students of all backgrounds — you are welcome here in Massachusetts,” Healey said in a statement.
GOOD THURSDAY MORNING, MASSACHUSETTS. Senators will debate their $586 million tax-relief package today, shortly after Senate President Karen Spilka addresses the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce at 9:45 a.m. at Boston’s City Winery. Business leaders are pushing senators to approve a cut to the short-term capital gains tax rate, after the chamber’s Democratic leaders left it out of their initial plan.
TODAY — Healey sends off state wildland firefighters to Canada at 9:30 a.m. at DCR in Carlisle, is on WBUR’s “Radio Boston” at 11:25 a.m., makes a “major criminal justice” announcement at noon at the State House and keynotes the Boston Bar Association’s Law Day at 6:30 p.m. at Symphony Hall. Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll speaks at a Cape and Islands municipal leaders’ lunch at noon, chairs a STEM Advisory Council meeting at 2 p.m. and speaks at a Massachusetts Maritime Academy event at 3:30 p.m., all in Buzzards Bay.
Auditor Diana DiZoglio addresses the Small Town Administrators of Massachusetts at 10 a.m. in Boylston. HWM Chair Aaron Michlewitz is in Washington, D.C., for the White House State Legislative Convening on Reproductive Rights.
— “Governor Healey preparing to recommend pardons for seven people, a rarity early in a governor’s term,” by Matt Stout, Boston Globe: “In an unusually timed show of executive leniency, Governor Maura Healey is preparing to recommend pardons for seven people on Thursday, her first clemency actions since taking office less than six months ago, according to two people with knowledge of her plans. Healey’s decision to issue pardons so early in her first term would mark a major break from her immediate predecessors, who often waited until the final year or months of their tenures — if at all — to act on clemency petitions.”
— “RMV on hiring spree ahead of new driver’s license law taking effect in July,” by Chris Van Buskirk, Boston Herald: “The Registry of Motor Vehicles is on a hiring spree to prepare for a new law that allows people without lawful proof of presence in the United States to apply for a Massachusetts driver’s license. … The RMV expects 280,000 people to apply for a license during the first four years of the law, with the biggest demand between July and December, when the agency expects 105,000 to apply.”
— More: “Mass. election overseer confident in automatic voter registration as driver’s license law takes effect,” by Chris Van Buskirk, Boston Herald: “Republicans who unsuccessfully tried to block the measure last year said Massachusetts residents without legal status could inadvertently be registered to vote through the state’s automatic voter registration system while applying for a license. Secretary of State William Galvin, who manages elections in Massachusetts, said he does not foresee any issues as people start to seek out licenses next month.”
— “Complaints mount at long-term care facilities,” by Christian M. Wade, Eagle-Tribune: “A majority of the complaints were made by residents of [the state’s] nursing homes, and ranged from claims of physical and sexual abuse to inadequate care, billing and financial issues, and evictions.”
— “Medical suicide legislation gets new life under new governor,” by Matthew Medsger, Boston Herald.
— “Bill would allow state funds for construction of pools in schools,” by Jonah Snowden, Springfield Republican.
— IN MEMORIAM: “David M. Bartley, state’s youngest House speaker and longtime college president, dies at 88,” by Bryan Marquard, Boston Globe. More from Bartley’s family, via the Springfield Republican’s Jeanette DeForge.
— “Boston City Council passes $4.2 billion operating budget that would cut BPD by $31 million,” by Danny McDonald, Boston Globe: “The Boston City Council approved a $4.2 billion operating budget Wednesday, sending the matter to Mayor Michelle Wu, whose administration already is expressing concerns about the scope of the changes in the council-approved spending plan. … The budget proposal, which was passed by the council 7-5, includes about $53 million worth of council amendments, changes that featured a nearly $31 million bite out of the Boston Police Department’s roughly $400 million budget. Wu has the ability to veto some, all, or none of the council’s budget amendments.”
— “Boston City Hall, loathed and loved, needs millions of dollars in repairs,” by Walter Wuthmann, WBUR.
— “Harvard Medical School morgue manager accused of stealing, selling human body parts as part of ‘nationwide network’,” by Ally Jarmanning, WBUR: “A manager of Harvard Medical School’s morgue and his wife are accused of stealing human body parts — among them heads, brains, skin and bones — from donated cadavers and selling them, according to a federal indictment.”
— “Tagging along on the listening tour of new NCAA president Charlie Baker: ‘This is the right place for me’,” by Stan Grossfeld, Boston Globe: “The president of the NCAA doesn’t like it when people address him as ‘President Baker.’ … Would he prefer another presidential title (like President of the United States)? ‘My future, as far as I’m concerned, for now, is the NCAA,’ says the former Massachusetts governor. ‘There were a lot of things I could have done if I wanted to stay in politics.’”
— “Utilities grapple with storm-related costs,” by Christian M. Wade, Eagle-Tribune: “Under state law, utilities may recover operations and maintenance costs for a limited number of weather events from a ‘storm’ fund paid by consumers in the form of a surcharge tacked on to electricity bills. In a recent filing to the state Department of Public Utilities, National Grid said it incurred costs from responding to nine major storms in 2021 that qualify for cost recovery. The company is seeking to recover more than $103 million.”
— “Controversial book policy in Ludlow fails,” by Luis Fieldman, MassLive: “School officials in Ludlow declined to take up a controversial book policy for a vote. … The policy, introduced by member Joao Dias, aimed at giving the School Committee final approval for what books appear on the shelves of the school district’s libraries.”
— “Union appealing new dress code for Attleboro workers,” by George W. Rhodes, The Sun Chronicle: “A new dress code that bans shorts and other things is causing a stir among city employees. The policy, which went into effect May 22, is being appealed through the city’s union grievance process, DPW Superintendent Mike Tyler said.”
— “Federal government warns carmakers not to comply with Mass. right-to-repair law,” by Hiawatha Bray, Boston Globe: “In a letter to 22 carmakers, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that complying with the Massachusetts Data Access Law would violate federal car safety legislation, because the state law could make it easier for cybercriminals to interfere with sensitive data stored in cars or even take control of vehicles remotely.”
— “Massachusetts to receive over $1 billion in opioid settlements,” by Martha Bebinger, WBUR: “Massachusetts can expect to receive just over $1 billion over 18 years from settlements with opioid manufacturers and distributors sued for their roles in the nation’s opioid crisis. … Massachusetts could see an additional $110 million from some Sackler family members and Purdue Pharma once that settlement is finalized.”
— “More employers are planning to cut Mass. footprint, survey shows,” by Greg Ryan, Boston Business Journal.
MOOSE ON THE LOOSE — Staffers for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) were spotted bringing a giant stuffed moose into the Dirksen Senate Office Building ahead of her “Experience New Hampshire” event yesterday (h/t Mia McCarthy). And, despite at least one report to the contrary, Marty the Moose is not taxidermied, Shaheen spokesperson Sarah Weinstein said on Twitter.
TRANSITIONS — Heidi Legg is now head of press, politics and public affairs for the British Consulate General Boston. She was previously at Harvard and founded TheEditorial.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY — to Milt Spaulding, Marie Harf and Hunter Woodall. Happy belated to Maud Mandel, who celebrated Wednesday.
NEW HORSE RACE ALERT: IT’S NOT EASY BANKING GREEN — Boston Globe climate reporter Sabrina Shankman joins to talk about Gov. Maura Healey’s new “green bank” for affordable housing. Hosts Steve Koczela and Lisa Kashinsky discuss whether former President Donald Trump’s latest indictment is affecting his third White House bid. Subscribe and listen on iTunes and Sound Cloud.
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