11 a.m. | House holds informal session and Senate meets without a calendar.
12 p.m. | The Constitutional Convention returns from recess on Monday, although lawmakers are not expected to delve into the items remaining on the convention calendar.
12 p.m. | House Democrats meet in a private caucus “to discuss ARPA legislation.” The state has $4.8 billion remaining from its American Rescue Plan Act haul that lawmakers have yet to allocate.
1 p.m. | Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery Committee holds virtual public hearing to consider legislation related to the opioid crisis.
1:30 p.m. | Cannabis Advisory Board, the 25-member panel that studies the legal marijuana landscape and makes recommendations to the Cannabis Control Commission, meets to discuss vertical integration of medical marijuana treatment centers and future planning.
Billion dollar conversations
What are the odds that legislation allocating the state’s portion of American Rescue Plan Act funds pops this week? They’re looking pretty decent.
The evidence: House Democrats advised their plan to gather for a private caucus Monday afternoon to discuss ARPA legislation. They’ve also scheduled a formal session for Thursday and a potential formal on Friday.
With $4.8 billion in federal funds at stake and after holding several months of public hearings where officials gathered public input on a wide variety of ways to spend the money, lawmakers now have less than a month to craft a bill and push it across the finish line if they aim to meet their self-imposed deadline of before the mid-session recess.
It’s also possible that legislative leaders will look to allocate at least some of roughly the $1.5 billion in unbudgeted FY21 surplus at the same.
The tight timeline could prove tough for lawmakers as it leaves little room for extended negotiations between the House and Senate over the fine details of a spending bill.
While we’re used to the Legislature working up until the last minute on major items, it’s late to be starting the process and one thing to watch for will be how many, if any, of the big decisions House and Senate leaders have pre-negotiated.
If you need another sign of what could come this week: State House News Service’s Colin A. Young reported last week that Baker said he expects a “pretty comprehensive and pretty significant” ARPA bill on his desk before Thanksgiving.
Public retirees can now work more while still receiving pension
Retired state employees, teachers, and municipal workers can now work 1,200 hours a year for a public agency while still collecting their pension. Boston Globe’s Matt Stout reports that the Legislature overrode a veto from Gov. Charlie Baker and pushed the proposal into law.
More from Stout: “The House and Senate late last month overrode Governor Charlie Baker in pushing the proposal into law, hiking the cap on retirees from 960 to 1,200 hours per year. With it, the state’s nearly 130,000 retired state employees and teachers — plus thousands more who retired from municipal government — can now work the equivalent of a 23-hour average workweek for a public entity while continuing to earn their pension benefits.”
‘Under the cover of darkness’
The union representing State Police troopers is once again taking shots at Gov. Charlie Baker. Boston Herald’s Sean Philip Cotter reports that the State Police Association of Massachusetts claims the administration rejected dozens of requests from troopers for COVID-19 vaccine medical exemptions “under the cover of darkness” Friday night.
More from Cotter: “A Baker spokesman said Saturday that employee exemption requests have been considered on a rolling basis and the remaining requests are being reviewed in the coming weeks.”
WBUR’s Walter Wuthmann reports that the vaccine mandate went into effect on Oct. 17 and since then, administration officials say roughly 96 percent of state employees have complied.
Faith leaders, elected officials get out the vote ahead of Boston mayoral election
Ahead of the Boston mayoral race next week, elected officials and politicians encouraged Black residents to get out to the polls and vote. Boston Globe’s Diti Kohli reports that about a hundred people gathered outside the Charles AME Church Sunday afternoon where speakers ranged from U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley to Rev. Liz Walker. Associated Press’ Boston Bureau reports that early voting started Saturday and runs through Oct. 29.
Vax mandate leads to health workers placed on leave
Hundreds of unvaccinated employees at several of the state’s largest health systems were placed on unpaid leave after not complying with vaccine mandates. Boston Business Journal’s Jessica Bartlett reports that at Mass General Brigham, 99.3 percent of the 80,000-person workforce were vaccinated as of the Oct. 15 deadline for their mandate. But 546 full-time employees and 361 per-diem employees were placed on leave for not complying with the mandate.
More from Bartlett: “The largest numbers of employees placed on leave are at the two largest hospitals in the Mass General Brigham system — of the full-time employees placed on leave, 30 percent worked at Mass General Hospital and 21 percent worked at Brigham.”
Undercounted? Janey to challenge US Census tally of Boston residents
Acting Boston Mayor Kim Janey says the 2020 Census undercounted Boston residents, missing out on thousands of college students who had been sent home just days before the count began as well as people in jail and typically hard-to-reach populations. Sean Phillip Cotter of the Herald and the Globe’s Jeremy C. Fox report Janey plans to launch a formal challenge as soon as the U.S. Department of Commerce releases a framework for such challenges.
State recycling program for mercury sees large decline in collections
Salem News’ Christian M. Wade reports that a state-mandated recycling program seeking to keep mercury-laden thermostats out of landfills saw a large decline in collections during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report from the Department of Environmental Protection.
More from Wade: “The report’s authors attributed the significant decline in collections to the pandemic, suggesting that fewer in-home thermostat replacements were done, along with a delay of dropping thermostats off for recycling and collection locations returning less recycling containers due to limited personnel.”
Outlier: Mass. only state to see rise in unemployment in September
The unemployment rate in Massachusetts rose slightly to 5.2 percent in September, marking the second straight month the rate has ticked higher and making it the only state in the nation to see a rise in joblessness. Katherine Hamilton of the Worcester Business Journal has the numbers.
Tenet CEO defends decision to bring in replacement nurses
They’re in defense formation. Tenet Healthcare’s CEO defended the company’s decision to use permanent replacement nurses as the St. Vincent Hospital nurses’ strike continues. Telegram & Gazette’s Jeff A. Chamer reports that CEO Dr. Saumya Sutaria sent an letter open letter to state lawmakers and local officials saying the company has “a responsibility to our community to ensure that we can continue to deliver the high quality of care for which we are known.”
Making tracks: T says South Coast rail work in Fall River ahead of schedule
So far, so good. MBTA officials say work on what will be the Fall River terminus of the SouthCoast Rail project is on or even ahead of schedule, with a new commuter rail station set to open late in 2023, Dan Medeiros of the Herald-News reports.
Hardly shocking: School says Ayyudurai made ‘inappropriate’ comments during student talk
He almost made it all the way through. Erstwhile senate candidate and controversy magnet Shiva Ayyudurai spoke via video connection to students at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School last week and school officials are now acknowledging he made some “inappropriate” comments.
Ayyudurai — whose reputation certainly should have preceded him — took umbrage when a student questioned his claim to have invented email, used the forum to spread conspiracies about the 2020 election and posted the talk to Facebook without letting the school know he was doing so. Brian Dowd of the MV Times has the details.
The best seat in the house
This Williamstown native is going to have the best seat during the World Series this week. Berkshire Eagle’s Howard Herman reports that Chris Conroy is heading to the big game as an umpire after getting a call on Saturday from Michael Hill, MLB’s co-senior vice president of on-field operations. Unfortunately, Conroy won’t be watching the Red Sox — the Braves and Astros face off in game one on Tuesday night.
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