Keller at Large
The Unhappiest Hour
In his latest Keller at Large, Jon Keller explores the state’s 37-year-old ban on happy hours and other promotional gimmicks for local bars. Keller’s take: “Somehow, magically, irresponsible drinking culture has been diluted to the point where offering free drinks, letting drinkers buy more than two at a time, peddling bottomless pitchers, staging drinking contests and the myriad other vestiges of the happy hour era won’t cost lives? Sure.”
Becerra in Lawrence, Moulton presser, and more
9:30 a.m. | U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra tours Geater Lawrence Family Health Center and participates in a roundtable on health equity. Congresswoman Lori Trahan, Lawrence Mayor Kendrys Vasquez, Sen. Barry Finegold, Rep. Frank Moran, Rep. Marcos Devers, and Rep. Christina Minicucci participate.
10 a.m. | Coalition to Protect Workers’ Rights group, which opposes an industry-backed proposal to declare app-based drivers as independent contractors while offering some additional benefits, hosts a press conference “to discuss the hidden harms to riders and the public in the proposed Big Tech ballot measure, and announce new actions in the fight to protect workers and consumers.”
10 a.m. | Environment Massachusetts hosts a webinar to detail its Renewable Communities report, which looks into the municipalities blazing a trail towards 100 percent renewable energy.
11 a.m. | Congressman Seth Moulton holds a media availability to answer questions about the situation unfolding in Afghanistan
3 p.m. | Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley visits Maria Estevez’s Family Child Care, which is a part of a Care That Works pilot program providing child care for families with non-standard schedules.
‘It Shocks the Conscience’
A state lawmaker who previously served in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan is calling on his federal counterparts to ensure the safe evacuation of Afghan allies who helped coalition forces over the past two decades, according to a letter provided to MassterList.
The letter, authored by Sen. John Velis, was sent to state House and Senate colleagues Monday morning after the situation in Afghanistan quickly deteriorated and the Western-backed government gave way to Taliban control.
After nearly two decades at war, the United States and some NATO allies evacuated personnel and Afghan citizens as the Taliban took control of Kabul, the country’s capital.
Velis, who served in Afghanistan from 2012 to 2013 and in 2018, worked with Afghan linguists during his deployments and told the News Service that he still has friends in the country. He said he is “absolutely horrified by what I am seeing on television and what I am hearing from people on the ground right now.”
“It shocks the conscience,” he said. “These are people that saved American lives. However many service members we have lost, around 2,400, that increases exponentially without some of these situations — they were our eyes and our ears.”
The letter, which garnered 70 signatures from lawmakers in both branches, calls on the state’s federal delegation to “make every effort to get our Afghan allies out.”
“Their work has not only been critical to our missions, it has been essential to keeping our personnel safe and alive. Some of us know this from first-hand experience serving in Afghanistan,” the letter reads. “These are local residents who signed up to work with us despite the risks this brought to themselves and their families. Their lives, and their families’ lives, are still at risk. As our military forces formally withdraw and the Taliban regains power, that risk is severely heightened.”
As pictures circulated in the media Sunday and Monday of Taliban fighters taking control of the presidential palace, the Westfield Democrat thought back to when he spent time in the building and on the nearby international airport during his 2018 deployment. He said he frequently went to the airfield to travel on Blackhawks and the images of local residents storming runways were “sad.”
“Many of us have lost friends, many of us have friends who got hurt, not to mention all the psychological and invisible wounds of war that so many of us deal with today,” he said.
MassterList’s own Chris Van Buskirk has more details on the letter and interviews with Rep. Steven Xiarhos, a Gold Star Father whose son was killed in Afghanistan in 2009, and Rep. Patrick Kearney, a lieutenant in the Navy Reserves.
Baker: No plans for mask guidance update
A statewide mask mandate isn’t coming back for the moment. That’s the message Gov. Charlie Baker delivered at a press conference in Peabody Monday, reports MassLive’s Benjamin Kail. The Republican governor cited high vaccination rates and low hospitalization rates in defense of his administration’s decision not to impose mandates as schools gear up for the upcoming academic year.
And this comes as Democrats and teachers’ unions have called on the Baker administration to step up their game and issue a new mask mandate or guidelines that mirror those recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reports State House News Service’s Matt Murphy.
And this comes as new CDC data places all of the state’s county in the federal agencies “high” or “substantial risk” categories for COVID-19 transmission. In those areas, the CDC recommends indoor mask wearing despite vaccination status.
‘Inhumane:’ Soldiers’ Home workers sue over work conditions at start of pandemic
A group of employees at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home have filed a federal class action lawsuit against former leaders, claiming employees were put in dangerous and stressful situations while officials bungled the first cases of what became a surge of cases and deaths tied to the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic. Stephanie Barry of MassLive has the details.
Naughton on Afghanistan
Another former Massachusetts legislators weighed on the situation in Afghanistan. Former Rep. Herald Naughton said he had “mixed emotions” in regard to what’s happen in the country, reports Telegram & Gazette’s Henry Schwan. Naughton deployed to Afghanistan as member of the U.S. Army.
Group distances itself from ballot question coalition
They’re listed as a supporter on the website but the leader of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts told State House News Service’s Chris Lisinski that they have not yet decided whether to back a ballot question seeking to change app-based workers’ classification and benefits. Coalition for Independent Work, an industry-backed group, filed a ballot question that would classify app-based drivers as independent contractors while offering some benefits.
More from Lisinski: “Joseph Feaster, an attorney who chairs the chapter’s board, told the News Service that the Urban League of Eastern Mass. does not view itself as a member of the Coalition for Independent Work despite the publicized affiliation. Any suggestion otherwise, he said, is an ‘overrepresentation.'”
Roaring back: Casinos posted record revenues in July
They’re back. The state’s three casinos posted some of their best results since well before the pandemic in July as gamblers returned in droves and buoyed revenues at MGM Springfield, Encore Boston Harbor, and the Plainridge Park slots parlor, Peter Goonan of MassLive and Tom Reilly of the Sun Chronicle report.
Meanwhile, Colin Young of State House News Service reports state coffers also had a record month, taking in $27 million from the three gaming facilities, bringing the total haul since legalized gambling began to $842 million.
‘Shameful dirty back-door politics’
First, North Adams City Councilor Jason LaForest thought he would run for mayor. Now, he’s taken a quick exit out of politics. Berkshire Eagle’s Greta Jochem reports that LaForest handed in his resignation on Monday morning, saying “after careful consideration of my personal and professional obligations in light of the on-going COVID-19 pandemic.” The now former councilor also pointed to “shameful dirty back-door politics.”
Mayoral hopefuls making their way through Boston
More Boston mayoral updates: City Councilors Michelle Wu and Andrea Campbell made their way through the city over the weekend with the latter focusing on Dorchester and Roxbury, reports WBUR’s Anthony Brooks. Wu made stops in Brighton, Hyde Park, Chinatown, the North End, Mattapan, Roxbury, and Dorchester.
Wu also claimed more Beacon Hill endorsements Monday, drawing support from Reps. Natalie Higgins, Vanna Howard, Maria Robinson, and Andy Vargas, reports State House News Service’s Katie Lannan. The Wu campaign now claims they have the most support from state lawmakers.
Falmouth’s Single-use plastic water bottle ban starts soon
Don’t expect to find any single-use plastic water bottles in Falmouth once September rolls around. Cape Cod Times’ Jessica Hill reports that a ban on the bottles takes effect Sept. 1, with all businesses in town prohibited from selling them. What happens if establishments violate the new law? They can face a fine of up to $300 a day.
Study seeks to understand disparity in maternal deaths
A new study from the University of Massachusetts Boston is seeking to help lawmakers and health officials understand why Black women in the state are about twice as likely to die from pregnancy-related issues than white women, reports GHB News’ Marilyn Schairer. The researchers are setting out to collect stories from local Black mothers and are recruiting 100 volunteers who delivered a baby in the past year in Boston hospitals.
More from Schairer: “With the Birth Equity Study, policymakers, academics and health officials are hoping the personal narratives they collect can help them understand the increase in maternal mortality and morbidity in Black women when compared with women of other races.”
Tough enough? Northampton’s mask rule has $1K fine attached
Businesses that don’t enforce Northampton’s reinstated mask mandate can be fined up to $1,000 per day — but the city is urging residents to worry about their own compliance and leave enforcement to officials, Brian Steele of the Daily Hampshire Gazette reports.
Staying put: New Bedford decides to keep cops in schools
The police aren’t the problem. The school board in New Bedford has decided to keep the city’s school resources officers in place for the coming school year, but will continue to study ways to improve how discipline is handled to ensure racial equity, Kerri Tallman of the Standard-Times reports.
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