9 a.m. | Boston Mayor Michelle Wu hosts a press conference to discuss the city’s preparation for winter weather and resources available to support residents, including older adults and individuals experiencing homelessness.
10 a.m. | Gov. Charlie Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, and Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders hold a press conference at the State House to make a “COVID-19 testing announcement,” according to a media advisory.
11 a.m. | House holds an informal session and Senate meets without a calendar.
11:15 a.m. | U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, who has reportedly been considering a return to Massachusetts to run for governor, joins Congressman Richard Neal in Springfield to tout the impact of the infrastructure law President Biden signed.
12 p.m. | Four bills come before the Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee for a hearing.
3 p.m. | Transportation Committee holds a hearing on bills involving traffic offenses, automobile dealers and auto transactions.
With a day left to act, where will Baker fall on ARPA bill?
Today’s the day.
By the end of today, we’ll know where Gov. Charlie Baker stands on the Legislature’s $4 billion spending bill that uses part of the state’s American Rescue Plan Act allocation and fiscal 2021 surplus tax revenue. The governor can sign the whole bill — or just portions — return amendments, or announce vetoes.
So what do we know about the Republican’s stance on the House and Senate’s plan?
Last week, Baker pointed to what he sees as “red tape” in the bill that he suggested could slow down the distribution of money. Baker singled out a proposed 28-member panel that would help put together a premium pay program for low-income, essential workers who worked in-person during the pandemic.
House Speaker Ronald Mariano pushed back on Baker’s comments during a Sunday morning interview on WCVB’s “On The Record,” saying the Legislature wasn’t “in a position to administer a program of $500 million to frontline workers, we didn’t have a mechanism in which to get that money into the hands of the folks that needed it and the Governor did.”
“The issue isn’t getting the money out as much as it is let’s get it into the hands of the people who are on the frontlines and make sure they’re the ones that get the money,” Mariano said. Asked if the two branches are asking Baker to consult with too many people before distributing bonus pay, the Quincy Democrat said “I don’t believe so.”
“I think that I’d rather err on the side of getting this money into the hands of the people who went to work every day, who drove the buses, who served in the booths of the subway,” Mariano said. “Those are the people that need these bonuses.”
The premium pay commission would also be working on a deadline. The ARPA bill sets March 31, 2022 as the date by which a program must be in place. Speaking to reporters last week, Baker said “we would rather just put a premium pay program together and get the dollars out the door to people.”
The battle for number two
A lot of the focus ahead of the 2022 statewide election has been on the governor’s race — and rightly so, it’s one of the most important elected positions in Massachusetts. But there’s another equally interesting race brewing for lieutenant governor. Western Mass Politics & Insight’s Matt Szafranski rounds up the candidates and the state of the battle for the second highest office in the state.
‘If it gets any worse, I’m closing’
That’s what one Mass and Cass business owner said as the city pushes a plan to use a hotel in the area to house people experiencing homelessness. Boston Herald’s Sean Philip Cotter reports that the Wu administration is looking to incorporate the Roundhouse hotel into the city’s plan to deal with issues surrounding the intersection. But neighboring businesses are starting to organize against the proposal, saying it will create more issues.
Officials revise number of Boston employees placed on leave
It was 23, not 812. That’s the revised number of city of Boston employees placed on unpaid leave after missing a deadline to get full vaccinated or agreeing to regular COVID testing. Boston Globe’s Jeremy C. Fox reports that city officials said the larger number represented the number of employees “from public facing agencies” who didn’t meet the deadline, though most were not placed on leave.
More from Fox: “The new requirement was rolled out in three phases, with only a few departments required to meet the October deadline, according to the statement. On Oct. 12, about 325 workers whose primary language is not English were moved from phase one to phase three of the plan, giving them until November to comply, according to the statement.”
Middle-of-the-pack: Bay State gets mixed grades on freedoms
Massachusetts ranks as the 30th state in the union in terms of the freedoms afforded to its residents, a new report from the Libertarian Cato Institute finds. Christian Wade of the Salem News reports the Commonwealth ranked 25th for personal freedoms, was tops in terms of its use of the criminal justice system thanks to low rates of arrests and prison time for minor charges and ranked 8th out of all states in terms of overall tax burden.
Clawed back: State takes back $650K Methuen paid out in Covid aid
They went too far. The state Executive Office for Administration and Finance says it will take back $650,000 in federal relief funds that the town of Methuen used to aid local restaurants and to give hazard pay bonuses to employees because the community did not meet all the necessary conditions to distribute the cash, Allison Corneau of the Eagle-Tribune reports.
Not so fast: Citing legal questions, lawmakers delay filing Monterey home rule petitio
The lawyers have questions. The state legislators who represent the town of Monterey on Beacon Hill say they won’t immediately file a home-rule petition approved by local voters that would clear the way for a recall election of a select board member. Heather Bellow of the Berkshire Eagle reports the delay stems from accusations that the petition used to get the question of recalling John Weingold before voters was improperly altered.
Pandemic executive orders extended in Rhode Island
Rhode Island residents will have to stay masked up in schools for a little while longer. Associated Press’ Providence Bureau reports that Gov. Dan McKee signed an order extending masking in schools and a COVID-19 emergency disaster declaration until Jan. 8, 2022. This comes as Rhode Island public health officials reported the first case of the omicron variant on Saturday in an adult who recently traveled out of state.
Number of first responders carrying Narcan in Berkshire County to increase
More first responders in Berkshire County will start carrying naloxone, a drug that can help reverse opioid overdoses. Berkshire Eagle’s Francesca Paris reports that more than 70 percent of fire departments and 55 percent of police departments in the county will have the drug on hand, a result of push by the Berkshire Overdose Addiction Prevention Collaborative.
More from Paris: “With money from the collaborative, more than a dozen new departments — fire and police — now carry naloxone or are set to do so in the coming weeks — including the Pittsfield Police Department, BOAPC told The Eagle.”
New Amazon warehouse in Worcester brings tax revenue and traffic
Amazon is in the process of opening a warehouse in Worcester. The pros: the city is in line to get a boost in tax revenue and a swath of new job openings. The con: local residents are concerned about the potential uptick in traffic. Telegram & Gazette’s Isabel Sami reports that the warehouse is still in its infancy stages, but business officials from the area are looking forward to what they say are the positive impacts the company’s presence could bring.
The train effect: SouthCoast rail already boosting Fall River real estate
It’s already working already. Jon Root of the Herald News reports the prospect of commuter rail service connecting Fall River to Boston is already being used as a selling point for real estate in the SouthCoast city, even though the trains aren’t scheduled to start running until late 2023 at the earliest.
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