Keller at Large
Keller: Lame Duck Ducks
On this week’s Keller at Large, Jon Keller opines on Gov. Charlie Baker and his recent pandemic era decisions as the governor prepares to finish out his term in the state’s top office. Keller’s take: “From America’s favorite governor boldly going where no Republican’s approval ratings have gone before, to the incredible shrinking man. What a comedown.”
9 a.m. | Transportation Secretary Jamey Tesler and Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver join lawmakers and officials from Framingham for an event to highlight impacts of transportation municipal grant programs.
10 a.m. | Gov. Charlie Baker makes an announcement at the State House about COVID-19 testing with Education Secretary Jim Peyser and Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Riley.
11 a.m. | House holds an informal session and Senate meets without a calendar.
12 p.m. | Boston Mayor Michelle Wu participates in GBH News’ “Ask The Mayor” segment. Listen online or at 89.7 FM.
1 p.m. | Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities Committee holds a virtual public hearing to accept testimony on about 15 bills dealing with commissions.
2 p.m. | Transportation Committee holds a virtual public hearing on some of the most pressing issues before it: congestion, distracted and impaired driving, and the future of self-driving cars.
Worker Classification $$$ Surges
Welcome back to the workweek.
We hope you had a good long weekend and are ready to hit the ground running, because Gov. Charlie Baker is. The governor has a 10 a.m. COVID-19 testing announcement planned at the State House where he will be joined by his top education advisors…..
…..The brewing battle over app-based workers’ employment classification and benefits is shaping up to be an expensive one here in Massachusetts as new campaign finance reports filed Friday detail millions in cash on hand entering the new year for the industry-backed group pushing the proposal.
The Flexibility and Benefits for Massachusetts Drivers committee is the group supporting a ballot question that would define app-based drivers as contractors while offering them some additional benefits like paid sick leave.
The committee had a multi-million dollar fundraising year in 2021, drawing in over $17.2 million, according to a year-end report filed with the state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance. The group spent $2.8 million in 2021 including hundreds of thousands on consulting services with the Dewey Square Group and well over $1 million with Jef Associates for signature gathering.
Lyft gave over $14 million to the committee. Uber Technologies donated just under $1 million and both Instacart and DoorDash gave just over $1.1 million each.
Massachusetts is no stranger to tens of millions flowing into ballot questions. In 2020, the “Right to Repair” law became the most expensive ballot initiative in state history after supporters and opponents spent nearly $43 million into November 2020. This year’s tech worker questions could rival that as both sides ramp up their work ahead of the 2022 statewide general election in November.
A similar question in California generated over $220 million in spending, making it the most expensive ballot measure in California history in 2020.
Year-end reports for the Coalition to Protect Workers’ Rights, the group opposing the measure, were not immediately available from the Office of Campaign and Political Finance’s website Monday evening. Committees have until Thursday to file.
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COVID levels declining in Boston wastewater
Levels of COVID-19 in Boston area wastewater continue to decline, though health officials continue to warn that the virus is a consistent threat. Boston Globe’s John Hilliard reports data collected from the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority’s Deer Island water treatment plant found seven-day averages of COVID had dropped.
Springfield sublets police shooting range to state
Springfield and the Executive Office of Public Safety inked a new $1.8 million agreement that will see the city sublet its police shooting range to the state. MassLive’s Patrick Johnson reports the money offsets about half of what Springfield pays to rent the space.
Winter storm brings snow and strong winds
A winter storm barreled across the Northeast early Monday bring as much as 10 inches of snow to some municipalities in Western Massachusetts and heavy winds that flooded roads. Boston Globe’s Andrew Brinker reports wind gusts reached nearly 70 miles per hour in a handful of coastal communities while power lines went down across the state.
Congress members urge alternative to nuclear waste dumping in Cape Cod Bay
Members of the state’s federal delegation are weighing in on a proposal to dump up to 1 million of treated radioactive water into Cape Cod Bay. Cape Cod Times reports that U.S. Reps. William Keating and Seth Moulton, along with U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey, sent a letter last week to the company in charge of decommissioning the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, urging them to pursue alternative disposal methods.
Stepping away: Beverly native to end run as archivist of United States
Beverly native David Ferriero will retire from his role as chief archivist of the United States in April, capping a career that saw him oversee presidential libraries and operate the nation’s archives for 12 years. Paul Leighton of the Salem News reports Ferriero was credited by former President Barack Obama, who appointed him to the role in 2009, with modernizing the National Archives and making them more accessible to the public.
Overpaid: State will claw back some $2.7B in unemployment payouts
Give it back. The Department of Unemployment Assistance is actively trying to recoup some $2.7 billion worth of pandemic-era unemployment overpayments – even though the recipients apparently did nothing wrong, Larry Edelman of the Globe reports. More than 700,000 overpayments were issued and the state has so far worked through about half of the cases.
Little help: Worcester Councilor targets fake testing sites
A week after state officials shut down an unlicensed COVID-19 testing site in Worcester, a city councilor is pushing for more information to be made available to residents to help them tell fake pop-up sites from the real deal, Steven Foskett Jr. of the Telegram reports.
Firefighters respond to 9-alarm fire in Salisbury
A massive fire destroyed a motel and at least two other buildings in Salisbury early Monday. Boston Globe’s Charlie McKenna and Allana J. Barefield report the fire started near Michael’s Oceanfront Motel and crews first responded to the blaze at 2 a.m.
Largest container ship to call in Boston arrived Sunday
If you were anywhere near the Port of Boston over the weekend, your eyes weren’t fooling you — the largest container ship to ever wade into port arrived on Sunday. Associated Press’ Boston Bureau reports port officials hailed the arrival of the ship — the Ever Fortune — as the start of a new chapter for Boston’s shipping industry.
Images from blizzards of days past
Take your mind off the cold and strong winds by jumping into historic images of legendary snowstorms in the Berkshires. Jennifer Huberdeau of the Berkshire Eagle has you covered with images dating back to the Blizzard of 1888, 1916, and storms in the 1940s.
A fresh Friendly’s may rise from chain’s ashes
A year after it was purchased out of bankruptcy, the Westfield-based Friendly’s restaurant chain has designs on a Phoenix-like rebirth boosted by a new concept that emphasizes takeout and delivery options. Jim Kinney of MassLive has the details.
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