11 a.m. | House holds an informal session and Senate meets without a calendar.
Programming Note: MASSterList will not publish on Friday, Dec. 24. We’ll be back in your inbox on Monday, Dec. 27. Happy holidays and stay safe!
A quick rundown of issues lingering as the first year of session draws to a close
Before a quick break for the holidays tomorrow, we wanted to briefly run through just a few outstanding items on the Legislature’s plate as the first year of session wraps up.
– ARPA Funds: The House and Senate managed to get a $4 billion American Rescue Plan Act spending bill to Gov. Charlie Baker before the year ended. It includes hundreds of millions for housing, economic development, and climate change. The legislation uses $2.55 billion of the state’s ARPA share, leaving about $2.3 billion leftover. Baker sent back amendments and vetoes that the Legislature will have to deal with next year once formal sessions resume.
– Hospital Expansion: The House passed a rather large bill that scrutinizes hospital system expansion, requiring them to seek a letter of support from community hospitals if they’re looking to move into their service area. The Senate has yet to take up the bill, but House Speaker Ronald Mariano has flagged it as a priority.
– Sports Betting: It seems like at some point every year momentum builds for a bill legalizing sports betting. The House again passed a bill this year. The governor has pointed to tens of millions of dollars in extra tax revenue that could flow into the state. But the Senate has yet to take one up, and it seems like a push in that branch will meet some resistance as Senate President Karen Spilka hasn’t been quick to put a bill on the Senate floor.
– COVID Mandates: This week, a group of legislative leaders — including Spilka — called on Gov. Charlie Baker to reimpose a statewide mask mandate for indoor public spaces. Baker has been telling reporters for a few weeks now that he won’t do it, instead issuing an advisory that recommends — but does not require — masks in indoor spaces. This issue isn’t on the Legislature’s plate in the form of a bill, but rather a lingering issue that the House and Senate may choose to deal with in 2022. As we wrote yesterday, the how is still an outstanding question.
– Fiscal 2023: Finally, as the new year dawns, the Legislature and Gov. Charlie Baker will find themselves in the yearly throes of creating a state budget. It’s a normal process that plays out between the branches and the governor, but the uncertainty of the pandemic once again casts a shadow of caution and anxiety over the whole procedure. Lawmakers and administration officials kicked off the budget creation process this week by talking to economic experts and forecasting tax revenue for next 18 months.
Is there something we missed here that you think is important? Let us know at email@example.com along with any comments, questions, or concerns you may have.
How the Democratic primary race will define state politics next year
The outcome of the upcoming Democratic primary race may forge and shift Massachusetts’ politics for years to come. GBH News’ Mike Deehan’s writes that progressives will look to replicate success at the local level while a potential Attorney General Maura Healey’s campaign will shake up the Democratic field.
More from Deehan: “One of the biggest early questions for the 2022 race will be how Healey runs. Does she characterize herself as the trusted and responsible two-time “people’s lawyer,” or does she lean into identity politics and emphasize her position as the nation’s first elected gay attorney general and quite possibly the first woman in line to be elected governor of Massachusetts?”
If you stocked up on eggs these past few weeks in fear of higher prices and shortages, this may come as unwanted news. Gov. Charlie Baker “got cracking,” “unscrambled all the information,” and signed a bill making changes to an animal housing standards. A pun-ful Baker informed reporters Wednesday that he had inked his signature on the document, reports State House News Service’s Chris Lisinski.
Does this mean we’re finally free of all the egg puns?
Baker still resistant to statewide mask mandate amid calls from Democratic leaders
They haven’t talked yet, though it’s only bee one day. Senate President Karen Spilka released a statement yesterday calling on Gov. Charlie Baker to reinstate a statewide indoor mask mandate and a proof of vaccination requirement for indoor public spaces. MassLive’s Alison Kuznitz reports that Baker said Wednesday he hadn’t yet spoke to the Senate president, but would most likely discuss the issues at the start of the new year.
Following suit: Salem mask, vax mandates mirror Boston’s new rules
The Salem Board of Health unanimously voted to reinstate an indoor mask mandate immediately and to require proof of vaccination to enter certain businesses starting next month, becoming one of the first cities to follow the lead of Boston in enacting strict new rules to curb the resurgence of the coronavirus. Dustin Luca of the Salem News has the details.
State reports record number of cases
Another grim record. State health officials reported 7,817 cases on Wednesday, the most of the entire pandemic. Boston Herald’s Rick Sobey reports that the number breaks the previous high of 7,635 on Jan. 8.
Under investigation: Norfolk DA reviewing petitions for possible fraud
The office of Norfolk County District Attorney Michael Morrissey says it is looking into claims that some of the signatures gathered by a third party firm on behalf of four initiative petition drives seeking to get ballot questions on the 2022 ballot were forged or fraudulent. David Linton of the Sun Chronicle reports the petitions in question focused on changes to ride-share regulations and the potential expansion of liquor licenses granted to grocery stores.
Restaurants workers wary as omicron fuels case surge
A shortage of workers, rising prices, and the surge of omicron are leading to an anxious restaurant industry in Massachusetts. WBUR’s Darryl C. Murphy reports that increasing COVID cases are presenting continued challenges to restaurateurs, who are looking to keep their businesses afloat while also maintaining public health standards.
Central MA hospitals seeing hospital beds fill up
Hospital capacity in central Massachusetts is either at its limit or past it at this point as the virus fuels another winter surge. Telegram & Gazette’s Marco Cartolano reports that UMass Medical Center has been over capacity for several weeks while St. Vincent Hospital is witnessing an increasing.
Worcester nurses to vote next month on proposed contract
ICYMI: Saint Vincent Hospital nurses plan to vote next month on a tentative agreement with managers that could end the longest nurses strike in state history. Boston Herald’s Marie Szaniszlo reports that 840 nurses will decided whether to end their strike and ratify a proposed contract.
Recognized: Feds say Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe can retain reservation land in Taunton
Here we go. The U.S. Department of the Interior reversed a Trump-era ruling and restored the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s historic claim to 321 acres of land in Taunton, potentially setting the stage for the tribe to revive its $1 billion plan to build the First Light Casino there, Doug Fraser of the Cape Cod Times reports. U.S. Rep. William Keating hailed the news, saying it “strikes a blow for justice.”
On track: Hinds says NYC to Berkshires rail service poised for summer launch
They’ve got their fingers crossed. State Sen. Adam Hinds says the long-delayed Berkshire Flyer passenger rail service connecting Pittsfield and the Berkshires to New York City should be ready to launch next summer. Danny Jin of the Berkshire Eagle reports funding has been in place since the original launch date in 2020 and all that remains is for the program to win access to a 35-mile stretch of track controlled by CSX Corp.
How to Contact MASSterList
Send tips to Matt Murphy: Editor@MASSterList.com. For advertising inquiries and job board postings, please contact Dylan Rossiter: Publisher@MASSterList.com or (857) 370-1156. Follow @MASSterList on Twitter.
Subscribe to MASSterList
Start your morning with MASSterList’s chronicle of news and informed analysis about politics, policy, media, and influence in Massachusetts. Plus, get an inside look at Beacon Hill’s hottest new job postings.