Happening Today

9 a.m. | Public Health Council meets virtually to get an update from Public Health Commissioner Margret Cooke and new results from the COVID-19 community impact survey. The board is slated to vote on a pair of determination of need applications.

9:30 a.m. | Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, Chief of Streets Jascha Franklin-Hodge, MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak, Grove Hall Main Streets Executive Director Ed Gaskin, and others hold a press conference in Dorchester to make “a major transit announcement.”

10 a.m. | Governor’s Council interviews Republican Rep. Sheila Harrington, a Groton attorney, who was nominated Jan. 19 by Gov. Baker for clerk magistrate of Gardner District Court.

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10 a.m. | Save the Harbor/Save the Bay and Metropolitan Beaches Commission hold a virtual public hearing on language barriers that some people face at the beaches in the Greater Boston area.

10:30 a.m. | Gov. Charlie Baker holds a press conference at the State House with Education Secretary James Peyser, Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley, and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito to make a “COVID-19 announcement.” Watch it here.

10:30 a.m. | Senate Democrats and Republicans hold a joint caucus ahead of a formal session on Thursday. Senate Democrats meet again in a caucus at 1:30 p.m.

11 a.m. House holds an informal session.

Today’s Stories

Good morning. Gov. Charlie Baker plans a COVID-19 announcement this morning from the State House with his top education advisors, days after he said Massachusetts was on the same trajectory as other states dropping their school mask mandates.

The announcement will be made just after the start of the Governor’s Council hearing, which after two weeks of hosting rare commutation hearings for two men serving life sentences for murder is back to somewhat traditional fare. Somewhat.

This morning state Rep. Sheila Harrington, a Groton Republican, goes before the all-Democrat council as Gov. Charlie Baker’s nominee to become the next clerk magistrate of Gardner District Court. If approved, Harrington would leave the Legislature after more than 11 years and vacate a seat that has been in Republican control since 1985.

Harrington has held the First Middlesex District House seat since 2011, taking over for Robert Hargraves, also of Groton. Before Hargraves, the district was represented by Groton’s Augusta Hornblower.

Baker has not shied away from tapping like-minded elected Republicans for administrative roles in state government, though it hasn’t always worked out well for his shrinking party on Beacon Hill. The ranks of House and Senate Republicans have been dwindling from their most recent peak in 2010, where a wave of successful elections was fueled by Tea Party messaging

Since then, a series of departures and Democratic successes have left the House GOP with 29 members, and Harrington would bring that to 28, at least for now.

As State House News Service’s Sam Doran reported when Harrington was first nominated, House Republicans have lost six members in the last four years. Former Rep. Brad Hill was the most recent Republican to leave, when Baker named him to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.

His seat turned blue after Rep. Jamie Belsito won a special election late last year, and that district has been reshaped in a way that will put another incumbent Democrat on the ballot against Belsito if she chooses to run reelection this fall.

When Baker needed a new clerk magistrate for Dudley District Court, he nominated the only Republican on the Governor’s Council – Jennie Cassie. That seat, too, ended up going to a Democrat in Cassie’s wake.

Harrington won’t resign until she is confirmed, which could be as soon as next week. Her hearing starts at 10 a.m.

It’s been 700 days since the State House was last open to the public

It’s been 700 days since the public last roamed the halls of the State House, watched a legislative session from the public gallery, or demonstrated outside the governor’s office.

Quite frankly, the building is a ghost of its former self, with only a handful of staffers, lawmakers, and other officials present each day. And at least one group in the state is taking notice. 

The Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance said the “indefinite lockdown only benefits legislative leadership as they can exert more consolidated power.” The group launched a new social media and email campaign Tuesday in an effort to put pressure on Democratic leadership to reopen the building. 

Legislative leadership have said the decision to keep the building closed has been made out of concern for state employees’ safety and health. Senate President Karen Spilka said in late January that she is “optimistic that, hopefully next month, it can reopen.”

Bonus payments heading to low-income workers next month

Bonus payments in the order of $500 are heading to thousands of low-income workers next month. Boston Herald’s Erin Tiernan reports the Baker administration has finalized the details for the COVID-19 Essential Employee Premium Pay Program, an initiative that was created under the $4 billion American Rescue Plan Act spending bill Baker signed into law in December.

More from Tiernan: “[The] program is a $460 million initiative that relies on federal coronavirus relief dollars was initially intended to reward low-income workers who manned the front lines at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, but the eligibility criteria released by the Baker administration on Tuesday included no such parameters.”

Boston Herald

Galvin asks state budget writers for more money to run elections

Running the statewide elections scheduled for this fall could be a real challenge, Secretary of State William Galvin said Tuesday, blaming Gov. Charlie Baker for leaving elections “dramatically underfunded” in his proposed fiscal 2023 budget. State House News Service’s Chris Lisinski reports the state’s top election official called on legislators to include additional money for rising costs associated with running an election.

State House News Service

Boston Globe facing new class action lawsuit

Claims of illegally sharing personally identifiable information is at the core of a new lawsuit against The Boston Globe. Boston Business Journal’s Don Seiffert reports a California man — who has been a Globe subscriber since August 2020 — filed a class action lawsuit against the paper alleging it illegally shared information with Facebook.

Boston Business Journal

Falling fast: More communities dropping mask mandates

Salem has dropped both its indoor mask mandate and proof-of-vaccination requirements effective immediately, leading a host of communities joining the rush to move away from hard-and-fast orders as coronavirus cases fall, Dustin Luca of the Salem News reports.

Mask rules have also been eased this week in Marlborough, Swampscott and Sudbury.

Controversial Lyons continues GOP recruitment tour

Trying is enough. George Rhodes of the Sun Chronicle caught up with MassGOP Party Chair Jim Lyons on the latest stop of his statewide tour to recruit Republican candidates for this year’s elections and found Lyons seeking hopefuls willing to battle the “radical left” but not necessarily emerge victorious. “One of the things I want to do tonight is recruit candidates,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter if you win,” Lyons told the crowd.

Sun Chronicle

Boston using data to decide when to lift vax rules

More light was shed on how Boston public officials are determining when to lift certain COVID policies in the city. Boston Globe’s Travis Andersen and Diti Kohli report Boston Mayor Michelle Wu laid out on Tuesday the benchmarks the city is using to decide when to roll back a proof of vaccination requirement to enter certain  businesses. The specific criteria? ICU bed capacity, hospitalizations per day, and the community positivity rate.

Boston Globe

New data looks at racial bias in traffic stops in Massachusetts

WBUR’s Todd Wallack reports new data released Monday from the state Executive Office of Public Safety shows police were more likely in 2020 to search non-white drivers and hand them criminal citations.

More from Wallack: “However, the same study also found no evidence that police in Massachusetts were more likely to stop non-white drivers in the first place, using a technique that has been used to test for racial bias in other states.”

WBUR

Speaking their language: More communities adopt bilingual ballots

Leominster, Fitchburg and Clinton are the latest communities to say that ballots for elections later this year will be available in both English and Spanish to comply with newly updated requirements in the Voting Rights Act, Anoushka Dalmia of the Telegram reports.

Telegram & Gazette

Bring ‘em back: Delegation pressures GE on Lynn jobs

The Bay State’s two U.S. Senators have joined with U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton to call on GE to stop plans to move some jobs out of its Lynn jet-engine manufacturing facility to other U.S. and overseas locations. The Globe’s Jon Chesto reports 82 of the 2,500 workers in Lynn could see their jobs relocated.

Boston Globe

Lake Quinsigamond pump operational again

The Lake Avenue Sewer Pumping Station is once again operational after 4 million gallons of untreated wastewater ended up in Lake Quinsigamond. MassLive’s Michael Bonner reports the pump started working Monday afternoon following an issue over the weekend that led it to shutdown.

MassLive

Today’s Headlines

Metro

Lawsuit alleges Harvard ignored harassment complaints against Prof. John Comaroff – Harvard Crimson

Giant Fenway project undergoes a few changes — and gets a new name – Boston Business Journal

Robinson testifies before Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources – MetroWest Daily News

Nation

How Manchin used politics to protect his family coal company – Politico

Hogan announces COVID-19 booster lottery – The Hill

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