Showing posts with label State House. Show all posts
Showing posts with label State House. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Boston Globe: "state to partner with feds to help migrants obtain work permits"

"The state is partnering with the federal government to help migrants apply for work authorization documents, directing resources toward an avenue state officials consider key to alleviating the strain on the state’s overwhelmed emergency shelter system.

State and federal Homeland Security will co-host a clinic the week of Nov. 13 in Middlesex County, north of Boston. The state will organize appointments and provide transportation for migrants from shelter sites across the state to the clinic site.

The announcement comes as the clock ticks down to Wednesday, Nov. 1, when Governor Maura Healey said she will begin limiting how many families it will place in its emergency shelter system.

“We are glad that the Biden-Harris Administration is hosting this clinic with us, which will help process work authorizations as efficiently as possible,” Healey said in a statement. “This clinic will be critical for building on the work that our administration has already been leading to connect more migrants with work opportunities.”
Continue reading the article online (subscription maybe required)

Boston Globe: "state to partner with feds to help migrants obtain work permits"
Boston Globe: "state to partner with feds to help migrants obtain work permits"

Sunday, April 9, 2023

"The site operates as 'a nonpartisan, open source, and nonprofit project;”

"ONE OF THE most well-worn complaints among political watchers in Massachusetts is that the government can be, well, hard to watch. The state Legislature is one of the least transparent lawmaking bodies in the country – exempt from public records laws, with decisions often made in closed committee sessions with little revelation about who voted for or against a given piece of legislation.

Being generally outraged about local government on Twitter, Facebook, or other social media sites may be cathartic, but is perhaps not the most efficient way to push for change. Now a team of volunteers is taking a swing at making online engagement with the Legislature feel a bit more civil, structured, and achievable for individuals and organizations.

The website MAPLE (the Massachusetts Platform for Legislative Engagement) launched this month, focused on encouraging and facilitating public testimony on legislation. The Legislature does collect and post some public testimony already, but the MAPLE group is trying to improve what they see as an imperfect system. A motivating question for the co-creators was whether the online spaces where the public gathers to express views online could “be designed better to allow us to channel our energy for productive improvements for the communities that we touch?”
Continue reading the article online at Commonwealth Magazine ->

Check out the MAPLE site yourself here ->
"The site operates as 'a nonpartisan, open source, and nonprofit project;”
"The site operates as 'a nonpartisan, open source, and nonprofit project;” 

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Interfaith Teen Climate group joins Mass Youth Climate Coalition at State House

Our interfaith climate group from Franklin travelled to Boston for a march and rally on February 7th. We also met with Rep Jeff Roy's chief of staff to speak about several bills that need support in the legislature this session. 

Check out:

All are welcome to our next meeting on Sunday, March 5th at 7 PM at St John’s Episcopal Church, 237 Pleasant Street in Franklin.

Interfaith Teen Climate group joins Mass Youth Climate Coalition at State House
Interfaith Teen Climate group joins Mass Youth Climate Coalition at State House

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

CommonWealth Magainze: "in informal sessions, ... a single lawmaker can put off action on a bill"

"THE LEADERS of the House and Senate met for the first time in three months with Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday to discuss a handful of issues left over from the legislative session, but it appears little progress was made in finding a way forward.

The three leaders emerged from their meeting in the governor’s office and reported little progress on economic development legislation that passed both branches but stalled at the end of the formal legislative session on August 1 amid concerns about whether the state could afford the bill’s $4 billion price tag and also return $3 billion to taxpayers under a tax cap law triggered for the first time since 1987.

The economic development bill contained $500 million in one-time cash rebates for residents, $500 million in permanent tax credits, as well as funding for climate change efforts, water and sewer infrastructure, and a host of other initiatives.

House Speaker Ron Mariano indicated in August that he might lead an effort to reshape the tax cap law, but subsequently backed off that stance and now says he is supportive of “what’s written in the law.”

Continue reading the article online
House Speaker Ronald Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka answer questions from the press after a Monday afternoon meeting with the governor and other officials. [Sam Doran/SHNS]
House Speaker Ronald Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka answer questions from the press after a Monday afternoon meeting with the governor and other officials. [Sam Doran/SHNS]

Friday, October 14, 2022

"commitments and authorizations under state law that are not fully kept by the Commonwealth"

"THE STATE HAS a $1.2 billion shortfall in aid promised to cities, towns, and school districts, Auditor Suzanne Bump concluded in a report released Thursday. 

The report looked at several major categories of state aid and identified $711.4 million in unfunded mandates related to school aid; $448.3 million related to school transportation; and $103.3 million in government aid, mainly related to the Community Preservation Act. 

“The state should be accountable to fulfill its funding obligations to cities and towns,” Bump said in an interview. “These are mandates that have long been on the books, and it just seems it’s easier to focus on the new and forget about the old.” 

State law prohibits unfunded mandates, requiring the Legislature to fund anything it requires cities and towns to do. But practically, lawmakers have often ignored those obligations. For example, they regularly appropriate only a portion of mandated expenses for school transportation.  

“Insufficient state appropriations or allocations have left programs underfunded, and some programs have seen financial obligations completely ignored despite a commitment under law,” the report says. "

Continue reading the CommonWealth Magazine article online ->

State Auditor Suzanne Bump.
State Auditor Suzanne Bump

Thursday, October 6, 2022

"Half of all the refund money will go to the top 10 percent of households by income."

"THE STATE is preparing to pay out $1.4 billion in “illusory” funds under the tax cap law, giving wealthy taxpayers a huge windfall, according to a report from the left-leaning Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center.

Officials at the center say they are not accusing state officials of doing anything wrong or making a math error. Instead, they are saying a set of unusual circumstances are combining to inflate the amount of taxes collected in excess of the tax cap, and doing so in a way that shortchanges the state and allows wealthy taxpayers to gain an even bigger benefit than they normally would.

“The affluent win in every way,” said Phineas Baxandall, senior policy analyst and advocacy director at the Budget and Policy Center.

The broad outlines of the situation have been raised before, but the Budget and Policy Center report is the first time the dollar impact has been spelled out. The report calls on state leaders to address the situation, but they have shown little interest so far in intervening to change the tax cap law."

Continue reading the article online 

Reading between the lines, if the Governor wasn't so hasty in trying to the funds returned by check and used the tax rebate process, the 'illusion' might work itself out.  

The State House News Service, shared via Franklin Observer, tries to focus on the issue as party based:

Q1 State Tax Take Surpasses Record FY `22 Pace, but No Tax Relief in Sight
The golden dome of the State House. (Photo by Andy Metzger)
The golden dome of the State House. (Photo by Andy Metzger)

Monday, October 3, 2022

"local government 'is the least appreciated' level of government, 'but probably should be the most valued.'”

"A new report from the Rappaport Institute at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government highlights the strong partnership between the Baker-Polito administration and the state’s cities and towns, how it came to be, and the positive results it has achieved.

“We set out a few months ago to try to understand what was happening on the ground, what was so different about the way that this administration was working with cities and towns that we kept hearing about,” said Danielle Cerny, a visiting fellow at the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston and the author of the 50-page policy brief, during an unveiling event at Harvard on Sept. 28. “What were the pieces? Did it really work? Could we bottle it, particularly as we start to prepare for transitions here and elsewhere. How could we try to capture this?” 
Continue reading the article at MMA -> 

Direct link to full report ->

Rappaport Institute at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government
Rappaport Institute at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government

Friday, August 5, 2022

"a victim of the focus [being] on other quote-unquote more important bills"

"In the churn of its final 23-hour formal session, the Massachusetts Senate embraced a series of changes members said would protect those victimized by crime. They passed a bill that banned first responders from taking pictures of victims. After midnight, they spent 90 minutes debating, and then passed, language expanding the list of crimes for which someone could be held before trial.

“Think about the victims that are asking us to act,” Senator Marc R. Pacheco said from the floor.

Survivors of “revenge porn” question whether the Senate thought of them, too.

Despite 48 states outlawing it and the House voting unanimously to do the same, the Senate adjourned its final formal session this week without taking a vote on a measure that would make the sharing of nonconsensual pornography illegal in Massachusetts."
Continue reading the Boston Globe article (subscription may be required)

The Senate chamber of the Massachusetts State House.CARLIN STIEHL FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE
The Senate chamber of the Massachusetts State House. CARLIN STIEHL FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

Friday, July 29, 2022

Franklin Unified Basketball Team visited the State House on Thursday

Via Lisa Berger

"FHS unified basketball/team mass at the State House!!! What a great day and honor!! Thank you Representative Jeff Roy!"

Via State Representative Jeff Roy:

"It was a treat having the beloved Franklin Unified Basketball Team in the State House yesterday to be honored by the House and Senate for sportsmanship and bringing home the gold medal. The visit included stops in my office, the House and Senate Chambers, and the Gov’s office."

 Via Senator Becca Rausch:

"You all are all stars, @FranklinHS Unified Basketball! It was an honor to welcome these gold medalists and young leaders into the Senate chamber today. Congrats again on your huge victory, and thank you for representing MA at the @specialolyUSA . We are so proud! @TOFranklinMA"

FHS Unified team visit to State House for tour
FHS Unified team visited the State House for tour

FHS Unified team visited the House Chambers
FHS Unified team visited the House Chambers

Additional photos can be found in the first two tweets

Shared from Twitter -



Thursday, July 21, 2022

Conference Committee reaches agreement on climate bill

Statement of State Rep. Jeff Roy and State Senator Mike Barrett 

State Rep. Jeff Roy and State Senator Mike Barrett, chairs for their respective branches of a conference committee appointed to resolve differences between House and Senate versions of a new climate bill, announced today that a compromise has been reached. 

An Act Driving Clean Energy and Offshore Wind preserves the central ideas of bills that each branch had passed separately.  The compromise is expected to be filed tonight and to come before each legislative branch for final approval as soon as tomorrow, after which it will go to the Governor for his consideration. 

The chairs issued the following joint statement: 
“Massachusetts needs to open up huge new sources of green electric power if it’s to stay on course for reducing emissions. Today’s compromise aims to ramp up clean power, especially offshore wind but also solar, storage and networked geothermal, and run it through cars, trucks, buses, and buildings, the biggest sources of emissions in the state.  
“We thank President Biden for issuing a call to action to the entire country today,” the two continued. “Massachusetts legislators hear him, and we’re going all out.”
Deepwater Wind's turbines off Block Island, R.I., as seen in 2019.RODRIQUE NGOWI/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Deepwater Wind's turbines off Block Island, R.I., as seen in 2019.RODRIQUE NGOWI/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Friday, July 15, 2022

Beacon Hill Updates: MA House passes economic development bill; agreement in principle reached by conf cmte on State budget

"The Massachusetts House Thursday night passed a massive, wide-ranging economic development bill that infuses $4.2 billion into the state economy in the form of tax relief, investments in health care and environmental programs, and support to businesses, as well as a slew of policy changes and earmarks for local projects and programing.

The bill would be paid for by a combination of $2.8 billion in federal American Rescue Plan dollars and expected state surplus money, and $1.4 billion in money the state borrows through bonds.

Much of the spending is meant to target “communities that were hardest hit by the pandemic,” Representative Aaron Michlewitz, a North End Democrat who is the House’s budget leader, said while presenting the bill Wednesday morning. “This is a well-rounded spending package that will help support major sectors of our economy and help us be more competitive with other states.”

"TWO WEEKS INTO the fiscal year, legislative budget writers have reached an agreement on the fiscal 2023 state budget. 

Ways and Means chairs Rep. Aaron Michlewitz and Sen. Michael Rodrigues issued a joint statement Thursday evening saying House-Senate negotiators have “reached an agreement in principle” resolving the differences between the House and Senate versions of the budget. 

“Staff are currently working to complete the work necessary to finalize the agreement,” Rodrigues and Michlewitz said. “We anticipate a Conference Committee Report being filed in the coming days to ensure that the House and Senate can consider the report on Monday in formal session.” 

Note - the headline on a similar article Thursday initially read "Beacon Hell", a typo caught by an eagle eyed reader and corrected online before the Twitter post went out. Unfortunately all the email subscribers got the 'wrong' version'. Spell check won't catch those mistakes. I need to be more vigilant.

Beacon Hill Updates: MA House passes economic development bill; agreement in principle reached by conf cmte on State budget

Thursday, April 21, 2022

"eliminating the chemicals that cause cancer in firefighting gear is paramount"

"A SPECIAL TASK FORCE is recommending that Massachusetts regulate and gradually phase out the sale of consumer products that use PFAS chemicals, one of a series of recommendations aimed at addressing the health and environmental impacts of the commonly used chemicals.  
“As we get our hands around the issue, you realize how widespread PFAS is,” said task force co-chair Sen. Julian Cyr, noting that the chemicals are used in everything from clothing to cookware.  
PFAS, formally called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are often referred to as “forever chemicals” because of their long-lasting environmental impacts. They are widely used for industrial applications, such as manufacturing, and in consumer products including firefighting foams, non-stick cookware, and water-repellent clothing.  "
Continue reading the article online 

Firefighters-in-training battle a blaze. (Photo courtesy of Department of Fire Services)
Firefighters-in-training battle a blaze. (Photo courtesy of Department of Fire Services)

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Voices of Franklin: Colin Cass says "Please sign candidate nomination papers!"

Candidates in Massachusetts who want to be elected to any public office this fall need something right now.

They need large numbers of qualified voters to sign their nomination papers before May 10.  (No need to get tangled in the weeds:  the numbers and qualifications depend on the offices sought.)

People seem confused about this.  Your signature on a nomination paper commits you to nothing.

It shows only that you helped a candidate get into the race.  This is crucial for all candidates (you can sign for as many as you please) and completely harmless to you.

So if candidates who want to run in your district ask you to sign their nomination papers, give them a break.  

Colin Cass
Franklin, MA

To add your voice to the discussion, please follow the guidelines

Voices of Franklin: Colin Cass proud of the diverse election results
Voices of Franklin: Colin Cass says "Please sign candidate nomination papers!"

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Senate Passes Sweeping Social Equity Cannabis

Senate Passes Sweeping Social Equity Cannabis

Senate Passes Sweeping Social Equity Cannabis Bill

The Massachusetts Senate on Thursday passed S.2801, An Act Relative to Equity in the Cannabis Industry. Through the creation of a new fund that aims to support equity in the cannabis industry and improvements to the local licensing process, the bill levels the industry playing field to help members of communities disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition and enforcement take part in the Commonwealth's growing cannabis market.

"I'm proud that when the Senate and the Legislature legalized the commercial marijuana industry in 2017, we prioritized the creation of a first-in-the-nation equity program," said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). "Unfortunately, many barriers continue to prevent those historically harmed by marijuana prohibition from entering the industry. Today's bill takes important steps to address these by providing resources to support social equity businesses and putting guardrails in place on the Host Community Agreement process. I thank Chair Rodrigues and Senator Chang-Diaz for their work to bring this legislation forward."

"The legislation we passed today builds upon the goals that we have always had for the cannabis industry here in the Commonwealth - protecting consumers, supporting small business, and promoting social equity," said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues, Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. "I want to thank Senate President Spilka for her leadership, along with Senator Chang-Diaz, Senator Cyr, Senator Jehlen and others for advocating to make sure Massachusetts remains a cannabis industry leader. Ultimately, this bill passed by the Senate promotes the continued growth of a competitive and equitable industry here in our state and I hope to see it advance to the Governor's desk very soon."

"Addressing racial justice in our state means getting real about closing our cavernous racial wealth divide," said Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz (D-Boston). "With this bill, Massachusetts will reclaim our leadership role, carving a path to make equity a reality in the cannabis industry. Lowering entry costs and opening up new avenues to capital will put this multi-billion dollar industry within reach for many talented equity entrepreneurs."

"When we passed recreational cannabis legislation five years ago, we sought to ensure the Commonwealth's budding cannabis industry would be equitable, diverse, and have ample avenues of entry for small-scale and Black and Brown-led entrepreneurship," said Assistant Majority Whip Julian Cyr (D-Truro). "Regrettably, the Legislature's intention to build an industry rooted in social justice has not yet been fully realized. Today we are living up to that promise by establishing guardrails on host-community agreements, allowing communities interested in pursuing social consumption sites to do so, and empowering a strong, vibrant, local cannabis industry with a robust cannabis equity fund."

"Limiting the cost of operation is part of promoting social equity and repairing harm to communities harmed by War On Drugs, by lowering one of many barriers to entry with the host community agreement reform in this bill," said Senator Patricia Jehlen (D-Somerville). "I hope this new bill is even clearer in stating the intent of the law and the ability of the CCC to achieve the goals of promoting social equity. High costs of cannabis have helped preserve the illicit market for cannabis and this bill will take significant steps to expand business opportunities and lower costs across the commonwealth."

Social Equity Fund

The bill builds upon existing Massachusetts law, which legalized adult-use cannabis and made a first-in-the-nation commitment to equity in the cannabis industry. A combination of high entry costs and lack of access to capital have kept many would-be entrepreneurs from taking part, resulting in fewer than seven percent of cannabis licenses in Massachusetts going to social equity businesses.

Opening an average cannabis retail shop can require $1 to $1.5 million in liquidity, and the numbers are even higher for manufacturing facilities --at around $3-$5 million. Since federal cannabis laws prevent these businesses from accessing traditional bank loans, lack of capital can pose an insurmountable barrier, leaving many entrepreneurs vulnerable to predatory financial deals and damaging equity partnerships. The social equity fund, created by the legislation, would facilitate new access to capital by making grants and loans, including forgivable and no-interest loans, to equity applicants. The fund has the support of the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC), whose commissioners voted unanimously to endorse the idea earlier this legislative session. The fund will receive ten percent of annual revenue collected from the marijuana excise tax (an estimated $18 million for FY2023). Massachusetts is poised to join a handful of other states in pioneering this program.


Host Community Agreements

The bill also responds to concerns about the process of negotiating Host Community Agreements (HCAs), which have been identified as a key factor in keeping industry entry costs high. The bill re-affirms that fees in HCAs cannot exceed three percent of a cannabis business' annual gross sales and must be reasonably related to the costs associated with hosting a cannabis business in a city or town.

Other components of the bill include:

  • Incentives for municipalities to prioritize equity, through a portion of the marijuana excise tax that is distributed to cities and towns that host social equity marijuana businesses. This is cost-neutral to the consumer.

  • A requirement that the CCC establish rules and regulations for municipalities to promote full participation in the industry by previously harmed communities.

  • Clarifications to the existing law's authorization of social consumption businesses, clearing a path for municipalities to permit on-site cannabis consumption businesses in their city or town via local ordinance as well as local referendum. Currently, many residents, particularly renters and those who live in public housing, do not have a location where they may legally consume cannabis products, even nine years since voters approved medical marijuana and five years since the approval of adult use.

The bill now moves to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for further consideration.

Link to actual legislation -> S.2801, An Act Relative to Equity in the Cannabis Industry

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Report on the Future of Work

"THE NATURE OF work is changing due to technology, automation, and the explosion of remote work. Addressing the challenges posed by these shifts will require not only traditional workforce supports like job training, but also a change in how society addresses the factors that allow employees to be successful, from childcare to public transit. 

That was the key theme of a report released Tuesday by the legislatively created Commission on the Future of Work, chaired by Sen. Eric Lesser, a Longmeadow Democrat, and Rep. Josh Cutler, a Pembroke Democrat. Its 17 members represented business, labor, higher education, and related fields.  

“For many workers, success will depend on new work supports and infrastructure such as flexible childcare and eldercare, responsive public transportation, adequate housing stock, robust mental health services, access to broadband, and digital literacy,” the report says.   "

Continue reading the article ->

"We need to bring everyone into the tent.

That’s how Joseph Bevilacqua, president of the Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce, summed up the findings of a state commission that studied the future of work, a panel on which he served. The general theme of the commission’s recommendations, released on Tuesday, revolve around figuring out ways to ensure as many people as possible share in the success of Massachusetts’ innovation economy.

For employers, it’s about finding the workers to fill tens of thousands of open jobs across the state. For individuals, it’s about acquiring the skills necessary to fill those jobs, particularly positions that offer career advancement opportunities, a living wage, and strong benefits."
Continue reading the article online (Subscription may be required)


A state panel on Tuesday issued recommendations about the "future of work" in Massachusetts, which lawmakers hope to include in bills before the legislature this year.TIM GRAHAM/PHOTOGRAPHER: TIM GRAHAM/GETTY I
A state panel on Tuesday issued recommendations about the "future of work" in Massachusetts, which lawmakers hope to include in bills before the legislature this year.TIM GRAHAM/PHOTOGRAPHER: TIM GRAHAM/GETTY I

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

CommonWealth Magazine: transparency needed in evaluating correctional expenses and with Globe sponsored content

"MASSACHUSETTS SPENDS MORE than $1 billion a year to incarcerate roughly 13,000 people in its state prisons and county houses of correction, but a lot of the details of that spending are shrouded in mystery and uncertainty. 

As part of the recent wave of attention to criminal justice reform, the Legislature recently formed a special commission to try to make sense of correctional spending in the state. The call for a commission was driven by a steep drop in the state’s inmate population – the total is now roughly half the peak of recent decades – that has occurred with no corresponding reduction in corrections spending. Meanwhile, per inmate spending varies widely among the state’s 14 sheriffs who oversee houses of correction, and there is widespread concern among those outside the system that inmates are not receiving adequate rehabilitative services while behind bars. 

A big takeaway from the commission’s recently issued report, said its two co-chairs, Sen. Will Brownsberger and Rep. Michael Day, on this week’s Codcast, is the need for much clearer information on spending and inmate programming in order to assess what changes are needed.  "

Correctional Funding Report -> 

Continue reading the article online

"THE BOSTON GLOBE is facing a growing chorus of criticism from public health advocates and media critics for working with Philip Morris to create and publish stories featuring interviews with prominent scientists, many of whom say they were never told the true purpose of the interviews – for inclusion in Philip Morris ads.

A coalition of six leading public health organizations sent a letter last month to Globe owner and publisher John Henry in an effort to persuade him to get rid of the tobacco ads. He did not respond.

To be sure, the Philip Morris ads in the Globe today are nothing like the tobacco ads of the past. Gone are the Marlboro man and his ilk. Instead, the tobacco ads in the Globe nowadays take the form of what’s known as “sponsored content” articles, a type of advertising that looks similar to Globe news stories with headlines, bylines, and even the same font the paper uses. The ads run under the heading “From our Partners” on the Globe’s website."
Continue reading the article online

CommonWealth Magazine: transparency needed in evaluating correctional expenses and with Globe sponsored content
CommonWealth Magazine: transparency needed in evaluating correctional expenses and with Globe sponsored content

Monday, March 21, 2022

MA topics recap - pilot payments, infrastructure funding, land preservation, and remote meeting access

“It’s about fairness. It’s about how do you want to participate in this city that you get city services from: police, fire, public works. I think you should share in those costs.”

So spoke Boston’s late former mayor, Thomas Menino, back in 2010, when talking about nonprofit universities and hospitals—”eds and meds” in popular parlance—and their community responsibilities.

House Bill 3080 (Senate Bill 1874) authored by Erika Uyterhoeven of Somerville and cosponsored by 19 fellow state legislators, would finally realize Menino’s vision and empower cities to set common rates. Under the legislation, cities could require  payments of up to 25 percent of commercial property tax rates for nonprofits with over $15 million in property and could include provisions for in-kind community benefit contributions in lieu of cash."

Continue reading the article online ->

"EFFORTS TO REPLACE  the MBTA’s entire Green Line trolley fleet, a statewide move toward electric vehicle adoption, and projects to make infrastructure more resilient in the face of climate change impacts would all get a boost under a $9.7 billion bond bill Gov. Charlie Baker outlined on Thursday.

Nearly two months after he first hinted at plans to file a new transportation bond bill, Baker offered an initial glimpse at a proposal the head of the MBTA expects will play a “catalytic role” to maximize money headed to Massachusetts under a new federal infrastructure law.

Once filed, the legislation will kick off debate over years of investments in the state’s pothole-dotted roads and bridges, aging public transit, and infrastructure ill-equipped to withstand the brunt of climate change."
Continue reading the article online ->

"WE OFTEN THINK  of floods, hurricanes, snowstorms and the like as threats to our normal way of life, but the COVID pandemic has shown us a unique threat that affects everyone in a very different way — isolation and inability to gather together.  What brought many of us through the last few years was the availability of nearby open spaces for outdoor passive recreation.  As much as we need to plan for 100-year floods, we also need to plan for 100-year pandemics.  Enter the Public Lands Preservation Act.

Massachusetts has a wonderful collection of State Parks with a huge variety of sites and activities along with Mass Audubon, The Trustees, The Trust for Public Land, and many local and regional private land trusts.  Most of the publicly owned open spaces are nominally protected in perpetuity under Article 97 of the Commonwealth Constitution.  However, the protection can be removed by a two-thirds vote of each branch of the Legislature.  Forty to fifty laws are enacted every legislative session removing protection from parcels protected “in perpetuity.”  How can we prevent this erosion of public land?  Enter the Public Lands Preservation Act."
Continue reading the article online ->

"THE DARKNESS OF the pandemic brought a surprise element of transparency to government, and a range of groups, including those representing individuals with disabilities, this week are calling on the Governor’s Council to resume online streaming of meetings where elected officials vet judicial candidates.

“In the case of government entities based in Boston, like the Governor’s Council, live streaming enables people to tune in from every corner of the state; discontinuing remote access is devastating for regional equity,” eight groups wrote in a letter Thursday that was sent to the eight-member council and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, who chairs council meetings where Gov. Charlie Baker’s judicial nominees are considered. “Remote access is the latest instance of universal design — alongside curb cuts, elevators, closed captioning, audiobooks, and other features — that began as accommodations and expanded to universal popularity. Like these innovations and others emerging during the pandemic, remote access to public meetings should become a permanent feature.”
Continue reading the article online ->


MA issues recap - pilot payments, infrastructure funding, land preservation, and remote meeting access
MA issues recap - pilot payments, infrastructure funding, land preservation, and remote meeting access

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

JAMA: "State control over health outcomes shows no signs of waning"

"The COVID-19 pandemic removed any doubt that state policies can affect health outcomes. East Coast states (eg, New York, New Jersey) that responded to the first wave of the pandemic in the spring of 2020 with strict protective measures achieved relatively quick control of community spread within as much as 8 weeks,9 and they blunted subsequent surges by reinstating those policies. 

In contrast, states that had spent decades opposing public health provisions were among the most resistant to COVID-19 guidelines and took active measures to resist restrictions. Some elected officials made a political issue out of challenging scientific evidence, embracing dubious theories, and labeling public health safeguards as infringements on personal freedom. Conservative governors used preemption to reverse efforts by mayors and school districts to control local transmission rates.

These policy choices may have been associated with increased COVID-19–related morbidity and mortality. States that rushed to curtail lockdowns in the spring of 2020 experienced more protracted surges in infections and disruptions to their economies.9 In 2021, excess deaths were disproportionately concentrated in states where resistance to COVID-19 vaccination was prevalent. 

For example, excess death rates in Florida and Georgia (more than 200 deaths per 100 000) were much higher than in states with largely vaccinated populations such as New York (112 per 100 000), New Jersey (73 deaths per 100 000), and Massachusetts (50 per 100 000). States that resisted public health protections experienced higher numbers of excess deaths during the Delta variant surge in the fall of 2021 (Figure). Between August and December 2021, Florida experienced more than triple the number of excess deaths (29 252) as New York (8786), despite both states having similar population counts (21.7 million and 19.3 million, respectively).10"

Continue reading the report in the Journal of American Medicine (JAMA)

Figure.  Weekly Excess Death Rate (per 100 000) in Selected States, 2021
Figure.  Weekly Excess Death Rate (per 100 000) in Selected States, 2021

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

State News Roundup: health care costs; early childhood education; transit system electrification

What this report will mean for the Town budget remains to be seen. We heard last week (Joint Budget Subcommittee meeting) that the Town is expecting to get the new health care rates in a couple of weeks. Both Town and School budgets forecast an increase of 5-8 percent: 

"After years of ever-increasing spending on health care that left policymakers struggling to contain costs, Massachusetts finally found the key to lowering spending on health care: a global pandemic.  
Ironically, spending on health care declined by 2.4 percent in Massachusetts in 2020, an unprecedented drop that can be attributed to fewer people seeking care during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report released Monday by the Center for Health Information and Analysis."
Continue reading the article online

A logical extension of MA law to include early childhood education in the overall education system to bring about more equity is going to cost.

"MASSACHUSETTS’S EARLY CHILDHOOD education system is unaffordable and inaccessible to too many families, and it will cost an estimated $1.5 billion a year to improve it, according to a report released Monday by a special legislative commission looking at the economics of early education and care.  
The commission, led by Education Committee co-chairs Sen. Jason Lewis and Rep. Alice Peisch, calls for expanding the subsidies available to families while increasing financial support to childcare centers themselves and their workers. But it stops short of calling for universal public pre-kindergarten, as some activists have been calling for. "

Moving the public transit system to reduce the use of fossil fuels is timely and necessary:
"WARNING THAT the pace of electrification underway for the MBTA’s bus fleet is “too slow for the Legislature,” a top senator is newly forecasting that his chamber plans to make the transportation sector a focus in upcoming climate legislation.

Sen. Michael Barrett, who co-chairs the Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee, told leaders of the Baker administration’s transportation secretariat on Friday that he expects a forthcoming Senate bill will make another pass at requiring the T to transition its bus network to full electrification by a specific date.  "
Continue reading the article online

State News Roundup: health care costs; early childhood education; transit system electrification
State News Roundup: health care costs; early childhood education; transit system electrification

Monday, March 7, 2022

CommonWealth Magzine: COVID protocols lifted for State House entry today; Samuel Slater "Experience" opens

"WITH THE COVID-19 pandemic’s two-year anniversary approaching, legislative leaders lifted the mask mandate and proof-of-vaccination-or-negative-test requirement for entry into the State House, starting on Monday.

House Speaker Ron Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka cited a “steady decline in COVID-19 positivity rates and hospitalizations” in making their announcement. “While some individuals may choose to continue to wear masks, this will no longer be a requirement but rather an individual’s choice based on their preference and level of risk,” they said."

"AS SAMUEL SLATER traveled from England to the United States in 1789, he voiced his ambitions to revolutionize the US textile industry with knowledge he had gained in England. Yet he also heard the voice of his mentor in his head telling him if he left England, he would be considered “a spy, or worse, a traitor.” As a storm blows in, a visitor watching a video representation of Slater can feel the wind and rain, see flashing lightning, view the churning waves, and watch as young Slater vomits into a bucket. 

The Samuel Slater Experience, an interactive, immersive museum in Webster, opened to the public Friday. Half the museum is dedicated to the life of Slater, whose pioneering work building up the US textile industry in the early 1800s earned him the moniker “Father of the American Industrial Revolution.” The other half is dedicated to the town of Webster, which Slater helped found and build, with a focus on life around 1910."

This will be a place I'll visit some day. I grew up in Pawtucket, RI where the Slater Mill was part of the industrialization of New England.

The Samuel Slater Experience in Webster ->
the Slater Mill on the Blackstone River in Pawtucket, RI
the Slater Mill on the Blackstone River in Pawtucket, RI