9 a.m. | Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meets.
10 a.m. | Gov. Charlie Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Massachusetts Clean Energy Center CEO Jennifer Daloisio visit the Charlestown wind testing center to announce the latest Offshore Wind Ports Challenge awards and the release of the 2022 Massachusetts Clean Energy Industry Report.
10 a.m. | Joint Committee on the Judiciary holds a hearing to examine issues related to implementation of the 2018 criminal justice reform law.
10 a.m. | Massachusetts Gaming Commission meets to discuss and vote on an application by American Wagering Inc. for a mobile sports betting license tethered to Encore Boston Harbor and to continue its discussion of Plainridge Park Casino's application for an in-person sports betting license and the involvement of Barstool Sports.
12 p.m. | Boston Mayor Michelle Wu signs an ordinance at City Hall requiring places of public accommodations in the city such as restaurants, bars, banks and gyms to turn on the closed captioning function on any televisions in public areas.
3 p.m. | Menorah lighting at Boston City Hall.
IN TRANSITION NEWS, Attorney General-elect Andrea Campbell has hired Patrick Moore to be her first assistant attorney general. Moore has worked as deputy counsel to Govs. Deval Patrick and Charlie Baker and he served as associate counsel and advisor for presidential personnel in the Obama White House.
The role as number two to the attorney general is currently held by Kate Cook, who worked with Moore in Patrick’s legal office and has been tapped as Gov.-elect Maura Healey’s chief of staff. She said Moore has “just the right experience, disposition, and passion for public service.”
Moore is currently a partner in the litigation Group at Hemenway & Barnes, LLP where he represents public entities and municipalities, as well as public officials and candidates for office.
IS IT REALLY OVER? Gov. Charlie Baker is one of 25 Republican governors who signed on to a letter spearheaded by New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu calling on President Joe Biden to let the COVID-19 emergency declaration expire in April.
The governors are working on the assumption that the White House intends to extend the current declaration that is set to expire on Jan. 11 for 90 days. And they want plenty of notice to prepare.
“While the virus will be with us for some time, the emergency phase of the pandemic is behind us,” the governors wrote. “We have come so far since the beginning of the pandemic – we now have the tools and information necessary to help protect our communities from COVID-19.”
The impetus for the governor’s concern is growth in enrollment in state Medicaid programs and the “hundreds of millions of dollars” it is costing states to provide coverage to individuals who otherwise might not qualify. While the federal government has provided enhanced federal matching funds to cover the growth in the Medicaid population, state contributions have also climbed and the emergency declaration prevents states from disenrolling members unless they do so on their own.
“Making the situation worse, we know that a considerable number of individuals have returned to employer sponsored coverage or are receiving coverage through the individual market, and yet states must still account and pay for their Medicaid enrollment in our non-federal share,” the letter states.
In Massachusetts, the Center for Health Information and Analysis reports that enrollment in MassHealth primary coverage grew 25.2 percent between March 2020 and March 2022.
Amanda Cassel Kraft, assistant secretary for MassHealth, recently told a Kaiser Family Foundation webinar that the Medicaid population grew from about 1.8 million people pre-pandemic to about 2.3 million.
“This is not going to happen overnight,” Kraft said.
That said, COVID-19 continues to have effects on public health, the workplace and schools.
Massachusetts Medical Society President Dr. Ted Calianos issued a warning Monday ahead of the holidays that COVID-19 is “still a serious threat to individual and public health…”
In addition to getting vaccinated and boosted, Calianos said, “Importantly, we strongly recommend that everyone who gathers indoors, whether symptomatic or not, wear high-quality masks that fit appropriately and stay home when not feeling well.”
Part of the concern with rising infection rates this winter is the capacity strain hospitals are currently dealing with due to a number of factors, including workforce shortages and particularly high flu and RSV infection rates.
The Department of Public Health reported last Thursday 8,391 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 for the previous week with 255 patients primarily hospitalized for COVID-19 related illness. The average age of people dying from COVID-19 over the past two weeks is 80, while the 30-39 age group represented the biggest subset of new infections.
Joseph Allen, associate professor at Harvard’s Chan School of Public Health, offered this interesting thread yesterday on hospital utilization in Massachusetts why COVID-19 is not the driving factor.
— Healey sits down to talk climate tech and more
Maura Healey is nothing if not on message. The governor-elect sat down with the Globe for an interview in her State House transition office, and if you saw her appearance on “On the Record” over the weekend you might have had a touch of deja vu. Healey talked with Matt Stout and Samantha J. Gross about the need for more housing density, her plans to use public land for new housing units and the potential to create a climate technology jobs corridor that runs through Massachusetts. Most interesting, perhaps, is that Healey equated her climate investment goals to former Gov. Deval Patrick’s life sciences initiative, a 10-year, $1 billion commitment that became an early but signature accomplishment of his two-terms. Perhaps that will be a blueprint for what’s to come.
— Sudders planning retirement amid chatter about her future
Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders put an end to the speculation that despite serving a full eight years in one of the most demanding Cabinet roles of any administration, she might be game for a little more time. The BBJ broke the news yesterday that Sudders had sent an email to staff in which she said she had submitted her paperwork and planned to retire from public service on Jan. 5. The news came amidst growing chatter that Sudders could be one of the Baker officials Healey’s transition team might ask to stay on. Sudders hasn’t done much in recent weeks to damp down the talk, coyly refusing to say one way or another. It was enough to prompt CommonWealth Magazine to speculate openly that Sudders might be willing, if not eager, to stick around. Never say never. But after eight years in the Baker administration, the past three of which were spent helping the state navigate COVID-19, Sudders appears ready to move on.
— “Unstoppable” Hoffer returning to Mass. as Healey’s climate chief
While Healey has not named a new health and human services secretary to replace Sudders yet, the Globe’s Sabrina Shankman reports on the hiring of Melissa Hoffer as the new administration’s climate chief – a new position meant to drive the state’s climate goals across agencies and state government. Healey’s team says the position is unique in state governments around the country, and signals her commitment to reducing emissions and creating an economic engine around the fight against global warming. Hoffer comes from the Biden administration where she worked as deputy general counsel to the Environmental Protection Agency after leading Healey’s energy and environment bureau in the Attorney General’s office.
— Court says medical aid in dying not protected by Constitution
The Supreme Judicial Court put the concept of medication-assisted dying squarely at the feet of lawmakers with a new ruling that the state’s Constitution does not protect a doctor who might prescribe life-ending medication to a terminally ill patient. With the judicial avenue closed, advocates who believe public sentiment is moving to their side will have to turn their attention to lawmakers. And there have already been reports that another big push for a law to legalize medication-assisted dying is being readied for the legislative session that begins in a couple short weeks. SHNS’s Chris Lisinski has more on the SJC ruling and what’s next.
— Boosted on campus? New study suggests it should be a choice
A new report in the Journal of Medical Ethics casts doubt on the need for COVID-19 vaccine booster mandates on college campuses, citing the low risk from the virus at this stage in the pandemic to that population. But CommonWealth’s Michael Jonas reports that most Bay State universities are not commenting on or changing their policies because of the new research. At least not yet.
— Mejia defends herself from social media smears
Boston City Councilor Julia Mejia recorded a YouTube video to defend herself from online social media trolls who have suggested the Dominican-born Dorchester politician is abusing crack cocaine based on changes to her physical appearance. Slamming the racial undertones of the accusation, Mejia explained how her weight loss is the result of a gastric bypass surgery she had a few years back due to her troubles with diabetes. The Herald’s Sean Philip Cotter has more from Mejia and the troubling reality that it had to come to this.
— New promises to enforce the state’s gun laws
A Globe report on the alarming failure of local police to properly inspect licensed gun dealers in their communities is drawing pledges from the incoming Healey administration, local law enforcement and lawmakers on Beacon Hill to crack down and make sure the state’s vaunted gun laws are being enforced. “It’s a law that very few of us were aware of,” Lawrence Police Chief Roy Vasque, who heads the Massachusetts Major City Chiefs of Police Association, told the Globe. “The ones that were, were a little bit overwhelmed trying to do it, and others were certainly trying to figure out if they were doing it correctly.”
— Way down: State lawmakers hold fewer recorded votes
The number of recorded roll call votes taken by the state Legislature dropped by more than half in the current session, a development that some lawmakers say is a result of the pandemic and Gov. Charlie Baker’s more sparing use of his veto power. But open-government groups say it’s problematic. Christian Wade of the Gloucester Times reports there have been 281 roll calls since the current legislative session began in January of 2021, compared to 600 in the pre-pandemic, 2019-2020 session.
— Northborough 2nd Amendment lawsuit may be settled
A Northborough resident’s long-simmering lawsuit against the town’s police chief for denying his bid to renew his license to carry a firearm could be headed for a settlement in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision that struck down a New York state law limiting the right to carry firearms. Marco Cartolano of the Telegram reports both the town and the plaintiff, Alfred Morin, have indicated to a district court judge they are prepared to reach a deal to settle the case.
— School bus company sued for excessive idling
Durham School Services, which provides bus services in Holyoke and until recently also served Worcester students, has been sued by the Conservation Law Foundation for allowing buses to idle for longer than the five minutes allowed by state law. Trea Lavery of Masslive has the details.
— Housing choice zoning changes survive challenge in Rockport
The state Attorney General’s office has approved a slate of zoning changes adopted by Rockport Town Meeting, setting aside a challenge from a group of residents who argued the town incorrectly allowed the changes to pass by a simple majority. Stephen Hagan of the Gloucester Times reports 250 residents signed a petition asking the state to block the amendments, which included a transit-overlay district and an accessory unit bylaw meant to boost housing production.