American Rescue Plan Act hearing, committee meetings, and more
10:30 a.m. | Legislation concerning public construction projects, contracts, and payment are the subject of Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight virtual hearing.
11 a.m. | Senate Committee on Reimagining Massachusetts Post-Pandemic Resiliency holds a hearing to discuss health disparities, the labor force and other regional matters impacting the metropolitan Boston region as it studies potential long-term reforms.
11 a.m. | Future of Work Commission, chaired by Sen. Eric Lesser and Rep. Josh Cutler, holds a virtual hearing. The 17-member panel is set to hear remarks from former Gov. Deval Patrick, the co-chair of a Future of Tech Commission that aims to recommend policy to the Biden administration.
11 a.m. | Gov. Charlie Baker’s $2.9 billion spending proposal headlines the first in a series of Joint Committee on Ways and Means and House Committee on Federal Stimulus and Census Oversight hearings where lawmakers will consider how to spend the roughly $5 billion state government received in American Rescue Plan Act funding. Baker plans to testify.
1 p.m. | Massachusetts High Technology Council holds virtual panel discussion on reaching and attracting diverse candidates during the hiring process.
For the most comprehensive list of calendar items, check out State House News Service’s Daily Advances (pay wall – free trial subscriptions available).
A difficult question with many answers
How can Massachusetts advance toward its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and eventually reaching net-zero? It is a tough question, and there’s not just one answer.
But one bill floating around on Beacon Hill tries to get at the problem by establishing energy usage reporting requirements and energy efficiency standards for large buildings. Advocates said the legislation would help to protect both public health and achieve net-zero carbon emissions.
“First of all, this means cleaner air. Second, it means a safer climate. Third, it means healthier communities for all of us. And fourth, it means less energy wasted,” Environment Massachusetts State Director Ben Hellerstein said during a virtual briefing Monday afternoon.
Here’s what the bill actually does: It requires owners of large buildings — starting at 25,000 square feet in 2022 — to report the structure’s energy usage to the Department of Energy Resources every year. The department will use that data to establish energy performance standards, taking into account that different buildings use varying amounts of electricity.
As far as the square footage requirements go, picture large office or apartment buildings. Structures like single family homes, duplexes, or triple deckers aren’t covered by this bill. The square footage requirement decreases over time to 15,000 square feet by 2028.
The least-energy efficient buildings would be required to reduce energy usage or greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent over five years. And owners of buildings that fail to meet the DOER standards would have to pay an “alternative compliance payment,” Hellerstein said.
Why is this important? Supporters use several key reasons when pushing legislators to consider the bill. Increasing energy efficiency and replacing fossil fuel heating with clean alternatives like solar energy or heat pumps could help push the state toward a pollution-free environment.
That’s a pretty lofty goal considering commercial and residential buildings, along with electricity generation, account for roughly 44 percent greenhouse gas emissions in the state, according to data from the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. But Hellerstein says dependence on fossil fuels is harming residents in many different ways.
“Even just in the last few weeks, right, whether it’s the heatwave that we’ve gone through here in Massachusetts, extreme rainstorms one after the other causing flooding in many of our communities — not to mention the impacts that folks have been seeing out in places like Oregon with just record breaking temperatures,” he said.
Legislative Roundup: Mail-in voting, sports betting
It was a busy day in the Legislature yesterday. Not much happened on the surface but the undercurrents of the Beacon Hill policy machine were alive and active. A bill making mail-in voting permanent cleared a crucial committee Monday with the Senate eyeing action on it in the fall, reports State House News Service’s Matt Murphy. The House also accepted a compromise supplemental budget that includes measures to revive pandemic-era voting by mail and expanded early voting as fall municipal elections quickly approach.
Canada plans to open borders to fully vaccinated
Fancy a trip to our neighbors way up north? If your answer is yes then here’s some pretty encouraging news: Canada plans to let fully vaccinated U.S. citizens enter the country starting Aug. 9, reports the Associated Press’ Rob Gillies. The 14-day quarantine requirement will be waived and children who aren’t vaccinated but are traveling with vaccinated parents won’t have to isolate either. The rest of the world will have to wait until Sept. 7 to enter the country.
Battleground Boston: Airlines wage war via Hub
A three-way battle for the hearts and airfares of Boston travelers is back on after a pandemic pause, Zach Griff reports on thepointsguy.com, with Delta recently adding six flights from the Hub to vacation destinations, most of which are already served from Logan by JetBlue and American. Delta also says it will add another 200 jobs at Logan.
Kickball and the art of politics
What does kickball have to do with Boston politics? Not much. But Boston Globe’s Danny McDonald uses a recent game in Roxbury to illustrate that politics can be found anywhere in a profile of City Councilor and mayoral candidate Annissa Essaibi George.
More from McDonald: “In a crowded campaign in which multiple candidates are pitching themselves as the most progressive option, Essaibi George has carved her own, more moderate path, most notably when it comes to policing. At a time when advocates have pushed for deeper structural reforms in the scandal-ridden Boston police, she is calling for hiring hundreds of more officers.”
COVID cases ticking up following the 4th
Infections of COVID-19 are on the rise again with the seven-day average of daily cases at 201, reports Boston Herald’s Rick Sobey. The daily average is triple the June low of 64. It’s troubling news that follows a busy Fourth of July weekend and the rise of the Delta variant, a more contagious version of COVID-19.
And mask-wearing is back in Provincetown, at least as a suggestion. Health officials issued an advisory Monday encouraging residents and tourists to wear masks indoors even if they already got jabbed with one of the several vaccines, reports the Associated Press via Salem News.
Cap it: Neal says bill limiting IRAs for billionaires in the works
He’s heard the outrage. U.S. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal says his committee is crafting legislation that would cap how much can be saved in tax-preferred IRAs and similar vehicles in the wake of reports that some investors have avoided millions in taxes by stashing early-stage shares of companies into the funds years before they soar in value, ProPublica reports.
Joining the club: Attleboro latest city to slate preliminary vote
Add another one to the calendar. Attleboro will hold a preliminary mayoral election in September now that incumbent Paul Heroux and challengers James Poor and Todd McGhee all appear likely to be certified to appear on the ballot, George Rhodes of the Sun Chronicle reports.
Boston University to require vaccines for faculty and staff
Don’t come back until you get jabbed. Boston University plans to require all faculty and staff heading back to campus in the fall to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by Sept. 2, reports WBUR’s Mark Larkin. It’s worth noting that students have had the same requirement since April.
Anatomy of a tragedy: Great Barrington report details delay in dispatching ambulance
An internal investigation conducted by the town of Great Barrington into the circumstances surrounding a more than 25-minute delay in dispatching an ambulance to the home of a man who later died found that the officer responsible was distracted by other duties at the 911 call center. Heather Bellow of the Berkshire Eagle has the details on what happened and the punishment the officer received.
Rain, rain, please go away
Are you cranky about all the rain we’ve been getting? Yeah, we are too. At least it’s cooled parts of Massachusetts off. There’s also some interesting data about record-setting rainfalls across the state. MassLive’s Cassie McGrath has more details.
Rain, rain please stay?
Well, at least there’s a silver lining to all the rain for some businesses: Boston Business Journal’s Grant Walker reports that movie theaters and indoor entertainment centers are getting an unexpected boost as cool and wet weather hangs over the state. They were also some of the businesses hurt the worst during the pandemic.
More from Walker: “The rain-fueled crowds in recent weeks makes for a redemption story for businesses that largely had to close for much of the last year until restrictions were lifted this spring.”
Rejected: Fall River Council disapproves of end-of-year transfers
Rejections and deficits. Two words that people in finance don’t like to hear. But in Fall River, the City Council voted to reject routine end-of-year budget transfers that have places the city in a deficit for the end of fiscal 2021, reports Fall River Herald News’ Jo C. Goode.
More from Goode: “[City Council President Cliff] Ponte said a reporter’s question was the first time he’d heard that stabilization and tax money will have to be used to plug the deficit, but that last week’s vote shows the frustration of the Council with the administration he accuses of lacking in communication and planning and to show the body is not a “rubber stamp” for the administration.”
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