Nearly four months after it was aired at a public hearing, legislation aimed at facilitating the $1.1 billion expansion of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center appears poised to move out of committee with a strong endorsement from a top House lawmaker. "I personally would like to see this bill signed into law by Governor Patrick," State Administration and Regulatory Oversight Committee Co-chairman Rep. Peter Kocot told the News Service Monday. "It's an exciting project and I think it will be good not only for the Boston area but for the entire Commonwealth." At a hearing in November, expansion proponents said the larger facility will not require higher taxes or fees and will deliver an economic punch, good-paying jobs, and the capacity to book larger conventions. Contacted Monday about the bill's progress in committee, Kocot said the panel's members were being polled on it and that he expected it to be released on Tuesday and to be reviewed by the House Bonding Committee and House Ways and Means Committee before reaching the House floor. Kocot said the committee has made minor changes to the legislation (H 3695) after discussions with officials from the state treasurer's office, Patrick administration finance and asset management officials, and the inspector general's office.


"At this point we are ready to go," he said. "We're satisfied with the language." The bill's sponsors, Rep. Nick Collins (D-South Boston) and Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry (D-Dorchester), estimate the project would create 4,700 construction jobs and 2,100 permanent jobs. The bill relies on existing hospitality industry charges to finance the expansion and leverage private hotel development valued at $700 million. Massachusetts Convention Center Authority officials project sufficient revenues will be spun off by existing Boston-area taxes and fees on hotel rooms, sales and meals taxes, trolley tour levies, and a $10 rental car surcharge. - M. Norton/SHNS


Josh Bolten and Andy Card, who each served as chief of staff to President George W. Bush, are scheduled to join Mack McLarty, who held that post under President Bill Clinton, at a town hall meeting on Congressional reform March 26 at the JFK Library in Dorchester. According to The Bipartisan Policy Center, the event is being held in partnership with USA Today and the Edward Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate and will also feature institute co-founder Victoria Kennedy, former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, and former Sen. Olympia Snowe, co-chair of the center's Commission on Political Reform. The center announced its plans for the forum on Monday. - M. Norton/SHNS


On the same day Martha Coakley released her plan to improve behavioral health services, her Democratic rival for governor Steven Grossman released a competing vision that called for a moratorium on the expansion or new construction of state and county prisons to reinvest those dollars into treatment and rehabilitation facilities. The two plans align in many respects, with both calling for de-emphasis on incarceration in favor of more treatment for mental health and substance abuse issues and increased reimbursement rates for service providers. Grossman, the state's treasurer, also recommended enhanced drug awareness and mental health programs for middle and high school students and a $10 million competitive grant program for communities and schools to implement awareness, prevention and training programs. "Mental illness and addiction are public health issues that impact Massachusetts families in every region of the state and across every income level," Grossman said in a statement. "Government has a critical role to play in providing our most vulnerable residents with the care and treatment they need to get better." Grossman told the News Service the cost of his initiatives could total "tens of millions of dollars and perhaps more." "Given the vulnerability of so many of our fellow citizens and children, I can't think of a better investment to make," he said. Coakley did not provide a cost estimate for implementing her plan, though her advisors said the Democrat would be willing to look at new revenue to pay for her plan if economic growth did not provide sufficient new revenue to meet the needs. Grossman's plan also promotes workplace wellness programs that Grossman's campaign said returns $3.27 for every dollar invested, and calls for more investment in treatment programs to increase the number of detoxification units and step-down programs for those just released from prison. Under the proposal, Massachusetts would spearhead a regional task force co-chaired by the governors of the six New England states and New York to coordinate prevention and treatment efforts.


Framingham Rep. Chris Walsh on Monday officially joined supporters of Democrat lieutenant governor candidate Mike Lake, a group that includes former Gov. Michael Dukakis, his wife Kitty and Katherine Patrick, the daughter of Gov. Deval Patrick. Walsh applauded Lake's work as CEO of Leading Cities, which looks to foster economic development through public and private sector collaboration. "Mike has proven his ability to work with city leaders around the world by serving as a liaison for Massachusetts to the international community and by his ability to forge meaningful partnerships," Walsh said in a statement released by Lake's campaign. Katherine Patrick, who recently chaired an LGBT fundraiser for Lake with Governor's Council member Eileen Duff, endorsed Lake last week. Patrick, who also recently endorsed Rep. Carl Sciortino in his unsuccessful bid for Congress, was unavailable to discuss her endorsement of Lake, according to his campaign. Katherine Patrick worked as director of community relations for her father's re-election effort. "Mike will continue to uphold Massachusetts' standards of equality and progressive social policy," she said in her recent endorsement of Lake, who was a special assistant for White House operations under President Clinton. "When the LGBT community was in need, Mike was at the State House standing with us to fight for our rights and his strong support makes him a valued ally," Katherine Patrick said in the statement. - A. Metzger/SHNS