Facing Down Controversy On Ethics, Electricity, Wynn, Pot: The Week Ahead On Beacon Hill

Feb 5, 2018

Over the weekend, The Boston Globe reported that when he was Massachusetts Senate president, Amherst Democrat Stan Rosenberg gave his husband Bryon Hefner access to his email, calendars and contacts -- and Hefner frequently used them.

That would appear to contradict Rosenberg's statement that Hefner had no influence on Senate business.

Hefner faces sexual assault allegations but has not been charged with a crime.

Rosenberg says the Globe's story contains inaccuracies -- but would not go into any detail.

Also: late last week, an energy project called Northern Pass was blocked by regulators in New Hampshire. It had been picked by the Baker administration to bring Canadian hydroelectricity to Massachusetts.

Matt Murphy of the State House News Service said there's no word yet on Governor Baker's next step.

Matt Murphy, SHNS: I think it remains to be seen. The whole awarding of the renewable energy contract to Northern Pass -- which is an Eversource and Hydro-Québec joint project -- the administration is now saying was always conditional on the necessary siting approvals. I'm sure they didn't expect to have this rejected so quickly after they awarded this contract.

But this has been a controversial project.

There is the possibility now that they may have to move on and look at some of the other bidders who were passed over in favor of Northern Pass. But it doesn't seem like they're going to do that quite yet.

There is an appeals process that Northern Pass and Eversource are going to pursue in New Hampshire. So it is possible that the administration will try and wait this out a bit, and see how that proceeds. 

Carrie Healy, NEPR: Does that put our 2020 carbon emissions targets in jeopardy?

It certainly puts the timeline for bringing this energy into Massachusetts in jeopardy.

Part of it is predicated on some of the renewable energy resources coming in. You also have a procurement that will take place later this spring, that will be finalized for a major offshore wind project. That will also take time to develop.

But I think if the timeline on any of these projects really gets extended, the administration will have to start thinking about whether or not they can meet those targets, or if they have to take additional steps to bring renewable energy in, in the meantime.

As multiple state agencies continue to investigate alleged sexual misconduct by casino developer Steve Wynn, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission is looking at him in terms of "suitability" -- that's the measure that the state used to award the Wynn Boston Harbor casino development rights. He's denied the allegations. What if the gaming commission rules him "unsuitable"? 

That's a possibility that they don't really seem to want to contemplate quite yet. The "suitability" review that is now going on, they're reopening this, and they can look at everything from integrity and character to the financial stability of this company moving forward, which we all know is somewhat contingent on Wynn and his name, written in cursive letters across all his casinos. They don't want to jump to the possibilities of what to do next.

You did get the sense from Steve Crosby -- the chair of the Mass. Gaming Commission -- last week that while they do their due diligence, and look into these allegations -- as well as the fact that it appears Steve Wynn and Wynn Resorts withheld a sexual harassment settlement that Steve Wynn paid out privately to a manicurist, from investigators back in 2013 -- they're watching very closely to see how the Wynn board itself responds. 

And there is the possibility that if they remove Steve Wynn, or Nevada gaming regulators pressure for Steve Wynn to step down, they could consider that case closed and move forward.

But I think a lot more has to happen before we know what is the next step.

As marijuana regulators in Massachusetts get closer to legalized recreational marijuana sales, a series of hearings kicks off across the state, beginning today in Pittsfield and Holyoke. What's going to be the most controversial portions of the draft regulations?

This comes at a time when there's great uncertainty in the market. It's kind of been predicated by the Justice Department's new approach towards marijuana.

But these draft regulations were put together. They're very comprehensive, and I think you're going to have questions. We just saw a vote in North Andover last week to reject a major pot farm. There's going to be some controversy over siting some of these distribution and growing sites.

There's going to be questions over whether cities and towns want to host pot shops where people could actually consume marijuana, in the establishment, sort of like a bar. This was proposed in these draft regulations. It may not be the type of establishment that some of these communities want to have, even if they did support, or their voters did support, recreational marijuana.

So all of this remains to be seen. And I think the biggest part is giving communities the opportunity to decide for themselves what they want to tolerate, without completely crippling the markets that they're trying to establish.