By Michael P. Norton

MARCH 20, 2016.....Irish Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys won applause at Sunday morning's St. Patrick's Day breakfast when she said the Irish in Massachusetts have thrived in politics, business and culture, and called Boston "the Irish capital of America."
Noting she'd been told to expect a lot of ribbing, Humphreys picked up instead on the mostly friendly, bipartisan vibe in the South Boston breakfast hall - once a crucible where no politician left unscathed - calling the occasion a "love-in."
"I'm going to have to bring back some of this love to Ireland to help us form a new government," Humphreys said.
Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry of Dorchester hosted the event, a traditional annual gathering of top state and city elected officials who take turns trying to be funny, with hits and misses along the way.
"Céad míle fáilte. That's the native Irish expression of ten thousand welcomes," Forry said in her opening remarks. "But here in South Boston it just means get your car out of my spot."
While it's not the school of hard knocks it used to be, the breakfast at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center was hardly free of the ribbing that Humphreys anticipated and others look forward to.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren opened with a series of quick jabs.
"It seems that there are more people here this morning than all the people who voted for Jeb Bush," she said.
"You have as many college students as at a Clinton rally, the diversity of a Sanders rally, and the combined blood-alcohol of a Trump rally," she continued. "People here have been drinking since the crack of dawn and yet you're still more coherent than Donald Trump."
Warren also suggested a link between Gov. Charlie Baker's recent Utah ski trip and his party affiliation. "Must remind him of his beloved Republican Party - downhill fast."
In one line, Forry swiped at both Warren and a South Boston congressman who lives near the hall.
"Fun fact. This is real," said Forry. "Senator Warren was a Republican before she was a Democrat – kind of like Stevie Lynch, but in reverse."

Focusing on Baker, South Boston Rep. Nick Collins joined Forry, and Reps. Dan Cullinane and Dan Hunt of Dorchester for their own clapping-assisted version of "Charlie (Baker) on the MTA."
"Could he every fix it? Oh he hoped to fix it. Politics 101 is in play," they sang. "Just blame the Democrats and blame the unions. He's not owning the MBTA."
Forry teased Boston Mayor Martin Walsh about his relationship with Baker - "your BFF no doubt" - and surfaced Baker's recent secret trip to an island conference. Baker should take his high approval ratings on the road to Utah, hang out with Mitt Romney, and, Forry suggested, he "may want to check on his buddy Chris Christie."
Baker endorsed Christie just before the New Jersey governor dropped out of this year's race for president. Christie then announced he's backing frontrunner Donald Trump, whom Baker says he won't vote for.
Warren has made her former foe, Republican Scott Brown, a perennial laugh line in her stand-up, and kept it up on Sunday.
"Donald Trump is floating Scott Brown as a possible running mate. I want you to think about that. It would be the perfect reality show matchup - 'Celebrity Apprentice' meets 'The Biggest Loser,'" Warren said.
Warren and Baker both made light of Sen. Brian Joyce's problems, including reports that he's inappropriately received free dry cleaning for years. Trotted to the podium with a basket of laundry, Baker declared: "I'm sorry I'm late. I've been waiting for Senator Joyce. I had some laundry I needed done. And boy, I hear he gets a really good deal."
Baker said that since Joyce is not running to keep his seat, "we have the perfect solution for him - we think he should be the first curator of Snake Island right out there in the Quabbin Reservoir."
The governor noted his high approval ratings had not translated into success for his endorsed candidates, including Christie, and Scott Brown and Richard Tisei in 2012 and 2014.
"So I'm here today to take a moment to publicly endorse Elizabeth Warren, Marty Walsh and Maura Healey for governor in 2018," Baker said.
Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito picked up on Baker's out-of-state travels, joking that while Baker was away she had received a call from an "international figure" wondering how to achieve Baker-like approval ratings.
"So I said, 'Holy Father, the first thing you need to do is lose the hat. It's a little pretentious,'" Polito said.
Polito brought up Forry's trip to Colorado recently with other senators to learn about legalization of marijuana there.
"She really got into this experience," said Polito, suggesting the senator had included 3,241 bags of Doritos on her expense sheet.
Said Warren, "If you thought this event was wild before, wait until next year when Stan Rosenberg and Bob DeLeo share a bong. Try to get that one out of your head."

(State House News Service) Baker "optimistic" opioid bill gets done before budget debate

Gov. Charlie Baker said Tuesday that it's his sense House and Senate negotiators trying to reach compromise on opioid abuse prevention legislation will strike a deal "fairly shortly" and avoid the bill getting caught in the web of late-session dealmaking. 
Despite the fact that he said he's "anxious" to see a bill reach his desk, the governor refused to criticize the pace of progress in the Democrat-controlled legislation and even went out of his way to note funding bills and smaller opioid-related law changes that have reached his desk. 
"I'd like to see it in the next couple of weeks. There's been talk about trying to get it done before the budget becomes kind of the major part of the activity around here," Baker told reporters Tuesday. 
The bills currently under negotiation would take steps to reduce the number of painkillers that can be prescribed at any one time. Continuing to site a statistic that four people die every day in Massachusetts from opioid-related overdoses, Baker would not put a timetable on when his patience might run out. "I get the fact that this is complicated and we proposed some pretty disruptive stuff, but I'm more optimistic about this. It's my sense about this that we're likely to see something fairly shortly, and unless I get told otherwise, I'm going to presume that's going to be the case." 
– Matt Murphy/State House News Service

(State House News Service) State Confirms MA Zika Virus Case

By Colin A. Young

State health officials have confirmed one case of the Zika virus in Massachusetts and said additional cases will not come as a surprise, although the virus cannot be spread from one infected person to others.

"We are aware of one case in Massachusetts, a person who had traveled to an area where we already know Zika is being transmitted," Dr. Larry Madoff, director of the Division of Epidemiology and Immunization at the Department of Public Health, told the News Service Thursday afternoon. The Centers for Disease Control confirmed the infection on Tuesday, DPH said.

Zika is a mosquito-spread virus that can cause fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis, Madoff said. About 80 percent of people who become infected do not show symptoms, but symptoms generally last up to one week and then go away "without additional problems," he said.
Madoff said the infected person is a man, so there is no concern about the possibility of microcephaly – a fetal malformation that affects the size of a baby's brain and head – which has been linked to Zika infections in pregnant women in South America and Asia. 
Privacy laws prevent him from disclosing which region of the state the man resides in, Madoff said.

"We were not surprised to see a case. We know a lot of people from our state travel to parts of the world where Zika has been transmitted," he said. "We won't be surprised to see some additional cases."

On Thursday, the head of the World Health Organization said that Zika virus was "spreading explosively" through the Americas and convened an emergency committee to meet in Geneva on Feb. 1 to provide "advice on the appropriate level of international concern and for recommended measures."

The virus had been confined to Africa and Asia until 2015, when it was first discovered on Easter Island, off the coast of South America, Madoff said.

Only people who have or are planning to travel to places with ongoing Zika virus outbreaks are at risk for getting the disease, Madoff said, and the type of mosquito that is known to carry Zika is not generally found in Massachusetts.

The Centers for Disease Control has also issued a travel advisory suggesting that pregnant women should postpone travel to South America, Central America, Mexico, Cape Verde, the Caribbean and Samoa. ∞