Keller at Large
Keller at Large
In his latest Keller at Large on MassterList, Jon Keller suggests that it’s time to change battle tactics as COVID-19 cases start to tick up again and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend new masking guidelines.
DEP hearing, Judiciary committee, and more
U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions holds a private meeting to consider nominations from President Biden, including Brandeis University Professor David Weil as administrator of the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor. Time is TBA.
10 a.m. | Judiciary Committee hosts a hearing on 50 bills related to property, land and tenancy including one that would require the state to make legal counsel universally available in eviction cases. Housing advocates warn that a surge of evictions will soon arrive in the wake of the federal moratorium’s July 31 expiration.
10 a.m. | Department of Environmental Protection will hold a public hearing on its proposed amendments to regulations dealing with the reporting of greenhouse gas emissions and others concerning the clean energy standard.
12 p.m. | Division of Banks holds a hearing on proposed amendments to its regulations 209 CMR 18.00: Conduct of the Business of Debt Collectors, Student Loan Servicers, and Third Party Loan Servicers and 209 CMR 48.00: Licensee Record Keeping.
Ballot questions piling in with first deadline tomorrow
By Chris Van Buskirk with help from State House News Service’s Chris Lisinski
The state ballot question picture for 2022 is starting to come into focus ahead of the first deadline to file proposals with the Attorney General’s office.
Petitioners looking to establish a voter ID law, reform the liquor license process, and create transparency in hospital leadership are already taking the initial step in the nearly year-long process of qualifying for the ballot.
As of Tuesday morning nine petitions had been filed with the AG, including two backed by MassGOP seeking to set up a voter ID law and another requiring doctors to take “all reasonable steps, in keeping with good medical practice” to preserve the life of a child born alive, in response to last year’s abortion access expansion.
Two more filed by the Massachusetts Nurses Association would tackle financial transparency among hospital CEOs and “limit excessive hospital operating margins through greater financial transparency.”
Another proposal from the Massachusetts Package Store Association would boost the number of liquor licenses available to food stores but keep a cap in place. State House News Service’s Chris Lisinski has all the details on what has been described as a compromise ballot question.
And there are still some unknowns that should become clearer as the week moves forward.
Cumberland Farms may file a competing ballot question to counter the liquor license proposal filed by the package stores, and the growing battle between gig-economy workers and Uber and Lyft is expected to result in a ballot question seeking to solidify drivers’ statuses as independent contractors rather than employees while extending them some additional benefits, reports Boston Globe’s Emma Platoff.
Attorney General Maura Healey has already sued the companies over the workers’ classification, and opponents of the ride-sharing apps’ proposal say Massachusetts is the next battleground state for the question. Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash successfully backed a California proposal in November classifying app-based drivers as independent contractors.
But even if Massachusetts turns into a battleground for competing ideas on voter ID laws, classification of app-based drivers, or liquor licenses, it is worth pointing out that using the initiative petition process to turn an idea into law takes a lot of time and effort.
After the Wednesday filing deadline when just 10 initial signatures of registered voters are required, petitioners will need to collect over 80,000 signatures by Nov. 17 if their proposal is found to be eligible by Healey’s office for the ballot.
After that, the Legislature has the chance to act on the proposals. If the two branches take no action by May 2, 2022, then supporters of the proposal would have to go out and collect another 13,374 signatures before June 22, 2022 — only then will they make it onto the 2022 ballot.
And qualifying for the ballot is no guarantee of success at the polls. Consider the push to institute ranked-choice voting in the state — otherwise known as Question 2. That proposal was backed by a lengthy list of well-known political types and still failed in a close vote in November 2020.
More counties fall under requirements for CDC masking recommendations
The number of Massachusetts counties that fall under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new masking guidelines climbed to nine — up from five last week, reports Boston Globe’s Amanda Kaufman.
The CDC recommends vaccinated people wear masks indoors in public settings in areas considered to be “high” or “substantial” for the transmission of the virus. Barnstable and Nantucket are considered “high” while Suffolk, Middlesex, Plymouth, Essex, Worcester, Bristol, and Hampden are considered “substantial,” reports MassLive’s Noah R. Bombard.
Feeling anxious about Green Line findings
Gov. Charlie Baker was really anxious yesterday for federal investigators to release preliminary findings in an investigation into the Green Line crash. And it seems he had a reason to be: the National Transportation Safety Board found that one of the trolleys involved was going about 30 miles an hour, which is three times the posted speed limit, reports Boston Globe’s Jeremy C. Fox. The crash resulted in more than 20 injuries and led officials to place one of the four operators involved on paid administrative leave, reports NBC10’s Malcom Johnson.
COVID-19 Numbers: 2,054 cases since Friday
State health officials reported 2,054 confirmed new cases of COVID-19 and two deaths since Friday. CBS Boston has more details.
‘Russian roulette’ and masks
The backlash is mounting. Gov. Charlie Baker is facing more critiques for his new masking guidelines, with the state’s largest teacher’s union calling for a mandatory mask mandate in schools, reports Boston Herald’s Erin Tiernan. Sen. Becca Rausch, a Needham Democrat, said the Republican Governor was playing ‘Russian roulette’ with public school students and teachers’ health.
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that every, no matter their vaccination status, should wear masks inside in areas experiencing “high” or “substantial” COVID-19 transmission rates. More from Tiernan: “Democratic candidate for governor and former state Sen. Ben Downing also took the opportunity to take a hit at Baker, who could turn out to be his opponent in the 2022 race.”
My ‘bad:’ Walsh regrets not tying up loose ends before heading to DC
Sorry about that. Former Mayor Marty Walsh says it’s “unfortunate” that he left acting Mayor Kim Janey with an unresolved scandal at the police department when he departed City Hall to become U.S. Labor Secretary, Dorchester Reporter’s Gintautas Dumcius reports. Walsh — in town to promote President Biden’s push for a federal paid family leave policy — credited Janey’s “quick action” in making a leadership change at the department.
Resettling in and around Boston proving costly for refugees
Resettling refugees in the Greater Boston area is proving to be a challenge as housing costs continue to rise. Boston Business Journal’s Hannah Green reports that advocates say the one-time grant the federal government provides to new arrivals isn’t enough to find affordable private housing.
More from Green: “[Jeffrey Thielman, president and CEO of the International Institute of New England] said that an increase in federal support for refugees is needed to allow more to successfully settle in the Boston area. These refugees would then join the local workforce, providing a much-needed boost during the current labor shortage.”
Baker points to diversion programs after federal eviction moratorium lifts
Gov. Charlie Baker once again reassured renting residents that the state government is ready to help deal with evictions via diversion programs after the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention moratorium lifted over the weekend, reports GBH News’ Mike Deehan. Housing advocates have warned that thousands of people in the state are at risk of being evicted with the moratorium now lifted while state officials have pointed to millions in assistance funding.
Here’s a Baker quote Deehan included in the piece: “We do have one of the more robust eviction diversion programs in the country, which we’ve been running since last fall when the state’s eviction moratorium expired.”
‘Wisdom in waiting’ on federal aid
That’s what Sen. President Karen Spilka believes is best when it comes to spending federal COVID-19 dollars, reports CommonWealth’s Shira Schoenberg. The Ashland Democrat said the state is no longer in a state of emergency and now finds itself in “recovery mode,” where money can be spent through a “more normal budget type of appropriation process.”
More from Schoenberg: “As Gov. Charlie Baker pressures lawmakers to act quickly to begin spending part of the $5.3 billion state government received from the federal American Rescue Plan Act, Spilka and Senate Ways and Means Chair Michael Rodrigues both said they would rather wait a bit.”
Check out the full interview on CommonWealth’s Codcast.
Trial of man charged with killing Yarmouth police officer underway
The trial of man charged with killing Yarmouth police Sgt. Sean Gannon got underway Monday with jury selection, reports Associated Press. Somerville’s Thomas Latanowich faces murder charges in Barnstable Superior Court. Gannon, a K-9 officer, was killed in April 2018 and his dog, Nero, was also injured.
More from AP: “Latanowich, described by prosecutors as a career criminal with a lengthy record, is also facing other charges, including assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, firearm possession without a license and mistreating/interfering with a police dog. He has pleaded not guilty and has been held without bail since his arrest.”
The incident also spurred a movement around a bill that would allow ambulances to transport law enforcement dogs injured in the line of duty if there isn’t a need to transport a person. That legislation, dubbed Nero’s Law, is before the Legislature’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee and was the subject of a hearing in mid-July. More on the hearing from State House News Service’s Colin A. Young.
No results: Day one of negotiations ended without a deal
A negotiations session between striking nurses and the owners and operators of St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester ended Monday without a resolution, reports Telegram & Gazette’s Cyrus Moulton. The Massachusetts Nurses Association say Tenet presented a ‘disappointing’ proposal while representatives for the hospital owner said it was a “very difficult decision” to implement service cuts at the start of the week. Talks are expected to continue today.
More from Moulton: “According to the hospital, inpatient staffed beds will be temporarily reduced by 80 beds — representing 29 percent of medical/surgical capacity; 25 percent of critical care capacity; and 50 percent of inpatient psychiatry capacity. Procedural areas will be temporarily reduced by eight rooms, or 26%, including reductions in the operating room, cardiac catheterization lab, endoscopy and interventional radiology, according to the hospital.”
Renamed: Cambridge council nixes Agassiz for Baldwin
Same ‘hood, different name. The Cambridge City Council unanimously voted Monday to rename a part of the city, Marc Levy of Cambridge Day reports. The area previously referred to as the Agassiz neighborhood — after a Harvard professor with dubious views on race — will now bear the name Baldwin, after local educator Maria Baldwin, who became one of the country’s first black principals.
Sold out for Sale: Polar Park hits capacity for the first time
For the first time in its brief history, Polar Park in Worcester hosted a sold-out baseball game on Saturday when a rehab assignment by Boston Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale drew the max capacity of 9,508 to the most expensive Triple A ballpark ever built, Monica Benevides of the Worcester Business Journal reports.
Firing back: Former Hull superintendent sues town for $5 million, claiming discrimination
Former Hull Superintendent Michael Devine has sued the community, alleging he was discriminated against because he is gay and seeking $5 million in damages, Wheeler Cooperthwaite of the Patriot Ledger reports. Devine was fired after an internal investigation revealed he had exchanged texts with a former student.
Rock climbing rocks on as Olympics boost interest
Who wants to go rock climbing? We’re fans. And so are a lot more people. One manager of a rock climbing gym in Worcester told Telegram & Gazette’s Jennifer Toland that the sport’s debut at the Summer Olympics in Japan this year will boost interest. This year’s games will introduce three different types of sport climbing — lead, bouldering, and speed. Toland writes that men’s competition begins today while women compete on Wednesday.
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