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Advances - Week of Feb. 16

Back-to-back debate nights next week fill some of the void that lawmakers are creating as they take their customary weeklong February break, which coincides with school vacation week.

Activists hopped across Tremont Street on Thursday on a drizzly march to the State House bearing candy and Valentine's Day cards to lobby lawmakers on a bill to make driver's licenses available to undocumented immigrants. [Photo: Sam Doran/SHNS]

Weekly Roundup - Impractical Winds

Massachusetts pols eager to get in the ring against President Donald Trump this summer took a punch from their New Hampshire neighbors this week, while Gov. Charlie Baker continues to be content with his ring-side seat.

Flu Severity Rises to “Very High” in Massachusetts

Influenza severity rose from high to very high, with related hospitalizations continuing to increase in recent weeks, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health reported Friday afternoon.

State House Takeout Podcast

Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa and Sen. Eric Lesser found fault with MassDOT's approach to its East-West Rail study. [Photos: Sam Doran/SHNS/File]

East-West Rail Backers Knock Study’s Modeling

The long push to expand passenger rail service to western Massachusetts hit a key milestone last week when a still-in-progress state study put initial numbers on the projected impact.

Spilka: Housing, Transpo, Health Care Bills Emerging

Up next on Senate President Karen Spilka's agenda after passing major mental health access and carbon pricing bills: "comprehensive" housing legislation, transportation policy and one — or maybe two — more health care packages.

Uncaptioned image for story:Alarm Sounded Over Absence of Canal Bridge Project Funds

Alarm Sounded Over Absence of Canal Bridge Project Funds

Worried the lack of funding in the president's budget is a sign of the administration's disinterest in the project, Massachusetts Congressional delegation members this week called on federal officials to get behind the full replacement of the Bourne and Sagamore bridges over the Cape Cod Canal.

New Law Requires Registry as Safeguard Against Caretaker Abuse

A state commission will assemble a confidential registry to protect individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities from abusive caregivers, under a bill Gov. Charlie Baker signed Thursday.

The Senate hadn't yet debated or voted on its mental health reform bill, but at noon Thursday during a break from their session, a majority of senators - including sponsor Sen. Julian Cyr (at podium) - stood in support of the legislation at a State House rally. [Photo: Sam Doran/SHNS]

Senate Passes Bill to Boost Mental Health Care Access

Massachusetts would move closer to fulfilling the vision of a 20-year-old state law requiring parity in care for mental health under a bill the Senate unanimously adopted Thursday.

Senate Session - Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020

All 38 senators voted to approve an extensive bill Thursday aimed at improving access to mental health treatment and eliminating barriers that have prevented true implementation of a 20-year-old state law requiring parity between mental and physical health care.

Bruno Moreira was among the marchers carting Valentine's Day cards, candy, and cupcakes up to the State House on Thursday from 32BJ SEIU's downtown headquarters to ask or thank lawmakers for support of a bill to make driver's licenses available to undocumented immigrants. [Photo: Sam Doran/SHNS]

Grateful Immigrants Arrive on Hill With Sweets

In a span of two weeks, lobbying efforts around a bill that would make it possible for undocumented immigrants to receive standard Massachustts driver's licenses transformed from a hunger strike to Hershey's kisses.

Spilka Voices Support for Reducing Fares

Senate President Karen Spilka believes any new revenues approved by the Legislature this year to improve transportation should be used to reduce fares on public transportation in order to encourage more people to ride the MBTA and local buses.

MGC Plots Process for Plainridge License Renewal

Massachusetts casino regulators settled Thursday on the process they will use this spring as they consider renewing the license for Plainridge Park Casino, the first of the gambling halls authorized under the 2011 expanded gaming law to come up for renewal.

Medicaid Rule Leaves Up to $2.5 Bil at Risk in Mass.

Governors around the country, including Gov. Charlie Baker, are fighting the Trump administration over proposed changes to how the federal government reimburses states for Medicaid, seeking to avoid a shift that could blow a massive hole into state budgets.

Baker on Third Term Bid: “Definitely Not a No”

Gov. Charlie Baker isn't ruling out running for a third term, and when it comes to a more immediate election – the March 3 presidential primary – he's continuing to keep his plans to himself. In a radio appearance on Thursday, Baker said he hasn't made the call yet on whether he'll seek re-election, and characterized his lack of decision as "definitely not a no."

Springfield Casino Plans $16 Mil Contribution to Housing Redevelopment

Officials from Springfield and the MGM casino there laid out their plan for the gambling empire to fulfill the requirement that residential units be part of its development by partnering with the city to help fund the redevelopment of a former downtown hotel.

Encore Casino as seen from Ashburton Park [Photo: Sam Doran/SHNS/File 2019]

Machines Replacing Bartenders to Speed Drinks at Casino

Encore Boston Harbor will replace some bartenders with automatic drink-dispensing machines in hopes of speeding up alcohol beverage service for gamblers under a set of alcohol license amendments approved by regulators Thursday.

House Session Summary - Thursday Feb. 13, 2020

The House advanced a bills Thursday dealing with statewide grand juries and the transparency of land records. The House also gave initial approval to a bill that would ban duck hunting on tidelands or within 1,500 feet of the shoreline at Revere Beach or the Point of Pines beach in Revere as a matter of public safety.

Price, Sales Increases Continue in Housing Market

Median prices for homes and condos put under sales agreements in January both eclipsed $400,000, and agreements for both property types were up more than 10 percent compared to January 2019, the Massachusetts Association of Realtors reported.

CLF Demands Temporary Ban on Cod Fishing

The U.S. Commerce Department and the National Marine Fisheries Service should ban commercial and recreational Atlantic cod fishing until the populations are "out of crisis," according to a local conservation group, which warned it may go to court.

New Research Center to Focus on Policy, Ballot Questions

A new nonpartisan research center, with a pair of former governors on its advisory council, is setting out to provide lawmakers and voters with "real-time" analysis of key topics, including projected impacts of ballot questions. Tufts University's Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life announced the launch of the Center for State Policy Analysis on Thursday.