Today | Judge Jeffrey Locke takes over as Chief Justice of the Trial Court, succeeding Paula Carey, who retired after eight years in the role.
11 a.m. | House meets in a formal session when consideration of a $55 million COVID-19 needs bill is expected.
12 p.m. | Governor’s Council meets, and is expected to vote on certification of the Jan. 11 Senate special election results in which Senator-elect Lydia Edwards was unopposed. Senate plans a swearing-in ceremony for Edwards on Thursday.
1 p.m. | Gov. Charlie Baker makes another testing announcement at Ellis Early Learning on Berkeley Street in Boston with Education Secretary Jim Peyser and Early Education and Care Commissioner Samantha Aigner-Treworgy.
3 p.m. | Sixty-one bills involving accessibility, motorcycles, school transportation electric vehicles and local matters come before the Transportation Committee for a virtual hearing.
Happy Wednesday morning. This shortened week is already shaping up to be dominated by COVID-related headlines.
Gov. Charlie Baker took a stab at addressing testing in schools yesterday morning when he announced a new option for schools to opt in to an at-home testing program. He’s got another testing announcement planned for this afternoon at 1 p.m. in Boston focused on early education and care. The House will also take a stab at addressing pandemic needs later today during the branch’s first formal session of the year.
Here’s what you need to know:
– On Tuesday, House lawmakers began advancing a $55 million spending bill that puts money toward testing, youth vaccination rates, and personal protective equipment. The legislation also extends certain COVID-19 state of emergency policies like remote public meetings through July 15, and would set the date of the September primaries the day after Labor Day. The House gavels into session at 11 a.m. but Democrats plan to hold a private caucus meeting at 10:30 a.m. Boston Globe’s Emma Platoff has more details.
– House Majority Leader Claire Cronin will take her oath of office today inside the House chamber to become the next U.S. ambassador to Ireland. The U.S. Senate confirmed her nomination on Dec. 18. She plans to give a farewell speech during today’s formal session. State House News Service’s Sam Doran has more. Cronin’s departure from the Legislature means House Speaker Ron Mariano will get to pick a new majority leader, but that won’t happen Wednesday.
Also: Tomorrow, the Senate holds a formal session to facilitate the swearing in of Senator-elect Lydia Edwards.
Agawam city councilor plans run for lieutenant governor
Agawam City Councilor Cecilia Calabrese plans to announce a run for lieutenant governor, setting herself up as former Rep. Geoff Diehl’s unofficial running mate. Tom Joyce at the New Boston Post writes that Calabrese has been interested in mounting a campaign for the post since at least August.
What flags can fly at Boston City Hall?
What flags can and cannot fly outside Boston City were the subject of oral arguments in front of the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday. Mark Satta for The Conversation writes that the case revolves around whether the city violated the First Amendment by denying a request to temporarily raise the Christian flag outside City Hall.
More from Satta: “During oral arguments, the justices and the parties agreed that if the flagpole is a public forum open to all comers, then the city of Boston would be unable to deny a request to temporarily raise a religious flag, like the Christian flag. The key question in the case then is this: is the third flagpole a public forum open to all comers or is it government speech?”
Maura Healey could announce soon she’s running for governor
According to one source Boston Globe’s Scott Lehigh spoke to, Attorney General Maura Healey has made up her mind to run for governor. Now, it’s just a matter of jumping into the fray publicly.
More from Lehigh: “With the Democrats’ delegate-selection process starting early next month, look for her announcement as soon as this week.”
‘Backside’ of Massachusetts’ omicron surge
Here’s a positive outlook: Gov. Charlie Baker said Tuesday that the state is seeing a downward trend of COVID-19 case fueled by the omicron variant. MassLive’s Alison Kuznitz reports Baker said “you just never know, but it certainly does look like we are very much on the backside of the omicron surge in Massachusetts.”
New at-home testing initiative set to start later in January
Students and staff at schools throughout Massachusetts have a new testing option. Boston Herald’s Amy Sokolow reports Gov. Charlie Baker announced an opt-in, at-home testing initiative that will provide each person at a school one COVID test per week. Districts that choose this new program will have to give up the “test-and-stay” initiative, where potential COVID-19 close contacts could continue to come to class so long as they tested negative for the virus on a daily basis.
Emirates suspends flights to Logan over 5G concerns
If you’re a frequent flyer of Emirates Airlines out of Boston Logan, here’s some bad news: the company suspended flights to the airport out of concern over the impact of 5G mobile network services at airports. Boston Herald’s Rick Sobey reports Boston is one of nine airports in the U.S. where the airline suspended flights.
Boston sees boost in vaccination rates
The week before a new proof of vaccination policy went into effect in Boston, the city saw a boost in vaccinations. GBH News’ Zoe Mathews reports Mayor Michelle Wu said 81 percent of residents now have at least one dose.
RI U.S. Rep. Langevin not running for re-election
Rhode Island Congressman Jim Langevin does not plan to seek reelection in 2022. Writing in the Providence Journal Langevin says “it is time for me to chart a new course, which will allow me to stay closer to home and spend more time with my family and friends. And while I don’t know what’s next for me just yet, whatever I do will always be in service of Rhode Island.”
On their own: Some communities continue contact tracing
Bera Denau of the Daily Hampshire Gazette reports Easthampton and other communities in the Pioneer Valley continue to mount their own contact-tracing efforts even though the state has ended the support it offered through the now-shuttered Community Tracing Collaborative.
Spring semester kicks off as pandemic continues to challenge classrooms
College students are entering the fifth straight semester stained by the COVID-19 virus. And as Spring 2022 kicks off, vaccinations, masking policies, and testing initiatives are keeping young adults in the classroom. Boston Business Journal’s Grant Welker reports colleges are recording more infections on campus than they first had in March 2020.
More from Welker: “But today, vaccines and boosters are in place and a hybrid model is more the norm. Harvard is a telling example. The school was among the first to send students home and shift learning to online at the very beginning of the pandemic. Now, it is operating in-person despite hundreds of reported infections.”
Mass. woman among latest arrested on Jan. 6 charges
They’re still working the case. The FBI arrested a Dracut woman and her New Hampshire girlfriend on Tuesday and charged them with entering the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 riots. Jeremy Fox of the Globe reports the Boston FBI office received tips the two women were at the insurrection and posted on social media about it.
Maybe next year: Apartments near Polar Park delayed again
A 228-unit apartment project located next to the Polar Park baseball stadium in Worcester has been delayed a third time and is now slated to come online in mid-2023, more than two years after the original target date. Katherine Hamilton of the Worcester Business Journal reports the developer is blaming pandemic delays and notes that planned taxes from the private developments are key to helping the city pay off the bonds it floated to help build the most expensive minor league ballpark ever built.
Promise keepers? Quincy plots path forward after apartment project dropped
What now? Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch says developer FoxRock Properties will keep its pledge to create affordable housing in the city, even though its latest plans for a downtown development leave out a planned residential component. Mary Whitfil of the Patriot Ledger has the details.
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