Natick Mall vax closure, immigrant driver’s licenses, and more
The mass vaccination site at Natick Mall is scheduled to close down today, as announced last month by Gov. Charlie Baker.
10 a.m. | Coalition to End Housing Discrimination hosts a virtual Fair Housing Day to discuss legislation that supporters say would increase housing access and end discrimination.
10 a.m. | A special 21-member commission to study civil asset forfeiture policies and practices in the state meets virtually, chaired by Sen. Jamie Eldridge and House Majority Leader Claire Cronin.
10 a.m. | Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce holds a government affairs forum with Acting Boston Mayor Kim Janey.
11 a.m. | Joint Committee on Community Development and Small Businesses holds virtual hearing on 14 bills concerning small business recovery.
2 p.m. | Transportation Committee meets to review legislation that would allow undocumented immigrants in Massachusetts to acquire standard driver’s licenses.
4:30 p.m. | Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz officially kicks off her campaign for governor with supporters, elected leaders, and community organizers.
For the most comprehensive list of calendar items, check out State House News Service’s Daily Advances (pay wall – free trial subscriptions available).
Chang-Díaz officially jumps in guv’s race
After several months of exploring a bid for governor, Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz officially announced Wednesday morning that she is running for governor, reports Katie Lannan of State House News Service. The fourth-term Democrat and former teacher is the only woman of color in the Senate and has focused on education and criminal justice reform since arriving on Beacon Hill.
Meanwhile, from the Boston Globe’s Emma Platoff: “During the COVID-19 vaccine rollout this year, as vaccination rates for people of color lag behind those of white residents, she has been one of Governor Charlie Baker’s harshest critics, saying in February that the state’s distribution system was ‘a textbook case study of structural racism.’”
CommonWealth’s Michael Jonas also has more details on the announcement. Harvard University professor Danielle Allen and former state Sen. Ben Downing have already declared bids for the state’s highest office.
Egg market at risk of being scrambled
Egg-laying hens will be one of two focal points when the Senate meets on Thursday, which is an odd way to start any sentence. Why are we talking about the birds in the first place?
The Senate plans to take up a bill updating a successful 2016 ballot law that takes effect on Jan 1., 2022, and sets out minimum standards for housing pigs, veal calves, and egg-laying hens. That law, lawmakers, animal rights activists, and even industry stakeholders say, is now inconsistent with regulations across the country and egg prices may surge as a result.
“There’s a very serious concern that come January 1 of next year, when the ballot question goes into effect, there would be a severe shortage of eggs in Massachusetts, and that would lead to price spikes,” Sen. Jason Lewis, one of the bill’s main sponsors, told MassterList. “That would not be good for Massachusetts consumers.”
The original 2016 ballot question required that hens be raised in an environment where they can lay down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and freely turn around. It set a standard of 1.5 square feet of usable floor space per bird.
Lawmakers are proposing to reduce that to 1 square foot if the hen is kept in an aviary barn, a type of cage-free housing that provides them with access to spaces off the ground. Picture a bookshelf running the length of a barn, but instead of books, the shelves have perches, nests, and ramps for the animals to move around, said Stephanie Harris of Animal Legal Defense Fund.
“Like virtually all birds, hens prefer to get off the ground — hens would typically fly high up into trees to seek safety from predators and to roost at night — and that’s what aviaries allow them to do,” Harris said in a joint statement alongside Animal Rescue League of Boston, Humane Society of the United States, and MSPCA to MassterList.
If this new bill does not pass, Lewis said, not enough in- or out-of-state egg producers would be in compliance with the Massachusetts regulations, leading to a lack of imported eggs and, eventually, price increases.
As SHNS’s Chris Lisinski reported at the start of May, the bill has drawn an unusual coalition of animal rights advocates and industry groups like United Egg Producers. Lewis said the legislation the Senate will consider tomorrow now has support from both sides of the original ballot question.
“They all support the bill, again, because this actually improves animal welfare,” he said.
Federal funds feud: Act III
The spat between the Legislature and Gov. Charlie Baker over who gets to decide how to allocate more than $5 billion in federal aid isn’t over. But it did hit a critical juncture Tuesday when the House rejected the governor’s proposal to spend about half of the money now and work with the Legislature later to deal with the rest. CommonWealth’s Bruce Mohl has more details on the vote.
The Senate still needs to follow suit but it appears that’s a given based on the latest in what’s been a string of joint statements from Senate President Karen Spilka and House Speaker Ronald Mariano, as SHNS’s Matt Murphy reports.
“The Legislature will be rejecting the governor’s amendment to immediately spend $2.815 billion in available American Rescue Plan funds,” their statement read. “Our actions this week will preserve the funds while allowing all parties to participate in the discussion and help make decisions about how to allocate these resources.”
If the Senate does reject the proposal it would head back to Baker, who could sign the revised bill into law, veto it, or let it become law without his signature. If he does veto it, the Legislature seems to have the numbers to override. If anything, they might have to answer as to why they are not joining the governor’s call to put more of Joe Biden’s Rescue Act money to work right away to accelerate the state’s economic recovery.
Is it the drinking water?
Not likely. A second Republican lawmaker plans to skip out on a MassGOP fundraising event as the party continues to contend with the fallout from a state committee member’s anti-gay remarks and the party’s handling of the situation.
Boston Globe’s Emma Platoff reports that U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) canceled her appearance at a June 24 “chairman’s circle” event, citing a busy week in the U.S. Senate a week before they head into recess. This comes after U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw canceled his appearance at a fund-raiser event last week.
Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Riley had a lot to say during a board meeting Tuesday. SHNS’s Katie Lannan reports Riley’s comments on new regulations requiring vocational-technical schools to develop their own admissions policies “that promote equitable access.”
More from Lannan: “Riley said the new regulations will bring Massachusetts more in line with other states, give state officials authority to intervene in cases of non-compliance and update a process that ‘has not been touched’ for 20 years.”
And Boston Globe’s Felicia Gans writes that Riely is “extremely concerned” about resignations on the Boston School Committee. More from Gans: “Riley said his team will be ‘exploring the possibility of maybe temporarily freezing’ the second and third rounds of emergency relief funding for Boston.”
No ransom: Steamship Authority says it did not pay cyber criminals who crippled computers
The Woods Hole, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket Steamship Authority say it did not pay ransom to hackers who messed up its reservation computer system, but isn’t saying much else about the attack, citing an ongoing FBI investigation, Jessica Hill of the Cape Cod Times reports.
Coalition opposes ride-share companies’ campaigns
How should companies classify app-based workers in Massachusetts? That’s the central question of an emerging debate on wages and benefits for drivers working for companies like Lyft, Uber, and DoorDash. SHNS’s Chris Lisinski reports on the launch of a new coalition that seeks “very basic protections.”
From Boston Business Journal’s Lucia Maffei: “The Coalition to Protect Workers’ Rights has some initial funding from the AFL-CIO, as well as different unions and worker organizations, according to its director Mike Firestone, who declined to say how much.”
Out front: Somerville on cusp of approving supervised drug consumption sit
They’re still on track to be first. The city of Somerville continues to lay the foundation for what could be the country’s first government-endorsed supervised drug consumption site, Felice Freyer of the Globe reports. Though the city isn’t waiting to learn the fate of legislation that would authorize the sites across the state, it could still be another year before such a facility could open.
‘Exorcism of the demon of corporate greed’
That’s apparently what members of Worcester’s Saints Francis & Thérèse Catholic Worker group held inside St. Vincent Hospital Tuesday in support of striking nurses, reports the Telegram & Gazette’s Marco Cartolano.
Coalition takes out $500K worth of ads for Boston race
A group of unions and developers are testing the old theory of money talking loud in politics with a new slate of television and radio ads, purchased at a mere cost of $500,000, in an attempt to lobby Boston mayoral candidates, reports Boston Herald’s Sean Philip Cotter.
Cleared (sort of): Investigator says Gloucester mayor did not break law
She’s pretty salty — but that’s not illegal. An outside investigator hired by the city of Gloucester after three department heads complained about Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken’s leadership found no evidence she broke any laws, but slammed her use of “profanities and angry outbursts” toward subordinates and said she did violate employee confidentiality protections. Taylor Ann Bradford of the Gloucester Times reports Theken said she accepts the report’s findings and is working on improving her management skills.
Mayoral mania: Lawrence, Northampton races attract late entrant
Onetime state Senate candidate Doris Rodriguez has formally launched her bid for mayor of Lawrence, making her the fifth candidate in the race, Allison Corneau of the Eagle-Tribune reports.
Meanwhile, Northampton’s mayoral contest now has six candidates after the entry of transportation analyst Marc Warner, who says he joined the fray after concluding other candidates are not “taking it as seriously as they need to,” Brian Steele of the Daily Hampshire Gazette reports.
Unvaccinated make up new COVID hospitalizations
MassLive’s Tanner Stening takes a deep dive into Department of Public Health data and finds that a majority of new COVID-19 hospitalizations are among unvaccinated patients.
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