Keller at Large
Keller at Large
In his latest Keller at Large on MassterList, Jon Keller explores the issue of sports betting after the House passed a bill legalizing the measure and the debate shifts to the Senate. More from Keller: “The vote was 156 to 3, a margin apparently designed to put pressure on a fun-loathing Senate to act. Mission not accomplished. Legalizing sports betting has turned out to be ‘less of a big deal than we thought it was going to be,’ one skeptical senator told MASSterList after the vote.”
Committee hearings, lawmakers talk ARPA, and more
10 a.m. | Labor and community groups hold a press conference at the State House, ahead of lawmakers’ hearing on the use of federal funds, to “demand an equitable distribution of American Rescue Plan funds to help those most impacted by the pandemic.”
10 a.m. | Judiciary Committee takes up 62 crimes-related bills in a virtual hearing. The agenda includes bills related to drugs and firearms, including measures that would increase penalties for shooting a gun at a home.
10:30 a.m. | Labor and Workforce Development Committee hosts a hearing about workforce development and job training legislation. Twenty-eight bills are on the agenda, including legislation (H 1954 / S 1197) requiring state government to help energy sector workers displaced by a move toward renewable energy find employment in the growing sector.
11 a.m. | Joint Committee on Ways and Means and House Committee on Federal Stimulus and Census Oversight hold a virtual hearing on how to spend the state’s roughly $5 billion American Rescue Plan Act funding.
11 a.m. | Financial Services Committee holds virtual hearing on two dozen bills related to health and dental insurance. Four bills aim to ensure treatment for genetic craniofacial condition, and several others involve coverage for mental and behavioral health care.
‘Historic Nomination:’ Rollins picked for MA U.S. Attorney
Massachusetts is shaping up to have another first: the first Black woman to serve as U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts and the second woman to hold the title. That’s because President Joe Biden nominated Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins to the post Monday morning, reports Boston Globe’s Andrea Estes and Jim Puzzanghera. She still needs to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, a process that could play out over weeks or months.
In the meantime, there will certainly be a scramble among potential replacements and at least one major organization in the state — ACLU Massachusetts — is calling on Gov. Charlie Baker to select a person that will continue “the work toward a legal system that is focused on transformation and healing — not convictions and incarceration,” reports State House News Service’s Chris Lisinski.
From MassLive’s Michael Bonner: “In campaigning for election in 2018, Rollins ran on progressive reforms, which she has put into action including declining to prosecute low-level and non-violent crimes.”
How much did it cost to run mass vaccination sites?
We’ll probably never know precisely how much reacting to and mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic cost the state of Massachusetts. But new numbers from the Department of Public Health provided to MassterList through a public records request shine a small light on the figure.
The state paid out $54.1 million to third-party contractors for the operation of mass vacation sites between Jan. 1, 2021 and June 22, 2021.
Tax dollars flowed to CIC Health, Curative, and LabCorp Employer Services, Inc. for the operation of sites at Fenway, Gillette, Hynes Convention Center, the Reggie Lewis Center, and Natick Mall.
Officials relied on mass vaccination sites in an attempt to easily vaccinate large swaths of residents. But as the COVID-19 cases ebbed and jab rates swelled, the Baker administration shifted its focus to a hyper-local approach, honing in on residents who remained hesitant about receiving a shot.
Gillette Stadium was the first site to open in January and and a site at an old Circuit City in Dartmouth was the last to close on July 13.
Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders previously likened the shift in strategy to managing a political campaign: instead of canvassing votes, health officials were vaccine canvassing.
But the state’s reliance on large arenas, convention halls, and malls at the outset of the vaccination effort is shown through several documents detailing week by week vaccine totals and cost breakdowns.
The state paid CIC Health $21.56 million for just over 283,000 total shots administered at the Gillette Stadium site from Jan. 12 through May 21; $1.97 million for 56,764 shots at the Fenway site from Jan. 25 through March 28; $4.46 million for 93,897 shots at the Reggie Lewis Center from Jan. 22 through May 30; and just over $898,000 for 91,621 shots at the Hynes Convention Center from March 15 through May 30.
Officials also paid just over $3 million to LabCorp for 85,981 shots at the Natick site from Feb. 22 through April 30.
One of the most expensive invoice officials paid — clocking in at $4.43 million — went to CIC Health for the operation of the Hynes Convention Center site from March 27 to May 2.
And the most expensive month, according to the documents, came in March 2020 when the state had to pay for the operations for the Fenway, Gillette, Hynes, Natick, and Reggie Lewis sites. That bill came out to just over $11.6 million.
MassLive’s Steph Solis previously reported in March that the state paid $10.4 million to launch large-scale vaccination sites with the help of CIC Health, Curative, and LabCorp. The vendors charged the state millions each week, the report says — a fact that holds true for most weeks detailed in the new documents obtained by MassterList.
Lawmakers and docs talk masks and vax for kids under 12
How do officials plan to persuade parents still on the fence about getting their kids vaccinated to seek out a shot? Bolstering education and communication efforts, relying on pediatricians, providers, and schools to offer facts about getting jabbed, reports MassLive’s Benjamin Kail. The comments and suggestions came during a lengthy state legislative hearing Monday held at Boston’s Museum of Science.
There’s more than 800,000 children in the state that are about to become eligible for a vaccine once the feds approve a shot for those younger than 12, reports State House News Service’s Katie Lannan and Colin A. Young.
And the conversations at the hearing come just about a month before the school year is set to kickoff. More from Kail: “The preparations come as officials look to protect children and vulnerable teachers, administrators and the public just as the state and country grapple with slowed vaccinations and outbreaks of the highly contagious delta variant, including a Provincetown cluster that’s impacted hundreds.”
And what about masking up this fall? The SHNS pair report that Gov. Charlie Baker on Thursday said he doesn’t have any plans to change current masking policies and told reporters Monday that he was awaiting more information from a call with other state leaders and federal public health agencies.
Will Healey run for governor?
It’s a question that will have a ton of impact on the Democratic field. But Attorney General Maura Healey has so far not made a decision about whether she’ll step into the ring. GBH News’ Mike Deehan reports that several Democratic sources say the attorney general is talking to longtime allies and contributors about a potential bid for the state’s top office.
More from Deehan: “If Healey declares her candidacy for governor, it could spell the end for the three Democrats already in the field for governor: former state Senator Ben Downing, Harvard professor Danielle Allen and Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz. All three current candidates are campaigning this summer without the support of many key Democratic donors and activists who are waiting for Healey to make up her mind.”
2020 Rumblings Continue: There’s a potential AG candidate in the mix
This time it’s for a potential attorney general bid. A former attorney for the Biden Administration formed an exploratory committee for a potential 2022 attorney general campaign, Boston Globe’s Emma Platoff reports. Quentin Palfrey, who also ran for lieutenant governor as a Democrat in 2018, said he won’t seek the office if Attorney General Maura Healey runs for reelection.
And that’s a big caveat. Healey has been rumored as a 2022 candidate for governor but has so far not yet announced a decision. She said in mid-July that she would make a decision “by the fall,” Boston Herald’s Erin Tiernan reported at the time.
Going under? Study says T faces ‘grave challenge’ from rising sea levels
They’re emphasizing the urgency. A study commissioned by the MBTA from researchers at MIT and Tulane University finds that as soon as 2050, the T’s entire subway system could be inundated by a major coastal storm and that floods could cause enough damage to cast doubt on the system’s ability to recover, Andrew Brinker at the Globe reports.
Retirement credit for public employees could cost billions
How much would a three-year bonus retirement credit for public employees cost the state? At least one watchdog said the figure could end up in the billions, reports Boston Herald’s Erin Tiernan. The legislation, which is still in the early stages of the legislative process, would grant a three-year retirement credit to public employees who worked outside of their homes during the state of emergency.
Here’s a quote Tiernan included from Greg Sullivan, a research director at the Pioneer Institute: “Sponsors have openly stated that they do not know how much it will cost. In my view is is outrageously irresponsible to even consider bill like this without knowing how much it will cost.”
Staying on the sidelines: Cape senator won’t reconvene task force amid case spike
Not yet — but they’re ready just in case. State Sen. Julian Cyr says the Cape Cod Covid Task Force he convened at the peak of the pandemic has no plans to begin meeting again, saying the current surge in cases in Provincetown and elsewhere is not threatening to overwhelm the area’s health care system, Cynthia McCormick of the Cape Cod Times reports.
Bracing for impact: End of eviction moratorium could hammer SouthCoast
They’re in the crosshairs. Leaders in Bristol County are sounding the alarm as the federal moratorium on tenant evictions is set to expire later this week. Audrey Cooney of the Herald-News reports the county has more pending eviction orders already approved by judges than any other part of the state and officials fear undocumented immigrants who are less likely to access legal protections will be disproportionately affected.
Exact payouts from Sackler settlement still unclear for some municipalities
Thousands of plaintiffs are in line to receive money from the Sackler family, the owners of Purdue Pharma, including Massachusetts cities and towns like North Adams and Pittsfield, reports Berkshire Eagle’s Heather Bellow. But what’s the exact amount? Local officials still do not have a clear answer.
More from Bellow: “The 130-page document speaks to the vast ruination of lives, of warlike devastation. Yet, what is coming to the more than 3,000 plaintiffs can’t make up for what has been lost in an epidemic that has killed almost half a million Americans in the past two decades, and more than 300 Berkshire County residents from 2010 through 2020, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.”
Settled: Last minute deal means no trial in Martha’s Vineyard porn lawsuit
Our condolences to the tabloid headline writers. A lawsuit over the use of a rented Martha’s Vineyard cottage to make pornographic videos back in 2014 has been settled, meaning the closely watched case will not go to trial in Boston next week as planned. Joe Dwinell of the Herald has the details.
Odors and Haze: State issues air quality alert
Did you notice a haze and smokey odor when walking outside today? You’re not alone. The Department of Environmental Protection issued an air quality alert after wind carried smoke from wildfires on the West Coast and Canada over the state, reports Telegram and Gazette’s Mike Efland. The air quality should improve Wednesday as the smoke moves out of the area.
COVID-19 Numbers: 1,243 new cases since Friday
The state reported seven new deaths and 1,243 new COVID-19 cases since Friday. CBS Boston has the latest COVID-19 update.
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