Keller at Large
Keller: Wu’s Wake-Up Call
On this week’s Keller At Large, Jon Keller takes a look at the negotiations between Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and first responder unions over vaccine mandates. Keller’s take: “If she isn’t wise to it already, the mayor might want to wake up to the fact that while the union leaders might see this as a clash over collective bargaining rights, a potent portion of their rank-and-file are after bigger game.”
10 a.m. | Joint Committee on Ways and Means kicks off its hearings on Gov. Baker’s $48.5 billion fiscal 2023 budget proposal.
10 a.m. | U.S. Senate Committee on Natural Resources holds a hearing to consider President Biden’s nomination of Framingham Rep. Maria Robinson to serve as an assistant secretary of energy in the Office of Electricity.
7 p.m. | The three candidates running for attorney general — Boston City Councilor Andrea Campbell, former nominee for lieutenant governor Quentin Palfrey, and attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan — appear in back-to-back individual interviews on GBH’s Greater Boston with host Jim Braude.
Good morning. The weather is warming up just a bit, at least in Boston. A heads up to the state budget wonks out there — Ways and Means Committee members are holding a 10 a.m. hearing today on Gov. Charlie Baker’s $48.5 billion fiscal 2023 budget.
It truly is a week centered around spending plans either proposed by the governor or put before him by the Legislature. There are three getting a look this week: a $5 billion borrowing bill focused on maintenance of state assets, the annual budget, and a $101 million COVID-19 relief bill.
The COVID-19 bill includes a $25 million boost to the state’s COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave Program that offers employees up to one week of paid sick leave, capped at $850. The program has been described as a lifeline for those who get sick, need to take care of someone who contracts the virus, or need time off to get vaccinated.
The House and Senate originally funded the program at $75 million, but a little under a year later the fund is almost out of money, according to new numbers provided to MASSterList by the Executive Office of Administration and Finance.
As of Thursday, Feb. 3, more than $61.3 million had been spent on 24,911 reimbursement payments while another $5.6 million in claims were still pending.
Raise Up Massachusetts spokesperson Andrew Farnitano said the program is a critical tool workers can use to protect their health and for small businesses to avoid bearing the cost of additional sick time. And with the state moving through another COVID surge, Farnitano said the organization expects the number of payments from the fund will increase as employers seek reimbursements for time taken off during the peak of the omicron wave in January.
Senate President Karen Spilka said the funds included in the COVID spending bill are “imperative to our ongoing efforts to mitigate” the spread of the virus.
Baker has until Sunday to take action on the bill and said during a media appearance Monday afternoon that he plans to sign it “sometime between now and the end of the week.”
Call to the bullpen: Labor Secretary Martin Walsh offers to help end MLB lockout
Is Marty Walsh going to save our summah? Jim Puzzanghera of the Globe reports the U.S. Secretary of Labor stands ready to intervene in the Major League Baseball lockout, though it appears both sides are currently in no hurry to get a deal done since only spring training is at risk so far.
With construction projects lining up, will workers of color get the jobs?
Massachusetts is gearing up to spend billions on construction projects thanks to funds from the federal infrastructure bill signed into law last year. But GBH News’ Chris Burrell dives into whether that money will increase the hiring of minority workers and finds a lack of data around hours they have worked on construction projects.
More from Burrell: “Workers of color now make up almost a quarter of the state’s workforce in the building trades, their numbers climbing 30 percent from a decade ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But those trends aren’t clear in the state’s track record for hiring workers of color on public construction jobs. And with an infrastructure boom on the horizon fueled by federal funding, labor experts say the state has an opportunity to do better.”
Something for the Bay State newbies
We’re going to say very little about this piece in the Boston Globe from Kara Baskin because we want you to read it for yourself, laugh, and relish in the shameless, to-the-point writing. It’s an article for the newcomers to Massachusetts and Boston, who are wondering why the hell people call subs “grinders” or liquor stores a “packie.”
Then there are the particular behaviors from Bay Staters. Here’s one great line from Baskin: “Massachusetts is the most educated state in the country, but it doesn’t stop us from acting like complete morons. Here people will drive 85 miles an hour just to cut you off — no blinkah — and take a left on a yellow light before it turns red (which also apparently means the car behind it is grandfathered in and can floor it, too).”
Rollins would seek death penalty for Tsarnaev if instructed
If U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins gets the word from Attorney General Merrick Garland, she said she would attempt to reimpose the death penalty for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The Associated Press (via the Boston Herald) reports the U.S. Supreme Court is taking a look at whether an appeals court in Boston erred in throwing out Tsarnaev’s death sentence.
Nero’s Law lands on Baker’s desk for signature
A bill allowing medical personnel to treat and transport police dogs injured in the line of duty found its way to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk Monday morning after the Legislature gave it final approval. Here’s additional details from MASSterList’s Chris Van Buskirk and check out our interview with one of the main legislative supporters, Rep. Steven Xiarhos, from last week.
Less than 7,000 COVID cases reported over weekend
State public health officials reported less than 7,000 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend. Boston Herald’s Rick Sobey has the latest numbers from the Department of Public Health, including how cases are trending downwards after a surge fueled by the omicron variant.
Margaret Cooke to serve as permanent head of Department of Public Health
Elevated in the middle of a pandemic to lead the state’s health department, MassLive’s Alison Kuznitz reports Margaret Cooke will get to drop the “acting” from her title and serve as the permanent commissioner for the Department of Public Health.
Worcester, Saugus latest to deep-six mask mandates
They’re looking ahead. The Worcester Board of Health voted Monday to drop the city’s indoor mask mandate on Feb. 18, banking on still-high case loads continuing to fall, Michael Bonner of MassLive reports.
Saugus is also ending its mandate, changing it to an indoor mask recommendation, Sam Minton of the Item reports.
Boston Public Schools superintendent to step down
Boston Public Schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius is calling it quits at the end of the school year in June. Dorchester Reporters’ Gintautas Dumcius reports Boston Mayor Michelle Wu made the announcement in a message to parents Monday morning. Cassellius is the fifth superintendent is 10 years, and opens up another top job for Wu to fill.
Polling-place cleaner goes public with Attleboro ballot allegation
An Attleboro resident who worked sanitizing polling stations during last November’s election says he witnessed one ballot being tossed in the trash, but city officials say all ballots were accounted for and what was witnessed was a stray ballot being processed. George Rhodes of the Sun Chronicle has the details.
Winner, winner: Waters auctioning dump-side dinner
So on brand. The Provincetown Film Society’s charity auction has some unusual items up for sale, but none more unique than the offer from filmmaker John Waters to be one of 10 people to gather at the Provincetown dump to eat food scavenged from the heaps of debris and prepared by a New York City chef.
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