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The Download: Capitol coverage


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Although the American Journalism Review predictably bemoans the state of state house news coverage around the country, the magazine recently looked in on some promising profit and nonprofit start-ups. Nationwide, there are very few reporters covering state politics. A little over a year ago an AJR survey found that there were only 355 reporters covering state capital issues, down one-third from 2003.

AJR’s Mark Lisheron starts off in New Jersey, a state where corruption is “taken for granted by its residents” and the FBI, checking in on new outlets like NJ Spotlight, founded by veteran Garden State print reporters, and Statehousesteps.com, set up by a state house radio correspondent. Liseheron also spotlights developments in California and in Texas, where the nonprofit Texas Tribune is being closely watched.

AJR also gives a shout-out to an organization familiar to Bay Staters, which has found a successful pay formula. Boston’s State House News Service, the online, subscription-only news outlet, set up a similar operation, the News Service of Florida (complete with a jazzier website than its Hub cousin), in Tallahassee. The Florida news outlet aims to attract a similar subscriber base: state officials, lobbyists, advocacy groups, and law firms willing to pony up more than $1,000 a year for a “comprehensive Statehouse wire service e-mailed to the customer.” News organizations also pay for its coverage.

The Florida news service was launched by Craig Sandler, Russell Pergament (the first publisher of Boston Metro) Stephen Cummings in 2008. Sandler is the owner of the Boston statehouse news organization. Cummings is a friend of Pergament’s with whom he co-founded the Brookline-Newton Tab. They also helped Sandler fund the purchase of the Boston statehouse outlet.

The News Service of Florida is becoming “the place of record” for the Florida statehouse, according to Mary Ellen Klas, one of the heads of the recently combined Miami Herald and St. Petersburg Times state house bureaus.

National politics

Congressional Democrats are preparing to trade extension of the Bush tax cuts for renewal of unemployment benefits, according to this New York Times report.

Springfield’s Richard Neal is making a play become the ranking Democrat on what will soon be the GOP-controlled House Ways and Means Committee, reports the Globe.

The New York Times blogs about Rep. Charles Rangel, who was found guilty of ethics violations earlier this week. The New York Observer  finds out that the Harlem Democrat managed to console himself with a hot bowl of soup.

The New Republic’s John McWhorter has some interesting food for thought on the George W. Bush’s apparent anguish over the bigot charge leveled at him after Hurricane Katrina by rapper Kanye West.

The Tea Party-fueled campaign against Congressional earmarks would tilt more power to the executive branch (and the socialist president currently in office there), say two California political scientists writing in the National Journal.

State politics

Fresh off his reelection victory, Gov. Deval Patrick says he’s committed to program set of initiatives to more fully integrate immigrants into state life, including charging in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants, an issue that has roiled the political waters in recent years. 

Jim Braude, on NECN, interviews Bruce Tarr of Gloucester and Robert Hedlund of Weymouth, the two Republicans seeking to lead the “gang of four” in the Massachusetts Senate.

Business and the economy

Two front-page stories in today’s Globe make for an unhappy pairing. Charities in the state say they are receiving a record number of calls for help with food, heating bills, and other essentials by residents battered by the bad economy. Meanwhile, charitable giving is up this year compared with last, but still lags considerably behind pre-recession levels, according to a new report from the Boston College Center on Wealth and Philanthropy.

Steven Antonakes, the state banking commissioner, is heading to DC to oversee the marketing of consumer products by banks in the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau established by Congress in the wake of the financial crisis.

Peter Diamond, the Nobel Prize-winning MIT economist, seems to be on his way to a seat on the Federal Reserve Board. A bid by Alabama Republican Sen. Richard Shelby to scuttle the nomination on a technicality failed, as the Senate Banking Committee voted to send Diamond’s nomination to the full Senate for a vote.

Health care

State officials are serious about keeping mandatory health insurance mandatory, the Herald reports. To date, they’ve denied 3,150 appeals of fines stemming from not being insured. 

The Washington Post reports that the Illinois company that makes Four Loko, which college students call “blackout in a can,” announced Wednesday that it plans to remove caffeine and similar chemicals from all of its products. The FDA is expected to announce shortly that caffeinated alcoholic drinks are unsafe, which would be tantamount to an outright ban. Both New York and Massachusetts have been considering bans and New Jersey and Washington state have linked the drink to cases of alcohol poisoning.

Transportation

With the holiday flying season fast approaching, the Patriot Ledger takes the temperature of some passengers at Logan Airport over whether they prefer full-body scans or someone coming near their “junk” in a pat down and how the heightened scrutiny affects their travel.

Massachusetts does one of the worst jobs of combating repeat drunk drivers, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

Energy and environment

The Salem News says Salem Harbor Station should be converted into trash transfer depot.

The Globe editorial page says Boston should go ahead and adopt more stringent energy efficiency requirements in its building code.

Municipal affairs

The city of Quincy and the private Woodward School for Girls are locked in a legal battle over money from a trust set up by President John Adams, the Globe reports.

Education

James Stone and Wendell Knox, in an Globe op-ed, say urban schools can make big strides without huge structural makeovers. The keys: strong school leadership and relentless use of data to drive decisions.

Sign of the times

The Lynn Item reports on a man caught stealing aluminum park benches.

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