9 a.m. | Supreme Judicial Court sits to hear oral arguments in six cases.
10 a.m. | Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities Committee convenes a virtual hearing about bills related to Department of Transitional Assistance benefits.
11 a.m. House holds an informal session and Senate meets without a calendar.
12 p.m. | House Blockchain Technology Caucus, newly launched to explore the public policy impacts of the digital ledger technology, plans to convene its second meeting.
1 p.m. | U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark hosts a press conference to promote the clean water infrastructure provisions in the recently signed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
What tone will elected officials convey after Omicron detected in Massachusetts?
It was inevitable.
State officials reported the first case of the COVID-19 Omicron variant over the weekend and the level of apprehension feels similar to when we first learned of the Delta variant. The Department of Public Health said that the individual is a female in her 20s from Middlesex County who traveled out of state.
Omicron’s arrival coincides with a recent rise in cases and hospitalizations in Massachusetts and it’s important to pay attention to the tone elected officials set this week as we get closer to the winter holidays.
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu plans an 11 a.m. press conference at City Hall where she will announce members of a new COVID-19 advisory committee who plan to help in “decision-making around tackling new variants and working to end the pandemic in Boston,” according to her office.
So what happens now? Boston Globe’s John Hilliard and Gal Tziperman Lotan report that public health experts are cautioning that holiday plans could be muddled as we learn more about the effects of Omicron. Elected officials, like Gov. Charlie Baker, are urging people to get vaccinated and seek out a booster shot if possible.
Of course, Massachusetts isn’t the only state to detect the new variant within their borders. MassLive’s Benjamin Kail reports that 13 other states have found the variant including New York and New Jersey.
Boston Herald’s Alexi Cohan notes that vaccines are expected to provide protection against Omicron but other measures like handwashing, social distancing, and masking can help stop the spread.
Franchise laws on the docket as SJC meets this week
The Supreme Judicial Court is scheduled to hear cases this week as part of their December sitting, and CommonWealth’s Shira Schoenberg reports that one of the matters before the justices deals with worker classifications and franchise convenience stores. The main question here is whether state law differentiates between independent contractors and employees as it relates to franchisees.
Pedestrian fatalities close to a five year high
Please be careful. The total number of pedestrian fatalities this year is on its way to meeting or exceeding totals for the previous five years. Boston Herald’s Marie Szaniszlo reports that 10 people have been killed this year, almost as many as the 11 pedestrian fatal in 2017, seven in 2018, nine in 2019, and five in 2020.
More from Szaniszlo: “Because speeding and running red lights are two of the most dangerous driver behaviors, [Stacy Thompson] said, LivableStreets has urged state officials, to no avail, to allow Boston to use cameras for enforcement.”
Commuters take to Twitter to air concerns with MBTA
Have an issue with your T commute? Just pull out your phone, post a picture to Twitter, and tag the transit agency. Maya Homan, reporting for the Boston Globe, writes that a small contingent of commuters are taking to the social network to broadcast their concerns and call attention to issues they see during their time on transit system in hopes of effecting some change.
Final tally: UMass Memorial Health fires 200 who refused to get COVID vaccination
UMass Memorial Health says it has fired 200 employees who refused to get vaccinated against COVID or provide a legitimate exemption request, Cyrus Moulton of the Telegram reports. Workers who missed the Nov. 1 deadline got a one-month grace period to get their first shot before being dismissed.
It was a similar story at Southcoast Health, where 216 employees who refused to get vaccinated are now out of work, according to Charles Winokoor of the Herald News.
ARPA bill now on Gov. Baker’s desk
The Legislature handed Gov. Charlie Baker a multi-billion spending package on Friday that uses part of the state’s American Rescue Plan Act allocation and surplus tax revenue from 2021. Boston Business Journal’s Greg Ryan reports that the legislation included a $107.5 million job-training portion, a decrease from what House leaders had initially proposed.
More from Ryan: ” The House had initially approved a $150 million package. And Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, had called on Democratic legislative leaders to set aside $240 million in ARPA funding for a range of workforce development initiatives, as part of what one administration official called a necessary ‘radical expansion’ of the state programs.”
Just a coincidence? Onetime candidate for governor Wolf stepping down from Cape Air
Timing is everything. Dan Wolf announced Friday he would be stepping down as CEO of Cape Air after 32 years, leading to almost instant speculation that he’d toss his hat into the 2022 gubernatorial election. Doug Fraser of the Cape Cod Times reports Wolf says the move has been in the works for a while and doesn’t necessarily indicate a return to politics for Wolf, who served in the state Senate for three terms and briefly ran for governor in the 2014 cycle.
Case dismissed and doors open
The case may have been dismissed, but a federal judge seems to have outlined a path to banning lobstermen from using vertical buoy lines. WCAI’s Eve Zuckoff reports that a case before Judge Indira Talwani focused on the lines’ ability to entangle and kill North Atlantic right whales.
More from Zuckoff: “But where Talwani rejected [plaintiff Max] Strahan’s right to sue, she largely agreed with him on the merits of the case. Eventually, she wrote, if the standing issues are resolved, the state fails to receive an Incidental Take permit from the federal government, which it is in the process of seeking, and a case came before her again, she would move to “cease permitting the deployment of vertical buoy ropes in Massachusetts state waters.’”
Ayyadurai says he’ll run for governor
Shiva Ayyadurai, the onetime Senate candidate perhaps best known for claiming to have invented email as a teenager, says he’ll run for governor as a Republican — and that he would have snagged the endorsement of former President Trump if he’d been in the race sooner, Alison Kunitz of MassLive reports. Ayyadurai recently tried to sue state officials over the 2020 election, alleging without evidence that 1 million ballots were destroyed.
Minimum wage hike inbound
Ge ready for a little bit more money in your paycheck. MassLive’s Heather Morrison reports that the state’s minimum wage is set to grow to $14.25 in less than a month as part of a consistent, yearly increase scheduled through 2023, when the minimum wage will hit $15.
A very good year: Nantucket sees $2B in real estate sales for first time ever
Officials on Nantucket say the island had surpassed $2 billion in total real estate sales by the end of November, setting an all-time record with a month still left on the calendar. Joshua Ballling of the Inquirer & Mirror reports local realtors say the pandemic has made the already desirable location even more sought-after.
Tax collections for November total $2.416B
Tax collection numbers continued to come in above the benchmark as officials reported a total haul of $2.416 billion for November. State House News Service’s Colin A. Young reports that number is roughly 9 percent above the Baker administration’s expectation for the month.
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