Happening Today

Formal sessions, Warren in Springfield, and more

9:30. a.m. | Commission on Structural Racism in Correctional Facilities of the Commonwealth holds first meeting virtually to introduce members, discuss their statutory charge, and what members hope to examine and who they want to hear from in future meetings.

12 p.m. | U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren hosts meet and greet outside her Springfield office. Doors open at 11 a.m.

12:30 p.m. | Commission on Facial Recognition holds virtual meeting to discuss the technology’s limitation in police reform and other jurisdictions.

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1 p.m. | House and Senate hold full formal sessions.

For the most comprehensive list of calendar items, check out State House News Service’s Daily Advances (pay wall – free trial subscriptions available).

Today’s Stories

Coalition urges continued testing through summer, fall

With COVID-19 infection rates way down, testing for the virus can be safely scaled back as well, right?

Not so fast says a new coalition of elected officials, businesses, unions, and associations advocating for continued testing throughout the summer and into the fall and winter. Act Against COVID’s argument is simple: it remains unknown how long vaccines will provide protection, new variants pose dangers, and there are still risks associated with catching the virus.

Just Thursday, Pfizer announced that it would be seeking emergency Food and Drug Administration authorization for a booster dose of its vaccine after recording waning immunity after six months.

“I think it’s really critical for the health and well being of the citizens of the commonwealth and our kind of chamber service region, but also our businesses to really make sure that we’re being proactive and staying ahead of this as much as we possibly can,” former lieutenant governor and Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce President Tim Murray told MassterList. “It really is important that we kind of monitor this and not get complacent.”

Department of Public Health data last updated on July 6 shows a steady decline in the 7-day average number of molecular and antigen tests from April through the start of this month. The agency also reported a .46 percent positivity rate averaged over 7 days, according to the July 6 data.

The coalition includes 13 members of the Legislature. One of those members is Rep. Jim O’Day, who said he is concerned about the impact different variations of COVID-19 like the Delta variant might have on the state.

“I really sort of compare this to the idea of the testing to the canary in the coal mine, I think it really is a major way that we can continue to protect our constituents, our families, our children, by keeping a watchful eye on what’s going on,” the West Boylston Democrat told MassterList.

Murray said members of his chamber are excited that sectors of the economy are now open again, but said “there is a level of weariness or uncertainty that still is out there.”

“And testing does mitigate the impact of this and I think it has to still be a piece of the strategy along with trying to get everybody vaccinated as much as possible because of the unknowns that still exist,” he said.

‘It’s all coming out’

And it’s settled. Attorney General Maura Healey and 14 other states agreed to resolve a lawsuit with Purdue Pharma with Massachusetts set to receive $90 million to help fight the opioid crisis, reports State House News Services Colin A. Young. The company will be required to make about 30 million documents public, reports Boston Globe’s Priyanka Dayal McCluskey, who notes that the Sackler Family will also be banned from the opioid business. 

The Sackler family will have to pay out a total of $4.3 billion over nine years for prevention, treatment, and recover efforts across the country, reports MassLive’s Douglas Hook. The money coming to Massachusetts will head to the state’s Opioid Recovery and Remediation Trust Fund. GBH’s Mike Deehan writes that the court order will require Purdue Pharma to be “wound down” or sold by 2024. 

State House News Service

Legislature finds agreement on budget proposal

House and Senate lawmakers found a compromise on a fiscal 2022 budget, agreeing to spend nearly $48.1 billion after raising tax collection estimates by more than $4.2 billion, reports State House News Service’s Matt Murphy.

State House News Service

Former Baker aide running for Congress

Gov. Charlie Baker’s former director of special projects is mounting a bid for a Missouri Congressional seat, setting himself up to run against incumbent Rep. Ann Wagner, reports St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jack Suntrup. Ben Samuels, a Democrat, said he was inspired to run for Congress following the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. 

More from Suntrup: “Though Democrats invested heavily in defeating Wagner in 2018 and 2020, it is unclear whether Wagner will run again for the seat. She has expressed interest in running for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.”

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Variants, Not Deviants

By Chris Lisinski, MassterList and State House News Service

More infectious variants of COVID-19 are on House Speaker Ronald Mariano’s mind as he weighs how and when to phase out emergency procedures and reopen the State House, but a slip of the tongue Wednesday made it appear he had other concerns.

With stadiums full of fans and other venues having reopened long ago, the Massachusetts House remains in emergency operations mode and the speaker was asked why the House’s permanent rules adopted Wednesday will not take effect until October. Mariano replied, “We wanted to keep the temporary rules in place until we were sure the pandemic was over and we weren’t going to face any challenges from any deviants as we reopen.”

For the record, Mariano, who made his comments during a break from a tense House debate over rules reforms, meant to say “variants” rather than “deviants,” his office confirmed.

Health experts have long been warning that the variants that emerged partway through the pandemic appear to be more transmissible, and the Delta variant has now taken over as the most dominant strain of COVID-19 in the country, according to a Wednesday NBC News report.

People are once again gathering maskless in large crowds and gathering limits are gone, but Mariano said the State House remains mostly off limits because he wants “to make sure there’s no significant mistakes” given the volume of lawmakers and staffers.

“We’re a little different than the Senate, we’re a little different than the governor’s office,” he said. “We have 160 members with aides, so now you’re talking about bringing 320 people into the building.”

Officials: Antisemitism motivated stabbing in Brighton

A Brighton resident who officials say attacked a rabbi was motivated by antisemitism and acted alone, according to Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins, reports Boston Globe’s John R. Ellement and Andrew Brinker. New chargers of hate crime and civil rights violations were filed in the case. Rabbi Shlomo Noginski was stabbed multiple times on July 1 outside a Brighton Jewish day school.

Boston Globe

New report details DCF-involved students’ attendance

Students involved with the Department of Children and Families attended in-person classes 93 percent of the time, according to a new report from the agency. CommonWealth’s Shira Schoenberg reports that DCF-involved students in remote schooling attended 88 percent of the time. 

More from Schoenberg: “Overall, school attendance rates for this population were 90 percent, a drop from 93 percent during the same time period the previous year. Statewide among all students, the attendance rate was 94 percent last year – although the statewide data reflects March 1 enrollment figures, while the DCF data was current as of October 1.”

CommonWealth

Moscow-bound: Kerry takes climate mission to Russia

His diplomacy muscles will be getting a workout. U.S. climate envoy John Kerry is slated to visit Moscow next week, hoping to carve out a slice of cooperation with Russia even as tension between the nations ratchets up over cyber attacks and other issues. Jordan Williams of The Hill has the details.

The Hill

Too far? School board member stands by comparing vaccine mandate to Holocaust

Dighton-Rehoboth School Committee member Katie Ferreira-Aubin says she stands by social media posts comparing mask mandates being considered for the fall to the Holocaust after calls from the Anti-Defamation League for her to remove the messages, Stephen Peterson of the Sun Chronicle reports. Aubin tells the paper that her extreme comparisons are meant to “get people’s attention.”

Sun Chronicle

Cause and effect: After pandemic layoffs, shutdown, EcoTarium employees unionize

Non-management employees at the Worcester Ecotarium have voted to unionize over the objections of the museum’s ownership, a direct reaction to sweeping layoffs prompted by the coronavirus pandemic, Brad Kane of the Worcester Business Journal reports.

Worcester Business Journal

Dateline Dallas: Striking nurses deliver petition to hospital owner

The Lone Star State is hot and seemingly endless. But striking nurses from St. Vincent hospital made their way south and endured the humidity to deliver a petition to Tenant Healthcare, owner of the Worcester hospital, to ask the healthcare corporation to help settle their contract, reports Telegram & Gazette’s Isabel Sami from Texas.

Telegram & Gazette

Clean it up: Pittsfield Board of Health backs green energy transition

The Pittsfield Board of Health publicy backed grassroots movement advocating a Pittsfield power plan to shift away from using fossil fuels, reports Larry Parnass of the Berkshire Eagle.

More from Parnass: “The four-member board voted unanimously to write to the plant’s owner, Hull Street Energy, and request that officials explore a transition to green energy to alleviate its contribution to global warming and to lessen local health consequences.”

Berkshire Eagle

Party of 5: Macksey latest to enter race for North Adams mayor

Why not? The race for North Adams mayor continues to draw candidates, with former city employee Jennifer Macksey becoming the fifth candidate hoping to capture the seat being vacated by Tom Bernard. The Berkshire Eagle reports Macksey worked for the city for 13 years in the procurement and accounting departments.

Berkshire Eagle

Sunday public affairs TV: Sen. Ed Markey, Segun Idowu, and more

Keller at Large, WBZ-TV Channel 4, 8:30 a.m. This week’s guest: Segun Idowu, CEO of the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, discussing corporate responsiveness to the economic needs of the Black community over the past year and what remains to be done to promote access to capital and wealth creation.

This Week in Business, NECN, 10 a.m. This week: Retailers Association of Massachusetts President Jon Hurst on challenges facing the state’s retail industry, Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health CEO Robert Mulhall on their reopening, and Boston Globe’s Shirley Leung on the Purdue Pharma settlement.

On The Record, WCVB-TV Channel 5, 11 a.m. This week’s guests: U.S. Sen. Ed Markey joins hosts Ed Harding and Janet Wu followed by a roundtable discussion with Boston Globe Columnist Adrian Walker and Analyst Virginia Buckingham.

CityLine, WCVB-TV Channel 5, 12 p.m. With host Karen Holmes Ward, this week’s topic: three organizations providing transportation in need, reviving the Black arts community, and promoting cultural pride on Martha’s Vineyard.

Today’s Headlines

Metro

Baker supports ‘Superfund’ call on cleanup of Lower Neponset – Dorchester Reporter

New Urban League headquarters with affordable housing on top proposed for Nubian Square – Universal Hub

Massachusetts

Massachusetts sees fewer new unemployment claims after late June spike – MassLive

Attleboro mayor adds new effort to his green agenda – Sun Chronicle

Nation

Toyota to stop donating to GOP lawmakers who objected to certifying Biden’s win – Washington Post

QAnon’s new ‘plan’? Run for school board – NBC News

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