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STATE CAPITOL BRIEFS

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

TSONGAS LATEST MASS. DEM TO BACK IRAN DEAL

U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas on Wednesday became the latest member of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation to throw her support behind the international nuclear deal with Iran, calling it “our best chance to halt Iran on its path to building a nuclear weapon.” With Congress set to vote next month on the deal negotiated by Secretary of State John Kerry and world partners to subject Iran to nuclear inspections in exchange for lifting sanctions on the country, the White House has been aggressively courting Democrats in order to sustain a veto if Congress rejects the deal. Tsongas, a Lowell Democrat and senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, acknowledged the concerns many have with the deal by calling it “not perfect,” but said rejecting the deal would leave the United States with “no leverage and weakened alliances and credibility.” “Iran’s past behavior means this agreement must not be built on trust, but on terms that are clearly defined, verifiable and enforceable. The JCPOA provides a comprehensive verification process that ensures the international community has rigorous and unprecedented access to Iran’s nuclear activities and infrastructure – more comprehensive and intrusive than any inspection authority ever previously negotiated – with real teeth to enforce the agreed upon measures if Iran fails to comply. Nor does this agreement take any option off the table – including a military option – for President Obama or any future president,” she said in a statement. Tsongas joins U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Reps. Seth Moulton, Steve Lynch and Jim McGovern in supporting the deal. Others in the Massachusetts delegations have not yet made up their minds, though U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano has signaled he is leaning in favor. – Matt Murphy/SHNS

JUDGE HEARS ARGUMENTS IN VINEYARD TRIBAL GAMING CASE

A federal judge on Wednesday declined to immediately rule on arguments presented by the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head and the groups seeking to block it from building an electronic bingo hall on Martha’s Vineyard. Lawyers argued about overlapping federal statutes that placed 485 acres of tribal land into trust in 1987, with agreement that state and town laws would continue to apply, and the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Massachusetts sued the tribe in December 2013 after the National Indian Gaming Commission approved the Aquinnah’s gaming ordinance. Judge Dennis Saylor complimented all parties on their arguments and said he would come to a decision “as quickly as I can.” – Andy Metzger/SHNS

“NEXT TRAIN” COUNTDOWN SIGNS ABOUT TO REACH GREEN LINE

Underground Green Line stations on Thursday will begin offering customers information about when the next train will arrive, a development that state transportation officials say is especially noteworthy since the stations are in subway tunnels that are 118 years old. The first “countdown” signed will be activated Thursday at 10:15 a.m. at Kenmore Station, signs at Hynes Station are scheduled to be activated next week, and officials announced Wednesday that “many more” signs will be activated at Green Line stations in “the coming weeks and months.” State Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack and MBTA General Manager Frank DePaola plan to be on hand at Kenmore Station Thursday morning. So-called next train signs are common on other lines in the MBTA system. – Michael Norton/SHNS

BAKER TO MARK “NEW ENGLAND’S LARGEST SOLAR PARKING CANOPY”

A solar array at Bristol Community College is generating enough power to meet half of the needs on the Fall River campus and the college has an agreement in place to buy power from the array for a reduced cost over 20 years. Gov. Charlie Baker plans celebrate the initiative on Friday. Baker, who last week filed legislation to continue subsidies intended to grow the solar power industry, on Friday afternoon plans to visit the campus where event organizers plan to throw a switch that will generate light and shoot confetti to celebrate the 3.2 megawatt renewable energy array, which is in place on five acres over parking lots. Seminole Financial Services last year announced a $7.7 million construction loan to build and install the solar system at the college, which the company said was expected to produce over 3 million kilowatt hours of electricity in the first full year after its commercial operation date. According to the college, the array is “New England’s largest solar parking canopy” and was built at no public expense through a partnership with the energy-buying consortium PowerOptions and SunEdison. Baker will be joined by college president Jack Sbrega, Cynthia Arcate of PowerOptions and Matthew Kearns of SunEdison. – Michael Norton/SHNS

HOUSE CHAMBER “UNDER CONSTRUCTION”

The fourth floor doors to the House chamber are open but the chamber itself was closed Wednesday and marked as “under construction.” Asked about the work, a spokesman for House Speaker Robert DeLeo said the chamber’s camera system is being improved to facilitate the type of video feeds needed by media outlets. – Michael Norton/SHNS

FEDS GIVE MASS. $3 MIL TO TREAT PREGNANT WOMEN

The state on Wednesday announced it won a $3 million federal grant to assist pregnant women with opioid disorders. Opioids, which range from prescription pain medication to heroin, have exacted a toll on Bay Staters. The Department of Public Health (DPH) estimated 1,256 people died of unintentional opioid overdoses last year, up from 939 in 2013. DPH is the recipient of the $3 million, three-year grant from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The state agency is the lead of the Moms Do Care project, which combines social services, Medicaid and health providers to identify pregnant women in need of medication-assisted treatment and ensure they receive services, which include mental health and addiction services. “The treatment teams will include physician prescribers, nurse care managers and Recovery Moms and will implement a multidisciplinary team approach coordinated across service systems,” the Baker administration announced Wednesday. Massachusetts was one of 11 states awarded federal funds. “This grant to support families with substance-exposed newborns comes at a critical time when we’re seeing an unprecedented surge of newborns suffering from opioid withdrawal,” said Congresswoman Katherine Clark, a Melrose Democrat, in a statement. – Andy Metzger/SHNS

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