Manic Monday Markup 1/25/16…
…And the World:
We begin today in Israel, where the Knesset is expected to take up a host of controversial pieces of legislation from the “infamous” NGO bill to those restricting to those further regulating businesses that are open on the Sabbath. Israel has faced tremendous international pressure to scrap the NGO bill, which required organizations that receive outside funding to disclose it. However, it does not apply to groups that recieve funds from foreign individuals (as opposed to governments). Still, rancor in the Knessett could upend the NGO bill’s passage.
Elsewhere in Israel, authorities have approved building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, effectively ending a de facto pause in such construction.
Iran Hassan Rouhani is heading to Europe, the first time an Iranian leader has come to the continent in 16 years. Airbus is hoping to sell the Iranians some jets now that sanctions have been relaxed.
A mosquito-borne illness linked to brain deformities in babies is believed to be spreading across the Americas.
Elsewhere in Europe, Daesh, also known at ISIL/ISIS, wants to execute more Paris-style attacks on the content.
In Iberian potpourri: Portugal elects a center-right president while Spain’s political situation remains in disarray after acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy finds himself unable to form a government after last month’s elections.
The UK Labour party is preparing itself for losses in upcoming elections, including all of its constituency-based seat in the Scottish Parliament, amid rising concerns the party has not learned its lessons from last year’s defeat in the national polls.
In Presidential election action, The Washington Post‘s morning newsletter contemplates growing concerns about Iowa in both parties. However, the emphasis is really on the Republican side as Iowa’s GOP caucuses have tended to go to the party’s most ideologically conservative contender, not its most electable in a general election. Indeed, most GOP Iowa caucus winners do not win the nomination.
President Barack Obama, in an interview with Politico, seems to undercut attempts to equate Bernie Sanders’s campaign with that of the president’s eight years ago. Greg Sargent at The Washington Post has additional thoughts. Also a look at both campaigns’ plans heading into the caucuses next week in Iowa.
The Des Moines Register and Boston Globe both endorse Hillary Clinton in the Iowa and New Hampshire Democratic contests (The Register also endorsed Florida Senator Marco Rubio on the GOP side). Geography also appears to favor Clinton in Iowa. On the Sanders’s side, one blogger underscores the size of his crowds and The Times reports that a South Carolina lawmakers has switched to supporting Sanders.
And once again, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is eyeing the presidential race.
More locally, our report on the presidential campaigns activities in the Springfield area.
New York has largely recovered from the snow, but Washington will likely be digging out for days.
The State of Things:
The big surprise in Western Massachusetts politics is the announcement by Pittsfield Senator Benjamin Downing that he is declining to run for reelection. Downing, 34, told reporters in his hometown that he was not closing the door on politics, but was fulfilling a promise to himself to not serve more than 10 years in that office.
I couldn't be more proud of him as a brother or respect him more as a public servant. Well done @BenjaminDowning 3/3
— Nick Downing (@N_Downing) January 25, 2016
.@BenjaminDowning is all that is good about public service and I am sorry to see him leave. He also keeps his promises. Rare indeed. #mapoli
— Mary Anne Marsh (@maryannemarsh) January 25, 2016
Downing will leave a broad legacy, but most commemorations of his tenure emphasized his work on expanding solar energy in Massachusetts and connecting the disparate downs in Berkshire count and the western fringes of Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire counties to high-speed internet. Though he doesn’t know what’s next, Downing has ruled out lobbying.
Thank YOU @BenjaminDowning for a decade worthy of tribute. You're the picture of public service. #mapoli https://t.co/PBk8rPJEUu
— Steve Kerrigan (@stevekerrigan) January 25, 2016
It was my honor & pleasure to work with @BenjaminDowning for 9 yrs – 413's next Senator has very big shoes to fill
— Bethann Steiner (@BethannSteiner) January 25, 2016
Losing @BenjaminDowning will be big blow to #MAPoli, but that #SolarIsWorking will be testament to his leadership. https://t.co/amOMEbCrtJ
— Sean Garren (@SeanGarren) January 25, 2016
WMassP&I has learned that Lenox State Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli, is among those interested in taking Downing’s senate seat. However such a large district could yield dozens of other possibilities. In a presidential year, it seems likely to stay Democratic, although the GOP held the seat as recently as 1996.
Elsewhere in the Senate, our report on the first year of the Senate’s youngest member, Eric Lesser.
The Boston Business Journal digs into Gov. Charlie Baker’s desire to pull back on the film tax credit, but expand another. Who would like to benefit from this other tax? General Electric.
Our editor-in-chief Matt Szafranski again joins Natalia Munoz and Susan Kaplan on NEPR’s Short List.
Attorney General Maura Healey scores a win after Draft Kings implements some of her regulations for fantasy sports websites.
The Fourth Estatements:
How will Bloomberg cover Bloomberg if he gets into the presidential race? That’s the question Politico poses. Meanwhile The Huffington Post suggests a run would inevitably shake up Bloomberg’s media divisions.
The Guardian engages cost-cutting measures in the face of growing losses.
GOP-aligned independent groups have turned their fire on New Yorker writer Jane Mayer, whose most recent book alleged that the Koch Brothers’ father built an oil refinery for the Nazis. They have ostensibly charged her with hypocrisy observing her great-great grandfather did business with Nazi Germany, too.
The Springfield City Council’s review of MGM’s site plan continues this week. The Council is expected to get answers from MGM following concerns raised by abutters.
Springfield receives $17 million from the feds to build up resiliency ahead of future storms.
Rumor of Senator Downing’s retirement came to this blog shortly before the new was confirmed this morning. More will be said about Downing both by this blog and others, but the outpouring of gratefulness for his service is remarkable in itself. Downing, who arguably had the furthest commute in the Senate (combined with one of the largest districts), will likely be remembered as workhorse, too. It is quite clear he will be missed as some of the other tweets above show. However, the tweet prize this week goes to Jesse Mermell, a former Brookline Select Board member and Deval Patrick staffer. She encapsulated not only the sentiments of many, but, being an Easterner, Mermell showed that recognition of Downing’s service extends well beyond the four western counties of Massachusetts he represents.
MA is a better place for @BenjaminDowning's service. His departure is a true loss for all of us, not just for his district. TY, Ben. #mapoli
— Jesse Mermell (@jessemermell) January 25, 2016