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STATE CAPITOL BRIEFS

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

SUDDERS TO CHAIR OPIATE ABUSE WORKING GROUP

A working group of 10 to 12 people will advise Gov. Charlie Baker on best approaches to opiate abuse, including potential legislation to supplement a substance abuse treatment law approved in 2014. Baker said during a WGBH “Ask the Governor” segment on Thursday that Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders will chair the working group, noting her experience in social work and in helping to pass a mental health parity law. The working group will hold “public conversations” to gather ideas, advise Baker on administrative actions he can take “to get in front of this,” and help make data publicly available at least quarterly on overdose deaths. Baker said it was “odd” that state government had collected data but not made it publicly available. – Michael Norton/SHNS

TEENS RALLY FOR $$$ TO PROTECT YOUTH JOBS

Story Developing. Advocates and teens called on Gov. Charlie Baker Thursday to reverse his reduction in funding for youth jobs and increase appropriations for such programs next month in his first budget proposal. Teens and youth jobs advocates rallied inside Old South Church in Boston, saying Baker had cut funding for 160 youth jobs as part of his effort to close a $768 million midyear state budget gap. If Baker in his budget proposal keeps funding for youth jobs at $10 million – the same level as in fiscal 2015 – the program will be able to fund 1,194 fewer jobs, or roughly 20 percent of the total jobs. That’s due to the minimum wage increase that went into effect in January, they said. Under a law approved in 2014, the state’s minimum wage law rose from $8 to $9 an hour on Jan. 1, 2015, and is scheduled to rise to $10 an hour in 2016 and $11 an hour in 2017. “Every penny is significant,” said Jaelle Sanon, an 18-year-old senior at the O’Bryant High School in Boston and organizer with the Youth Jobs Coalition. Baker’s budget is expected to be filed on March 4. The 2016 fiscal year starts in July. – Gintautas Dumcius/SHNS

MONTIGNY, MARIANO TO LEAD RULES CONFERENCEE

With the two branches split over varying joint-rules proposals dictating how legislation moves through the State House, the Senate on Thursday appointed Sen. Mark Montigny as its lead negotiator on a conference committee that will also include Sen. Anthony Petruccelli and Sen. Bruce Tarr. The House on Tuesday appointed Rep. Ronald Mariano as its lead negotiator. Reps. Garrett Bradley and Paul Frost were also named to the conference committee on the joint-rules proposals (H 2017/S 11). Montigny led a Senate push to change the joint rules to give Senate members of joint committees the ability to move legislation without the support of House members, who outnumber them on joint committees. – Andy Metzger/SHNS

FAA: PLAN WOULD ALLOW “ROUTINE USE” OF DRONES

The federal government this week proposed a regulatory framework for the “routine use” of unmanned aircraft systems, more commonly known as drones, and one expert says the plan may bode well for the use of drones by news-gathering operations. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the framework lays out safety rules for systems weighing less than 55 pounds conducting non-recreational operations. The rules, which will be the subject of a 60-day comment period, limit flights to daylight and visual-line-of-sight operations, according to the FAA, and address height restrictions, operator certification, aircraft registration and marking, and operational limits. “We have tried to be flexible in writing these rules,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in a statement. “We want to maintain today’s outstanding level of aviation safety without placing an undue regulatory burden on an emerging industry.” According to Matt Waite, a University of Nebraska instructor who works with news organizations, the proposal is “surprisingly flexible and permissive given what the agency has required of users up to now.” “Put simply, drones for journalism becomes very possible and very legal under these rules. Only a few things wouldn’t be allowed, and they’re minor in the grand scheme of things,” Waite wrote in a NiemanLab post on Sunday. – Michael Norton/SHNS

MEMA ALERTS LOCALS ABOUT SNOW DISPOSAL IN OPEN WATERS

As public works crews continue to manage mammoth snow piles across Massachusetts, emergency management officials are urging local officials to follow environmental guidelines governing the disposal of snow in waterways. In a situational awareness update circulated Wednesday night, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency said communities must consult with local conservation commissions prior to disposing snow in open water and must provide advance notification to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) by calling 888-304 1133. According to DEP guidelines, snow may be disposed in open water “with adequate flow and mixing to prevent ice dams from forming.” The guidelines recommend against disposing snow in saltmarshes, vegetated wetlands, certified vernal pools, shellfish beds, mudflats, drinking water reservoirs and their tributaries, and other areas. Snow should not be disposed where trucks may cause shoreline damage or erosion, according to MEMA, and authorities disposing snow in open waters must ensure that they comply with local ordinances and bylaws. – Michael Norton/SHNS

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