Keller at Large
Keller: Fear and Loathing Comes Home
On this week’s Keller at Large, Jon Keller dives into new legislation from Rep. Steven Howitt that would ban demonstrations within 100 yards of an elected official’s home. Keller’s take: “As a practical and legal matter, the bill is probably doomed. The bill makes no distinction between peaceful and ‘aggressive’ demonstrators, and the last thing cops and courts need is to spend time sorting them out.”
9:30 a.m. | Boston City Councilor and state Senate candidate Lydia Edwards announces a slate of new endorsements from a group state representatives and senators during an event at the State House.
9:30 a.m. | Mass. Gaming Commission meets to select topics for in-depth discussion or action at future commission business meetings, including one planned for Dec. 2.
10 a.m. | Judiciary Committee convenes a virtual meeting to consider 63 bills related to privacy and protected classes.
11 a.m. | Education Committee hosts a virtual hearing focused on early education and care, kindergarten, and literacy.
11 a.m. | Zoning and planning legislation goes before the Community Development and Small Business Committee at a virtual hearing.
1 p.m. | Boston Mayor Michelle Wu participates in GBH News’ “Ask the Mayor” segment on “Boston Public Radio” with hosts Jim Braude and Margery Eagen.
Programming Note: MASSterList will not publish on Thursday, Nov. 25 and Friday, Nov. 26. We’ll be back in your inbox on Monday, Nov. 29.
House releases updated reopening plan for staff and officers
The Massachusetts House of Representatives will take one more baby step next month toward a bustling State House as more employees will be cleared to return to the halls under the Golden Dome.
House leaders released an updated reopening plan Monday afternoon that requires officers and staff “to be available and able to work in person at the State House as a condition of their employment with the House of Representatives” starting on Dec. 13, according to a summary of the policy released by the House speaker’s office.
But the answer to the key question so many people have been asking — when will the building reopen to the general public — remains a mystery. MassLive’s Alison Kuznitz reports that the updated plan, dubbed Phase 2A, specifically states the new phase is “not a full reopening the State House.”
Staffers and officials must be vaccinated to work at the State House, and House officials have previously said nearly all have complied with the branch’s vaccine mandate. State House News Service’s Chris Lisinski reports that the small number of people who haven’t gotten vaccinated have three weeks to get jabbed before they face unpaid suspensions.
The Monday update also shed light on future plans, outlining additional opening procedures slated to take effect sometime in winter 2022. The plan says during “Phase 2B we anticipate welcoming larger cohorts of members, officers and employees to work in person at the State House on a more permanent basis.”
The decision to keep the State House closed to the public has faced renewed scrutiny in recent months as more aspects of life and business continue to return to normal. Legislative leaders in both the House and Senate have defended the choice by pointing to what they say are the complexities of fully reopening the building.
Common refrains? The building’s purpose is multifaceted — it serves as a tourist attraction, office, and event space. Common pushback? Why can people see a ballgame at Fenway Park or Gillette Stadium but not their elected leaders in the people’s house?
Even if Massachusetts is one of the last states to reopen its capitol building, the state is heading into the winter where another spike in COVID-19 cases is possible. House officials pointed to that fact in their updated plan.
“Unfortunately, in recent weeks, infection rates in the Commonwealth and neighboring states have begun to rise again,” the update said. “While the fluid nature of the COVID-19 virus complicates our reopening planning, it is important nevertheless to find a way to progress while prioritizing health and safety.”
New ordinance directs Boston to divest from fossil fuels
There’s a first time for everything. For Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, Monday marked the first time she signed an ordinance into law. What does the new measure do? Boston Globe’s Sabrina Shankman reports that under the ordinance, the city would need to divest funds from the fossil fuel industry.
More from Shankman: “The ordinance prohibits the use of public investments in any company that derives more than 15 percent of its revenue from fossil fuels, including coal, oil and natural gas, or fossil fuel products. In Boston, that adds up to roughly $65 million in city investments of the $2 billion portfolio that is overseen by the city treasurer’s office. The ordinance includes a 2025 deadline for full divestment.”
Criminal neglect charges against Bennett Walsh dismissed
Former Holyoke Soldiers’ Home Superintendent Bennett Walsh scored a win in court Monday. MassLive’s Stephanie Barry reports that a Hampden Superior Court judge dismissed criminal neglect charges against Walsh stemming from a COVID-19 outbreak at the soldiers’ home that left about 80 veterans dead.
On the move: Rep. Clark changing cities, but staying in district
U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark announced her family would sell its longtime home in Melrose and move to a smaller house in Revere, a downsizing move that will keep Clark — who recently ascended to assistant House Speaker — in the 5th Congressional District she has represented since 2013, the Globe’s Emma Platoff reports.
Hard no: Warren will vote against confirming Powell to remain Fed chair
She’s not a fan. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren says she won’t vote to confirm Jerome Powell for another term as chairman of the Federal Reserve, citing what she calls his past “failures on regulation, climate and ethics.” Alexander Bolton of The Hill reports the objections of Warren and other progressives are expected to be easily overcome by Republican support for Powell remaining at the helm of the central bank.
Getting ready for the ‘big weekend’
Get ready for the madness. After pandemic-ridden holidays where people were mostly forced to shop online, retailers are expecting a surge of in-person shoppers for Black Friday and Small Business Saturday. Boston Herald’s Rick Sobey reports that retailers are preparing for a “big weekend” with national experts forecasting holidays sales during November and December to jump between 8.5 percent and 10.5 percent over 2020.
Free rides: Uncollected toll tally now $122 million
Paying tolls is so 2015. Mike Beaudet of WCVB reports that since the Bay State switched to all-electronic toll collection in 2016, scofflaws have racked up $122 million of free rides on the Mass Pike and other paid roadways. One account has racked up $90,000 in unpaid tolls, almost 60 percent of what is owed traces back to Massachusetts drivers and MassDOT says it is in the process of hiring a bill collector to go after what is owed.
Afghan family to resettle on the Cape
Eight Afghanistan evacuees were expected to arrive in Falmouth last night, signifying the first time evacuees from the country resettled on Cape Cod since the military withdrawal in August. WCAI’s Patrick Flanary reports that the family includes six children between the ages of five months and 14 years old.
Quincy College branches into four-year degrees
Looking to get a bachelor’s degree in business management? You now have one more college to choose from. Boston Business Journal’s Grant Welker reports that Quincy College is now offering a four-year bachelor’s degree in the area, marking the first time the institution has provided a four-year offering.
Let’s negotiate: Aquinnah seek state gambling compact for Martha’s Vineyard
The plot thickens. The town of Aquinnah on Martha’s Vineyard revealed Monday that the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head Aquinnah has asked Gov. Baker to negotiate a compact that would allow the tribe to operate a full-fledged casino somewhere in the state, Eunki Seonwoo of the Martha’s Vineyard Times reports. The move represents an escalation of the tribe’s ambitions after it secured the legal right to operate a bingo hall on the island–and comes as the state’s third resort casino license continues to sit unused.
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