Keller at Large
Keller: ‘An Unforgiveable Breach’
On this week’s Keller at Large, Jon Keller analyzes U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch’s take on the current state of Republicans in Congress. From Keller: “Lynch has always been on the lookout for Republicans he can befriend, or at least find common ground with. But when we talked late last week about the current climate in the House, he said bipartisan friendships are becoming an artifact of the past.”
Today | U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations holds a hearing to review legislation and consider a number of nominations including House Majority Leader Claire Cronin to serve as ambassador to Ireland.
9 a.m. | Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meets, with plans to consider school mask requirements, Commissioner Jeffrey Riley’s goals for 2021-2022, history, social science and civics curriculum, and the board’s fiscal 2023 budget proposal.
9:30 a.m. | Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders offers welcoming remarks at the first day of the Providers’ Council’s virtual convention and expo.
10:30 a.m. | Forty-three bills concerning business regulations, ethics, labor, lobbying, state agencies and other miscellaneous topics are on the agenda at a State Administration and Regulatory Oversight Committee virtual hearing.
11 a.m. | Health Care Financing Committee holds a hearing on bills relating to the oversight of and practice environments for health professionals.
Talk of the town? Vaccine mandates
The talk of the town (or at least around Beacon Hill) on Monday was all about vaccine mandates: Gov. Charlie Baker’s executive branch mandate and how it impacts various departments, as well as legislative mandates.
Let’s dive into the executive branch mandate first. The deadline to show proof of vaccination was Sunday, and now nearly 1,600 workers are at risk of facing consequences after failing to submit an attestation form showing they got jabbed or apply for a religious or medical exemption, reports MassLive’s Benjamin Kail.
So when do suspensions or disciplinary action actually begin? Baker didn’t offer a straightforward answer at a press conference Monday afternoon, telling reporters “our goal here is to make sure we connect with everybody who hasn’t already attested, and find out exactly what their story is before we make any decisions about stuff like that.”
Baker did have something to celebrate: 95 percent of workers under his purview submitted the mandatory vaccination attestation form. But even with such a high vaccination rate, there are still disgruntled employees.
Leaders of the State Police Association of Massachusetts were outside the State House Monday morning complaining that their members have heard nothing from the administration about exemptions or consequences, reports Boston Globe’s Matt Stout.
It’s all part of a months-long back and forth between SPAM and Baker. On Monday, the governor said “somewhere just over 90 percent” of all troopers have attested to being vaccinated or are seeking an exemption.
Asked if he was concerned of shortages within the State Police, Baker said, “We’ll make sure that we do what we need to do to make sure that they continue to perform the duties that they’re expected to perform. I’m not concerned about that.”
We also got some legislative clarity on Monday with House leaders offering more details about their vaccination policy for members and staff. State House News Service’s Matt Murphy reports the House COVID-19 Working Group informed employees and members that they must show proof of vaccination by Nov. 1 if they want to keep working out of the building.
On the Senate side, 96 percent of senators and staff are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to an email from Senate President Karen Spilka to members and staff. Four percent are finalizing their second shot or working through exemptions with the human resources department, Spilka added.
Empaneled: Grand jury hearing testimony on GOP campaign finance scheme
A grand jury is said to be hearing testimony about potential 2020 campaign finance violations involving the chairman of the state Republican party, Sen. Ryan Fattman and his wife, Stephanie, who is Worcester County Register of Deeds, the Globe’s Emma Platoff reports. Sen. Fattman has blasted the decision of the Office of Campaign and Political Finance to refer the matter to prosecutors earlier this year as a “political hit job.”
Mass General Brigham employees sue over denial of COVID vax exemption
A group of employees at Mass General Brigham filed a lawsuit against the health system for denying medical and religious exemptions from the COVID vaccine, reports Boston Business Journal’s Jessica Bartlett. The eight workers say the denial of exemptions amounts to discrimination and retaliation.
State of flux: Four candidates running for House seat likely to get the axe
They’re in it to win it — even if it might go away soon. Christian Wade of the Salem News lays out the state of play in the 4th Essex House district, where two Democrats and two Republicans are hoping to win a special election next month to fill out the term of Rep. Brad Hill, who was named to the state’s gaming commission. The district is likely to be entirely revamped ahead of the 2022 election cycle.
Boston falls short of hiring standard for women and minorities in construction
None of Boston’s top construction projects met the standard for hiring women and less than one third met the requirement for hiring people of color, reports Daniel Kool and Lily Kepner for GBH News. That’s according to five years of city data obtained by the radio station.
More from Kool and Kepner: “Despite the new city standards meant to keep jobs local, residents have actually worked less on major projects, measured in the hours of labor. Local participation fell from 28 percent of hours in 2017 to 24 percent in 2020 — less than half the city’s 51 percent benchmark.”
Red Sox take 2-1 lead in ALCS
Grand slam and home run central. That’s what Fenway was last night as the Red Sox pummeled through the Astros to a 12-3 victory to take a 2-1 lead in the ALCS. Boston Herald’s Steve Hewitt has a roundup of the game.
Still cruising: Latest poll shows Wu with sizable lead ahead of second debate
The first debate doesn’t seem to have changed the state of the Boston mayoral race. As Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George get set for their second televised faceoff, a new poll from the Globe/NBC10 and Suffolk University shows Wu with a commanding lead of 62 percent to 30 percent, the Globe’s Milton Valencia and Emma Platoff report.
Gas prices in Massachusetts reach seven-year high
Time to pay up at the pump. Gas prices in the state climbed to the highest level in seven years, reports the Associated Press. AAA Northeast reports that the average cost of a gallon of gas is now at $3.27. Climbing crude oil prices are the primary factor for the higher prices.
Fake fliers draw people to Wu rally
They came for the $100 gift cards but little did they know the info they got wasn’t accurate. Boston Globe’s Sahar Fatima reports that about 20 people showed up to a rally for Boston mayoral candidate Michelle Wu after receiving fliers advertising gift cards that didn’t originate from her campaign.
More from Fatima: “Wu was holding a climate change-focused canvas kickoff with Senator Edward J. Markey at Moakley Park in South Boston when the people arrived, telling campaign workers the fliers were being handed out at a housing development across the street and at the tents around the homeless area of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard, also known as Mass. and Cass.”
Rep. Mark officially kicks off bid for Senate
Rep. Paul Mark officially kicked off his Senate candidacy Monday morning at a event in Pittsfield’s Park Square. Berkshire Eagle’s Danny Jin reports that fellow Berkshire County Reps. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, John Barrett III, and William Pignatelli endorsed Mark at the event. The Peru Democrat is running to filled Sen. Adam Hinds’ seat, who is mounting a campaign for lieutenant governor.
Amazon seeks 1,500 seasonal workers ahead of holidays
The seasonal workers are coming. Boston Business Journal’s Lucia Maffei reports that Amazon is seeking 1,500 seasonal workers in the Massachusetts as part of a national hiring campaign ahead of the holiday season.
Hot commodity: Smith & Wesson workers wooed ahead of gunmakers move
A mobile billboard parked just outside the gates of the soon-to-shutter Smith & Wesson plant in Springfield is one symbol of an ongoing battle being waged among manufacturers to attract skilled workers who don’t want to move to Tennessee with the gun maker. MassLive’s Jim Kinney has all the details.
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