VaxMillions Lottery, Senate formal, Redistricting, and more
State officials announce the first set of winners in the VaxMillions vaccine lottery launched to entice more people into getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Once a week for five weeks, VaxMillions will select one entrant ages 18 and older to win $1 million and one entrant between the ages of 12 and 17 to win a $300,000 scholarship grant.
9 a.m. | Mass. Gaming Commission meets and commissioners are expecting to receive an update from their chief lawyer and community affairs head on the status of poker at the two casinos, the obligations, if any, of MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor to offer the game and the commission’s authority in that area
5 p.m. | Joint Committee on Redistricting meets virtually to hear from residents of the 9th Congressional District.
12 p.m. | Senate holds full formal session without a calendar, and may consider budget vetoes and amendments from Gov. Baker.
12:30 p.m. | Boston Acting Mayor Kim Janey holds a press conference to discuss relating to public health and public safety.
‘No more time to waste’
Democratic candidate for governor Ben Downing is demanding that Gov. Charlie Baker and Beacon Hill lawmakers act immediately to mitigate risks posed by the expiring federal eviction moratorium due to end on Saturday.
The former senator, in a statement to be released broadly on Thursday, plans to call for expedited rental assistance to applicants and the passage of legislation to put a hold on evictions and foreclosures, and ensure a right to counsel for people in court.
Downing has been campaigning against what he describes as a lack of urgency on Beacon Hill and pointed to potential impacts on renters as a result of the expiring moratorium as another example of the consequences.
“With this expiration on the horizon for months, housing advocates across the state have been clearly sounding the alarm about the confusing and cumbersome process the state set up to get this assistance out the door,” Downing said in a statement. “Instead of recognizing the urgency and moving quickly to fix a clearly broken process, Beacon Hill has been consumed by infighting over a funding turf war. With two days left, we have no more time to waste.”
The Baker administration has poured hundreds of millions into an eviction diversion initiative that put $100 million toward emergency rental assistance through the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition program, $12.3 million to provide tenants and landlords legal representation during the eviction process, and $50 million for post-eviction rehousing.
In March 2021, the administration launched the Federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program that provides expanded rental relief for renters who were financially impacted by COVID-19.
But Downing called for increased urgency as the moratorium, imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expires this weekend.
“We need the Governor and Beacon Hill to have the urgency and compassion to expedite rental assistance to applicants, pass the COVID Housing Equity Bill to create further protections, and ensure a right to counsel for anyone who finds themselves in court fighting for their home, just as the next wave of a ruthless pandemic hits our communities,” Downing said.
The House and Senate are planning a summer recess until September after this week, with the Senate meeting in a formal session today to consider budget vetoes and amendments and the House in informal session after doing the same Wednesday.
Lawmakers push for ARPA funded premium pay
A group of 27 lawmakers are urging the leaders of two committees exploring how the state should spend over $4.8 billion in federal COVID-19 aid to investigate how to use those resources to fund retroactive premium pay for essential workers.
The effort, spearheaded by Sen. Paul Feeney, resulted in letter delivered Wednesday to Ways and Means Chairs Sen. Michael Rodrigues and Rep. Aaron Michlewitz and Rep. Dan Hunt, chair of the House Committee on Federal Stimulus and Census Oversight.
In the letter, lawmakers point to private and public sector employees including grocery, retail, public transportation, and agriculture workers, as well as first responders, educators, childcare providers, and healthcare professionals.
These people, legislators say, helped keep critical services running, “were deemed essential, and should be treated as such.”
“Simply, each of these workers, along with countless others, performed a hazardous duty and in many cases endured extreme physical hardship,” the letter reads. “While many workers were given the opportunity to work remotely in their homes away from the dangers of infection, some were simply too important to the functioning of our Commonwealth, its people and economy to stay home.”
The document was delivered a day after those two committees heard testimony on premium and hazard pay for people who worked outside their homes during the state of emergency.
The state received around $5.3 billion from the American Rescue Plan.
Gov. Charlie Baker allocated $186 million to health and human services’ workforce development, fiscally distressed hospitals, and training initiatives for unemployed or underemployed residents while lawmakers plan to hold public hearings through the fall to help figure out how to spend the rest.
Since the start of the pandemic, lawmakers have filed several bills attempting to institute hazard pay for employees doing “essential” work and made similar arguments to those laid out in the letter: that essential workers deserve retroactive pay for working in often-times perilous conditions.
Rep. Maria Robinson filed a bill last year that would have provided hazard pay to essential workers, but it stalled out as the 2020-2021 session came to the end.
Feeney, a Foxborough Democrat, has filed legislation this session that is currently before the Labor and Workforce Committee.
“There are multiple ways we as a Commonwealth can approach the distribution of retroactive premium pay to essential workers,” the letter reads. “The immediate and comprehensive work by a Special Commission could help us better understand the fiscal impacts of such an allocation to a broad range of worthy essential workers. After appropriate study and public input, we believe individuals who deserve to be compensated should be compensated fairly, directly, and expeditiously.”
‘More to say shortly’ on updated federal mask guidance
Summertime, and the livin’ is not so easy. That’s not exactly how Bradley Nowell put it. But when you start to think about the recent rise in COVID-19 cases that prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to recommend indoor mask wearing in areas affected by the Delta Variant, it seems fitting. That guidance was released Tuesday and on Wednesday Gov. Charlie Baker said he would “have more to say shortly” about the federal advisory, reports State House News Service’s Colin A. Young.
More from Young: “Though the governor deflected most questions about the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s recommendation that everyone — including those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 — go back to wearing a mask when in indoor public spaces in areas where the Delta variant is fueling “high” or “substantial” viral transmission, he argued that the COVID-19 situation in Massachusetts is not as bad as it is elsewhere.”
Blocked? GOP’s Cotton vows to kill Rollins nomination as US Attorney
The sailing just got a lot less smooth. U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton says he will seek to block the nomination of Suffolk County DA Rachael Rollins as US Attorney, citing her refusal to prosecute some crimes in her current role, Jim Puzzanhera of the Globe and Joe Dwinell of the Herald report. While Cotton’s vote alone wouldn’t be enough to keep Rollins from being confirmed, the Republican sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which could allow him to use procedural maneuvers to keep her from being quickly approved.
Hospital plans to scale back services as nurses continue striking
The battle between striking nurses and St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester is escalating. Hospital officials plan to scale back some services and reduce capacity starting Monday, saying the nurses’ strike is to blame, reports Telegram & Gazette’s Cyrus Moulton. The strike is entering its fifth month and nurses say the move by Tenet “is just another ploy.”
‘Not now:’ House overrides Baker veto on charitable giving deduction boost
The House on Wednesday voted to override Gov. Charlie Baker’s veto and again postpone the effective date of a tax break for charitable giving that Baker said the state can finally afford given its strong fiscal position, Matt Murphy of State House News Service reports. The Senate is expected to follow suit as soon as today.
Wading in: Warren stars in ad for California governor Newsom
She’s gone bicoastal. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is the star of a new ad urging California voters to reject a recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom, tying the recall push to efforts by Republicans nationally to cast doubt on the validity of elections, Jeremy White of Politico reports. Warren’s appearance comes as polls show Republicans in the Golden State are far more engaged and enthusiastic about voting.
‘Human-Centered’ public safety
That’s what Boston mayoral candidate John Barros pitched Wednesday — proposing a new agency that would respond to emergency calls related to public health, mental health, and behavioral issues, reports Boston Globe’s Meghan E. Irons.
More from Irons: “[Barros] said that his proposal would help dismantle the cycles of police interaction and court involvement that perpetuate poverty, trauma, and crime.”
Helping Mass and Cass area takes center stage in mayoral race
The concentration of health services in the Mass. Ave and Melnea Cass Boulevard area has put a burden on local residents and businesses, GBH News’ Tori Bedford reports. And community members are calling on mayoral candidates to decentralize them in an effort to spread the work to multiple communities.
More from Bedford: “The situation’s visibility — because of the high volume of drivers who pass through the area — has attracted the attention of the mayoral candidates, who have reached a general consensus on decentralizing the health-related resources there and spreading them around to other communities. Many area residents have been calling for that strategy for years.”
COVID-19 Numbers: 598 new cases
State health officials on Wednesday reported 598 new COVID-19 cases and six new deaths. NBC10 Boston has the latest report from the Department of Public Health.
No bigs: Fall River mayoral candidate says job is ‘ceremonial’ in leaked memo
He would know. In a leaked memo, Fall River mayoral candidate Cliff Ponte — who served as acting mayor for five months — describes the job he’s running for as ‘ceremonial,’ telling employees of his real estate brokerage that he won’t miss a beat in running the business if elected, Jo C. Goode of the Herald News reports. Current Mayor Paul Coogan says Ponte’s diminution of the job “is offensive to every mayor in the city of Fall River.”
Rise of the Moors members looking for $70 million in new lawsuit
They’re heading back to court. Members of Rise of the Moors — the group that was part of the armed standoff with state police earlier this month — filed a lawsuit in federal court asking for a change in court venue and $70 million in damages, reports MassLive’s Michelle Williams.
More from Williams: “The lawsuit claims the members are not citizens of the United States and the Massachusetts court where they were arraigned does not have jurisdiction. The lawsuit seeks the case to be ‘litigated in international court, consular court, or federal court with consul’s (sic) present.’”
Netwon mayoral race taking shape ahead of preliminary election
It’s official. Three candidates will running for mayor of Newton will faceoff during a Sept. 14 preliminary election that will whittle the field down to two, reports Julie M. Cohen of the Newton Tab. The candidates: Mayor Ruthanne Fuller, Albert Cecchinelli Jr., and former Councilor-at-Large Amy Mah Sangiolo. The general municipal election is scheduled for Nov. 2.
Officials on Martha’s Vineyard are looking at massive revenue from a tax on lodging units rented fewer for 31 or fewer consecutive days — think Airbnbs and VRBOs. Martha’s Vineyard Time’s Brian Dowd reports that all six towns on the island collected $1.3 million in revenue from 2019 to 2020.
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