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11 a.m. | House holds an informal session and Senate meets without a calendar.

Today’s Stories

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.

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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 editor@massterlist.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?”

GBH News

‘Egg-cellent’

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?

State House News Service

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.

MassLive

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.

Salem News

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.

Boston Herald

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.

Sun Chronicle

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.

WBUR

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.

Telegram & Gazette

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.

Boston Herald

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.”

Cape Cod Times

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.

Berkshire Eagle

Today’s Headlines

Metro

Parking requirements ended for affordable-housing development in Boston – Universal Hub

Matt O’Malley Energized About Next Opportunity, Reflects on City Council – Jamaica Plain News

Massachusetts

Weymouth residents opposed a funeral expansion project. So they worked to change the law. – Patriot Ledger

Easthampton eyes vacant property fee to curb economic blight – Daily Hampshire Gazette

Nation

America is ‘closer to civil war than any of us would like to believe,’ CIA adviser says – Boston Globe

Supreme Court sets special hearing for Biden’s vaccine rules for health-care workers, private businesses – Washington Post

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