Happening Today

Today | Rep. Carolyn Dykema, a Holliston Democrat who is resigning from the House to take a position as northeast policy director at the solar energy company Nexamp, works her last day in the Legislature.

Today | Gov. Charlie Baker has ordered state and U.S. flags to half-staff from sunrise ’til sunset Friday in honor of the life and legacy of former Sen. Bill Owens, who died Jan. 22 at the age of 84.

11:45 a.m. | Attorney General Maura Healey joins Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle and Rep. Daniel Carey for walking tour of small businesses in Easthampton.

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3 p.m. | A Transportation Committee poll closes on whether to recommend legislation that would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a valid Massachusetts driver’s license.

Today’s Stories

Happy Friday! The forecast calls for temps to maybe get into the 50s.

After today, most schools will have just two more weeks to get through behind masks before the face coverings can come down, and one of those weeks is a school vacation.

As other governors did this week, Gov. Charlie Baker made the decision that he would allow the statewide school masking mandate to lapse on Feb. 28, citing high vaccination rates in Massachusetts and declining case rates and community transmission as the Omicron surge fades.

The weekly COVOD-19 data released by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education gives a glimpse of what Baker may have been considering when he came to that conclusion, showing declining case counts among students and staff in schools for over a month now. These total reflect a week’s worth of infections reported among students and staff.

     — 51,100 cases on Jan. 6

     — 48,414 cases on Jan. 13

     — 32,909 cases on Jan. 20

     —  21,688 cases on Jan. 28

     — 11,986 cases on Feb. 3

     — 6,723 cases on Feb. 10

Public health circumstances may still be different from community to community, however, and the governor  said local school districts may decide to keep on masking. Boston Mayor Michelle Wu has already said Boston will keep masks in schools for the foreseeable future.

Others are warning the timing of Baker’s decision is unwise as students will have just returned from school vacation week at the end of February when the statewide requirement ends, and Massachusetts Teachers Association President Merrie Najimy likened the decision to throwing “caution to the wind,” reports State House News Service’s Chris Lisinki.

Driver’s license bill gets its moment

House Speaker Ron Mariano signaled Thursday that he’s ready to bring a bill to the floor of the House for the first time that would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a Massachusetts driver’s license. The topic has been debated for years and could become a major election year issue. Gov. Charlie Baker opposes the concept, but Transportation Committee Chairman William Straus said he’s not convinced Baker will automatically veto the bill if it gets to his desk, as the State House News Service’s Matt Murphy reports. The Boston Business Journal’s Steph Solis has more reaction as the Transportation Committee votes until 3 p.m. today on the bill that could hit the floor next week.

‘Hundreds of rounds’ fired during hours-long standoff in Providence

A man was killed in Providence after an hours-long standoff with police where the person fired “hundreds of rounds” at law enforcement officers. WPRI’s Melanie DaSilva reports police received a call at 2:30 a.m. that 61-year-old Scott MacLean was assaulting his son and daughter. 

WPRI Kait Walsh was at the scene early Thursday morning and took a video of the situation (warning: you can hear multiple gunshots in the video). Here’s another video posted by Boston Globe’s Amanda Milkovits (also contains audio of gunshots).

WPRI

Springfield finds ‘light at the end of this tunnel’

Springfield could soon lift its mask mandate after several weeks of declining COVID-19 case counts. MassLive’s Patrick Johnson reports Mayor Domenic Sarno said if the positive trends continue the mask mandate could be lifted at the end of February, adding “there is now light at the end of this tunnel.”

MassLive

Senate intends to reopen sessions to public later this month

When will the State House reopen? That’s been one of the most pressing questions people in the Beacon Hill bubble have been asking for quite a while. It seems Senate President Karen Spilka now has a date in mind for at least a partial reopening. Boston Globe’s Samantha J. Gross reports the Senate plans to welcome back to the building vaccinated and masked members of the public to watch Senate sessions starting Tuesday, Feb. 22. How that limited access would be enforced once people are in the building, however, remains an unanswered question.

There were scant details Thursday around reopening specifics. State House News Service’s Michael P. Norton and Sam Doran report that at least two senators seemed surprised by the news.

MIT president plans to resign at the end of the year

After a decade at the head of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, President L. Rafael Reif said he will resign at the end of 2022. Boston Globe’s Laura Krantz reports Reif plans to take a sabbatical and then return as a professor in the Department of Engineering and Computer Science.

Boston

Boston, teachers unions reach a deal on COVID policies

The Wu administration and Boston Teachers Union reached an agreement on COVID-19 policies. Dorchester Reporters’ Gintautas Dumcius reports unvaccinated union members can submit two negative tests per week to enter buildings when COVID transmission is low. When rates are higher, they won’t be allowed into school “but may use some accrued time as an alternative to being placed on unpaid administrative leave.”

In related vaccine mandate news, the Commonwealth Employee Relations Board affirmed an earlier dismissal of a challenge to Gov. Charlie Baker’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for executive branch workers. State House News Service’s Matt Murphy reports the challenge was brought forth by the State Police Association of Massachusetts and was previously dismissed by an investigator with the Department of Labor relations.

State reports 2,611 COVID cases

Officials at the Department of Public Health reported 2,611 new COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts. Boston Herald’s Rick Sobey reports the new number is a 46 percent decline in cases week-over-week. That comes as schools in the state reported 6,723 cases among students and staff.

Boston Herald

Last free weekend? Correia faces Monday reporting date to prison

Former Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia is due to report to federal prison in New Hampshire on Monday, though Jo C. Goode of the Herald News reports he still has one potential stay-out-of-jail-card in his hand: A request to remain free pending his appeals that a judge could still rule on by the end of Friday.

Herald News

Adult-use dispensary opening in Cambridge

The first adult-use marijuana dispensary in Cambridge plans to open in the next 10 days after receiving final licensure from the state’s Cannabis Control Commission. Boston Business Journal’s Steph Solis reports the Black-owned retailer Yamba Market will be a 5,800 square-foot shop.

Boston Business Journal

Clark University graduate students make move to unionize

Graduate students at Clark University have voted to seek formal union recognition through the National Labor Relations Board and are asking the school to voluntarily begin negotiations, Katherine Hamilton of the Worcester Business Journal reports. Grad students at MIT took a similar vote in December.

Worcester Business Journal

‘Environmental colonialism:’ Other states may refuse Bay State refuse

New Hampshire and Maine are considering restrictions on how much out-of-state trash goes into their landfills, moves that could impact the Bay State, which in 2019 sent more than 2 million tons of trash and construction debris to other states. Christian Wade of the Eagle-Tribune reports one Maine lawmaker says it’s time to stop Massachusetts from “engaging in environmental colonialism.”

Eagle-Tribune

Property owners push back as Lynn weighs eminent domain

Officials in Lynn are poised to exercise the city’s eminent domain power to take two downtown buildings for potential use as office space or a senior center, but the current owners of the properties are crying foul and say the city is putting existing offers to buy in jeopardy. Adam Bass of the Item has the details.

The Item

Wu plans budget listening sessions

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu plans a series of “listening sessions” in an effort to give residents more say on how the city constructs its yearly budget. GBH News’ Adam Reilly reports the first session is scheduled for Tuesday and allows people an opportunity to give input at the outset of the budget crafting process, rather than near the end.

GBH News

Sunday Public Affairs: Chris Doughty, Jeanne Shaheen, and more

Keller at Large, WBZ-TV Ch. 4, 8:30 a.m. This week’s guest: Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Doughty discussing mask and vaccine mandates, education policy, and the future of the state Republican Party.

On The Record, WCVB-TV Ch. 5, Sunday, 11 a.m. Guest: New Hampshire U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen talks with hosts Ed Harding and Janet Wu followed by a roundtable discussion with political analysts Rob Gray and Mary Anne Marsh.

CityLine, WCVB-TV, Ch. 5 Sunday 12 p.m., This week’s topic: A look at the Old North Church and its connection to slavery and smuggling. A dive into “Dreaming Zenzile,” a new musical based on the life of Miriam Makeba, and a new exhibition at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

Today’s Headlines

Metro

New Black Mothers for Peace Initiative to argue for police in ‘vulnerable’ Boston schools – Boston Herald

The Obama Portraits, official paintings of Barack and Michelle Obama, coming to Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts in September – MassLive

Some Trump records taken to Mar-a-Lago clearly marked as classified – Washington Post

Massachusetts

Danvers Board of Health lifts mask requirement – Salem News

No place for hate. Franklin Council adopts guidelines to promote civility, respect – MetroWest Daily News

Nation

Colorado sets record with $2.22 billion in marijuana sales last year – Denver Post

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