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Poll: Patrick ahead of Baker, Cahill in governor’s race

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Poll: Patrick ahead of Baker, Cahill in governor’s race

Gov. Deval Patrick is leading Republican Charles Baker and independent Timothy Cahill in the latest public Massachusetts gubernatorial poll.

A Suffolk University/WHDH-TV survey released Friday showed Patrick with 33 percent of the vote, compared to 25 percent for Baker and 23 percent for Cahill. That is a statistical tie for the latter two, given the poll’s 4.4 percentage point margin of error.

The survey found 16 percent were undecided.

A similar poll in November found Patrick leading Cahill 36 percent to 26 percent with Baker a distant third at 15 percent.

Convenience store magnate Christy Mihos is also seeking the Republican nomination, while community activist Grace Ross is seeking the Democratic nomination. Jill Stein is running under the Green-Rainbow Party banner.

Mass. Democrats launch new effort to court Latinos

The Massachusetts Democratic Party is launching an aggressive effort to court Latino voters just weeks after the stunning victory by Republican Senator Scott Brown and concerns over a shrinking base.

The state’s Democrats are holding Spanish-language workshops this weekend for Latino activists interested in volunteering and raising money for candidates.

Alejandra St. Guillen, program director of Oiste (oh-EE’-steh), a Massachusetts group aimed at electing Latinos, said some Latino voters feel they were taken for granted by Martha Coakley’s senate campaign, which they said didn’t reach out to them until the last week before the special election.

Tarah Donoghue, a spokeswoman for MassGOP, says Republicans also are looking to attract Latino voters.

Latinos represent around 8 percent of the state’s population.

Mass. Senate bill nixes plan for hands-free phones

A Senate bill aimed at cracking down on text-messaging while driving does not include a House provision requiring all drivers to use hands-free devices if they also want to speak on their cell phones.

The draft released last Thursday by the Senate Ways and Means Committee matches recently passed House legislation by requiring drivers 75 and older to be tested every 3 years to ensure they are still capable of driving.

It also bans text messaging by any driver. And it prohibits a junior operator from using a cell phone for any purpose while driving a car.

The measure will be debated by the full Senate before any emerging bill is blended with the House bill in an upcoming conference committee.

Municipal aid package contains inspection fee hike

A legislative package aimed at helping cities and towns stabilize their finances includes a 20 percent hike in Massachusetts automobile inspection fees.

The inspection charge for a passenger car would rise from $29 to $35 under the plan. The extra revenue would be dedicated to local police training.

The bill would also let municipalities establish e-billing programs and offer employee benefits already available to state workers, such as health care spending accounts and larger optional life insurance maximums.

Communities could also enter into cooperative purchasing agreements and mutual aid agreements with other cities and towns to save money on services, equipment and staffing.

The bill is being reviewed by the House Ways and Means Committee.