Keller at Large

Keller: Chicken-Bleep Policy Making

On this week’s Keller at Large, Jon Keller dives into the warnings from the egg industry that prices could skyrocket come the new year if lawmakers don’t change a 2016 ballot question set to take effect when the 2022 arrives. Keller’s take: “But as we lurch toward a new year with dramatically curtailed access to omelets, carbonara, pork fried rice and Croque Madame, let’s reflect on the scrambled thinking and ham-handed politics that led us to this barnyard of horror.”


Happening Today

Today | Voters in Revere, Winthrop, and parts of Boston and Cambridge on Tuesday decide between Revere School Committee member Anthony D’Ambrosio and Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards in a Democratic primary for the open First Suffolk and Middlesex Senate seat.

10 a.m. | Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on about five dozen bills dealing with criminal records and motor vehicles.

1 p.m. | Board of Early Education and Care meets, with an agenda that includes a strategic action plan update, discussion of parent fees, and a budget discussion involving a vote on a rate increase for center-based and family child care systems.

1:30 p.m. | Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee holds a hearing on nearly 30 bills related to either decarbonization or telecommunications.

Today’s Stories

Baker looks to cut through “red tape”

Gov. Charlie Baker decided to grab a pair of scissors and cut through what he views as “red tape” in the Legislature’s $4 billion American Rescue Plan Act spending bill. But the question that’s sitting at the top of our minds is whether (or how) the Legislature will attempt to mend the slice.

Part of Baker’s “red tape” is a 28-member commission tasked with designing a COVID-19 premium pay program for essential, low-income employees who worked in-person during the state of emergency. That program would use $500 million allocated in the bill to distribute bonuses between $500 and $2,000.

The Republican governor vetoed the section Monday afternoon after signing a majority of the bill. With the Legislature in recess until January, Democrats will have to wait until the new year if they hope to override the veto, at which point will they still want to?

Baker was pretty straightforward when laying out his reasoning for the veto. In a letter accompanying the signed bill, the governor said “the program has been further complicated” by the panel’s creation and waiting for their recommendations “is virtually guaranteed to significantly hinder the disbursement of funds.”

“Various organizations are responsible for naming members of the panel, but it is unclear whom they are expected to inform of their appointment decisions,” the letter reads. “No one is empowered to call the first meeting of the panel, no chairs are named, and no deadlines apply to the panel.”

Senate leadership pushed back against Baker’s “red tape” characterization last week, saying that the panel “is further reflective of our approach to include those most impacted by this public health crisis in decision-making around our recovery process.”

What legislators decide to do next will be interesting. On one side is the urgency that has been attached to the bonus payments and the need to get them out quickly. On the other, a risk of running into further delays.

State officials to distribute at-home COVID tests to low-income communities

If you live in one of these 100-plus cities or towns, you’re in luck. The Baker administration announced Monday that the state will distribute 2.1 million at-home rapid COVID-19 tests to municipalities with low income communities. MassLive’s Alison Kuznitz reports that shipments will start this week.


‘Taking all the steps’

Attorney General Maura Healey is bringing in the cash. State House News Service’s Matt Murphy reports that the AG held one fundraiser last week and plans two more for next week all while people continue to wonder whether she’ll run for governor. Her fall timeline to make a decision is quickly closing.

And here is an interesting tidbit from Murphy’s story: One senior advisor to Healey said “Maura is taking all the steps that one would need to take to prepare for a run, including closing the year with a strong fundraising month.” The question here is a run for what?

State House News Service

Baker: Unvaccinated fueling rise in hospitalization rates

At the same press conference he announced the at-home testing initiative, Gov. Charlie Baker said a recent rise in COVID-19 hospitalization is the result of people who are unvaccinated. Boston Globe’s Amanda Kaufman reports the governor argued for more widespread vaccination to combat rising numbers and said “if the unvaccinated got vaccinated, we drop our hospitalization rates by 50 percent.”

Boston Globe

Bumps in the road: Wu’s free bus plan snags on federal rules

Those pesky federal rules. Bruce Mohl of CommonWealth reports Boston Mayor Michelle Wu is working with the MBTA to find a way around Federal Transit Administration rules that could imperil her $8 million plan to make three bus routes in the city free to all for two years. The rules limit pilot programs to six months in duration before permanent funding is in place.


Worcester church groups seeks to help immigrants fleeing home due to sexual orientation

A church group in Worcester is looking to help immigrants fleeing their countries as a result of their sexual orientation. Associated Press’ Philip Marcelo reports that the LGBT Asylum Task Force raised more than $500,000 to buy and fix up a run-down three-story former group home on the city’s west side. The first resident of the home arrived over Thanksgiving weekend.

Associated Press

BPS experiencing special education staffing shortage

Staffing issues are common these days. But for some, the effects of labor shortages have a very detrimental effect. WBUR’s Carrie Jung reports that special education staff shortages at Boston Public Schools are making it hard for parents to find places for their children to learn. It’s also putting the district in a tough spot.

More from Jung: “Ethan d’Ablemont Burnes, BPS’s assistant superintendent in the office of special education, says the challenge is two-fold: There aren’t enough teachers, and students are coming back needing intense services.”


Their turn? After New York victory, Boston Starbucks workers make unionization push

Baristas who work at Starbucks in Brookline and Allston have begun a push to unionize, hoping to capitalize on momentum created by last week’s successful vote to form a union at a Buffalo, N.Y. Starbucks as well as efforts to organize workers at locally owned shops in the Boston area, Tori Bedford of GBH reports.

GBH News

Not so much: Warren slams ‘freeloading’ Musk after Person of the Year designation

She vehemently disagrees. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren wasted no time in slamming Tesla CEO Elon Musk after Time magazine named him its Person of the Year, Ayelet Sheffey of Business Insider reports. Warren used news of the honor as a chance to press for changes in the U.S. tax code that could force Musk — who is worth nearly $300 billion yet paid no federal income tax in 2018 — to stop “freeloading off everyone else.”

Business Insider

Boston prepares for winter season, potential snow emergencies

Don’t worry, Boston has a ton of salt, equipment, and drivers to clear out snow should an emergency arise. That’s the message from Mayor Michelle Wu, who held a press conference Monday to update residents on the city’s snow emergency preparedness. GBH News’ Saraya Wintersmith reports that the announcement comes as the state is experiencing a shortage of snow plow drivers.

Here’s what Wu said in response to the staffing issue: “Staffing is a challenge and because of that, the city has been working hard way in advance.”

GBH News

Halted: Taunton shuts down pot-shop construction as licensing woes linger

Work on a recreational cannabis shop in Taunton has been halted mid construction and the shop’s owner and others say the delays are further proof the city’s overall process for licensing the shops is deeply flawed. Chris Helms of the Taunton Gazette has the details.

Taunton Daily Gazette

Phelps to retire from Berkshire Health Systems

Phelps is out. Not the swimmer. Berkshire Health Systems President and CEO David Phelps said he would retire in early 2022. The Berkshire Eagle reports that Phelps said “I know that now is the right time … for making this transition.” Details about the appointment of a new CEO will be released later this week, said Bart Raser, chair of the BHS Board of Trustees.

Berkshire Eagle

Today’s Headlines


Anchors away? City launches bidding process for popular spot on Charlestown waterfront – Boston Globe

Most MIT graduate students have signed cards supporting a union, organizers say – WBUR


Springfield police detective Gregg Bigda found not guilty of brutality, abusive interrogation – MassLive

Probe into racist messages at UMass Amherst coming up dry – Daily Hampshire Gazette


House Jan. 6 committee votes to hold Meadows in contempt, details texts from Trump allies who wanted him to call off rioters – Washington Post

California to require indoor masking statewide – Politico

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