Keller at Large

Keller: The Legislature’s ARPA Feeding Frenzy

On this week’s “Keller at Large,” Jon Keller dives into the House’s proposed multi-billion spending package that draws funding from the state’s share of the American Rescue Plan Act. Keller’s take: “It’s almost December and they still haven’t agreed on a bill. But they have managed to stuff the plan full of earmarks with no plausible connection to the stated goals of the American Rescue Plan Act.”

SoundCloud

Happening Today

10 a.m. | Metropolitan Beaches Commission and Save the Harbor/Save the Bay hold a virtual public hearing focusing on improving access to public beaches for people with disabilities.

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1 p.m. | Ten bills dealing with recreational and specialty vehicles are on the agenda for a Transportation Committee virtual hearing

1 p.m. | Veterans and Federal Affairs Committee holds a hearing on bills related to veteran benefits and transferability.

2 p.m. | A new commission tasked with studying the environmental and health impacts of glyphosate and the most common alternative herbicides virtually convenes its first public meeting.

6:30 p.m. | Massachusetts Republican State Committee meets to hear an update on Attorney General Maura Healey’s investigation into possible MassGOP campaign finance violations last year, vote to schedule elections to fill two vacant state committee seats, and to discuss sending the secretary of state a letter about universal mail-in voting.

Today’s Stories

It certainly feels like 2020 even though the state is in a vastly different situation

Deja vu can be a sweet and tender feeling, or one that evokes anxious thoughts.

The last month and most recent COVID news has reopened a flurry of feelings reminiscent of fall 2020, when cases were surging ahead of the cold winter months. The emergence of the Omicron variant doesn’t help as public health officials and scientists determine just how dangerous it is.

Reports of Omicron, travel bans, and economic upheaval certainly bring us back to those uncertain times last year when the Delta variant was just taking a stranglehold on the world, but Boston Globe’s Anissa Gardizy and Diti Kohli explain why this time around, things are different.

Vaccines are widely available — including to children — and booster shots are being jabbed into arms. The Globe pair also point out that we’ve been through this before: people know what needs to be done to control the spread and keep themselves safe.

Vaccine manufacturers like Pfizer and Cambridge-based Moderna said they should know within weeks whether their shots are effective against the new variant. Boston Herald’s Erin Tiernan reports that Moderna officials said they have “mobilized hundreds” to research the strain.

But what does this all mean for us here in Massachusetts where state health officials reported 5,497 new cases over the weekend? Speaking on GBH Radio Monday, Gov. Charlie Baker encouraged people to get their booster shots and assured listeners that “people are chasing this pretty hard.”

“You’ve got folks all over the globe who are chasing data and information and it’ll probably take a few days to figure out what we don’t know,” the governor said, according to State House News Service’s Colin A. Young, who writes that about 1 million people in the state have already gotten a booster.

MassLive’s Alison Kuznitz reports that Baker suggested Massachusetts could soon adopt a digital COVID-19 vaccination passport.

So, yes, there is cause for concern as daily headlines look more like 2020 each day and we work our way through the second year of the pandemic. But alongside any concern you may feel, public officials say there should be quite a bit of patience as well while we await more information on Omicron and its effects.

Jury finds Julia Enright guilty of second-degree murder

A jury found an Ashburnham phlebotomist and dominatrix guilty of second-degree murder after she was accused of murdering her ex-boyfriend in a treehouse. Telegram & Gazette’s Brad Petrishen reports that a Worcester Superior Court jury delivered Julia Enright’s verdict Monday morning after starting deliberations last Tuesday, breaking for the Thanksgiving weekend, and sitting through 11 days of trial.

More from Petrishen: “Enright, 24, stood as the verdict was read. She stared straight ahead as she was handcuffed and removed from the courtroom. Sentencing was set for Jan. 18. A second-degree murder conviction carries a life sentence with the possibility of parole.”

Telegram & Gazette

Baker getting ‘pretty close’ on 2022 decision

Gov. Charlie Baker says he’s “pretty close” to making a decision on whether to seek out a third term as governor. Boston Globe’s Matt Stout reports that Baker said he’d have an answer “soon” and is “getting pretty close” to a final call. The governor has been asked the question countless times over the past few months and has yet to say whether or not it’s time to head home or march into the political fray once more. 

There were some more clues from the governor during his Monday appearance on GBH Radio. Boston Herald’s Erin Tiernan reports that Baker said he sees himself “working for a long time,” though the obvious question there is whether that “long time” includes another run for the state’s top office.

Decision day: Belsito, Snow face off in unique special election

It’s Tuesday, which means there must be an election somewhere. Today it’s the 4th Essex District, where Democrat Jamie Belsito and Republican Robert Snow are vying for the right to serve out the last year of Brad Hill’s term following his appointment to the Mass. Gaming Commission. Michael Cronin of the Eagle-Tribune reports the winner will face another decision next year, when the district will have a new look post-redistricting.

Eagle-Tribune

Slow unmasking: Few schools meet state standard to drop mask mandates

Baby steps. Just 15 out of the state’s 1,800 schools have met the 80 percent vaccination threshold needed to opt out of the state’s mask mandate for students, Christian Wade of the Eagle-Tribune reports, though some districts say they’re not in a rush to have the mandates lifted because of concern that any outbreak could impact staffing levels.

Eagle-Tribune

Rejected: High Court denies Mass General-Brigham workers’ vaccine appeal

No dice. The U.S. Supreme Court won’t hear an appeal from Mass General Brigham employees fired over their refusal to comply with the hospital’s vaccine mandate. The Associated Press reports that Justice Stephen Breyer rejected the appeal without comment.

Associated Press

Wu’s fare-free bus plan prompts questions about long-term funding

Some Boston City Councilors are looking to Mayor Michelle Wu for a long-term plan to provide fare-free bus service on three routes. WBUR’s Darryl C. Murphy reports that the Wu administration set aside $8 million in federal funds to help support the program for two years. But now councilors are wondering how the program will operate in years three, four, five, and beyond.

Boston Globe’s Taylor Dolven reports that the proposal went before the council’s COVID-19 recovery committee on Monday where several councilors discussed the need for similar programs in their districts and for low-income residents across the city.

Pittsfield mayor cautions against panic as new strain emerges

Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer agrees with President Joe Biden’s view on the current state of the pandemic and emergence of a new variant: it’s cause for concern, but not panic. Berkshire Eagle’s Larry Parnass reports that Tyer said “we’ve got to be well aware of what is happening and monitor case rates, but not panic.”

Berkshire Eagle

Rev. Joseph Quinlan added to list of sex abusers

The late director of the former Cathedral High School in Springfield has been added to a list of credibly accused sexual abusers maintained by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield. Springfield Republican’s Stephanie Barry reports that Rev. Joseph Quinlan — who died in 1989 — was added to the list as a result of an alleged 1974 incident.

More from Barry: “The addition of Quinlan’s name is part of a quarterly update to keep the list current, officials said, and brings the accounting to 62.”

MassLive

Fenway Sports Group takes controlling interest in Pittsburgh Penguins

Add a hockey team to the list of assets controlled by John Henry’s Fenway Sports Group. Boston Herald’s Todd Prussman reports that FSG announced it had taken a controlling interest in the Pittsburgh Penguins, an Eastern Conference foe of the Boston Bruins. The deal is expected to close before the end of the year, officials from the Penguins said.

Here’s another angle from this storyline that’s worth a mention if only for the interesting situation it creates: NESN airs Bruins games and is owned 80 percent by FSG and 20 percent by Delaware North — the owners of the Bruins. So, FSG now owns the Penguins and is partners in NESN with the owners of the Bruins.

Boston Herald

As goes Worcester: Local Monopoly spat part of industry trend

Turns out it’s the game-maker passing Go and collecting the cash. Jennifer Levitz and Jon Kamp of the Wall Street Journal report that the recent spat about a Worcester-focused version of Monopoly is playing out in other cities and towns, with some businesses saying they were forced to pay to appear on the hyperlocal game boards.

Wall Street Journal

It’s getting cold

Winter is coming. David Epstein for the Boston Globe writes that Monday night may be one of the colder ones we’ve seen in a while with temperatures hovering around 20 degrees in several spots around the state.

More from Epstein’s forecast: “It will take a while to recover Tuesday morning, but eventually, we will be up near 40 in the afternoon, along with sunshine giving way to increasing clouds, a sign of milder weather ahead. The middle part of the week will feature temperatures with slightly above-average readings that get into the 40s on Wednesday for a nice day.”

Boston Globe

Today’s Headlines

Metro

City councilors ask Wu administration for long-term plan for fare-free buses plan – WBUR

Massive 800 Morrissey development seeks public input – Dorchester Reporter

Massachusetts

For Baker, leaving the GOP seems prudent — so why won’t he do it? – GBH News

Kennedy compound vandalism reported in Hyannisport – Cape Cod Times

MEMA: Nonprofits, public agencies can recoup pandemic expenses – Daily Hampshire Gazette

Nation

How education will shape 2022’s midterm elections – Politico

Dorsey’s exit shakes up Twitter future – The Hill

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