GOOD MORNING, MASSACHUSETTS.
PROGRAMMING NOTE: I’m taking a couple of days off! Massachusetts Playbook will be in the hands of my wonderful POLITICO colleagues for the next several days. Shannon Young ([email protected]) will write the newsletter on Friday, and Sam Mintz ([email protected]) will author the Monday edition. I’ll be back in your inbox on Tuesday.
SENATE TAKES UP UNEMPLOYMENT BILL TODAY State lawmakers will take up a Covid-19 bill to stabilize the unemployment insurance system today, which Senate President Karen Spilka says could prevent “sky high” jobless rates due to the pandemic.
The bill which has an estimated $351 million price tag would freeze unemployment rate increases and waive taxes on forgiven federal Paycheck Protection Program loans. It would establish an emergency fund to reimburse employers for some paid sick leave due to Covid-19. And it also provides some tax relief for low-wage workers who collected unemployment last year.
“So many workers over these last few months, they live paycheck to paycheck, and are reluctant to take time off because they don’t have paid leave,” Spilka told me yesterday. “So some of them may come to work, and therefore spread Covid. So this would help ensure that the workers are not spreading the disease. It’s safer for them and safer for the other workers.”
With Tax Day approaching, Spilka said she hopes the bill will move fast on Beacon Hill. House lawmakers advanced their version of the bill last week, and Spilka expects to hash out only “minor differences” once it clears the Senate. The Baker administration has expressed support
for tweaking the tax code for PPP loans.
“I’m hoping by next week it’s on the governor’s desk, and I’m hoping that he sees the importance of this and signs it,” Spilka said. “We need to do this because businesses are paying taxes, individuals are paying taxes, and people are getting sick and need the paid emergency leave.”
Massachusetts had the worst unemployment rate in the country at one point in the pandemic, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And while the state’s numbers are on the mend, Massachusetts is tied with New York for the country’s second largest over-the-year jobless rate increase, at 5 percentage points. That’s weighed heavily on the state unemployment system.
“So many people went on unemployment, it deleted the fund,” Spilka said. “So we will be borrowing on the private market to help our businesses continue to do their work and keep employees employed.”
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TODAY Attorney General Maura Healey visits local businesses in Brockton with state Rep. Claire Cronin. UMass President Marty Meehan is a guest on the “Bloomberg Baystate Business” radio show.
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THE LATEST NUMBERS
Average Massachusetts COVID hospitalization age is getting lower as state reports 1,640 new COVID cases, 44 deaths on Wednesday, by Tanner Stening, MassLive.com: State health officials confirmed another 1,640 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, which is based on 97,965 new molecular tests, according to the Department of Public Health. Officials also announced another 44 COVID-related fatalities, bringing the death toll from the pandemic to 16,399
DATELINE BEACON HILL
Panic buttons and bulletproof vests: Fearful lawmakers stock up on protection, by Daniel Payne, POLITICO: Earlier this year, the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance received an unusual inquiry from a state lawmaker: Could campaign funds be used to purchase bulletproof vests, gas masks and pepper spray? It was a question the independent state agency, which regulates political spending and hands down advisory opinions on campaign finance issues, had never been asked before.
Feud over school reopening spills into budget, by Christian M. Wade, The Salem News: The escalating feud between Gov. Charlie Baker and teachers’ unions over bringing students back to classrooms is spilling into the state budget process. On Tuesday, the Legislature’s Joint Ways and Means Committee heard testimony from education leaders about their plans for the fiscal year that begins in July. But segments of the live-streamed hearing swerved from details about next fiscal year’s spending plan to the Baker administration’s push to get students back into classrooms by next month
When Can You Get Vaccinated? Baker Outlines All Remaining Dates For Residents In State Rollout, by Lisa Creamer and Martha Bebinger, WBUR: As of April 19, every Massachusetts resident age 16 and older will be eligible to sign up to get a coronavirus vaccine. The Baker administration on Wednesday released the state’s full timetable for when various remaining groups including essential workers, residents with one health condition that makes them more vulnerable to a serious case of COVID-19 and the rest of the general public will be eligible to make appointments to receive the shots
With nearly 1 million immunized, Baker says state could reach vaccine goal by July 4, Boston Globe: Governor Charlie Baker has scraped and sweated through a year of unrelenting crisis management. But on Wednesday, he sounded like the crisis thats upended life in Massachusetts felt more manageable than it has in months.
‘It Feels Like A Gut Punch’: Some Mass. Residents Are Left Hunting For Second COVID Vaccine Doses, by Angus Chen, WBUR: Stephanie McPherson cant find coronavirus vaccine appointments for some of her staff members who need them anywhere. Shes the administrator at the Alliance Health at Rosewood nursing home in Peabody, where most employees were able to get fully vaccinated thanks to CVS and the state Department of Public Health, which set up vaccine clinics at the home on three separate occasions.
FROM THE HUB
Its a terrible scourge thats always been there Asian community in Mass. shaken by Atlanta slayings, spike in attacks, by John R. Ellement and Emily Sweeney, Boston Globe: The slayings of six Asian women at spas in the Atlanta area were seen Wednesday by some members of Massachusetts Asian community as another expression of long-festering racism and part of a surge of anti-Asian violence since the coronavirus pandemic began
Remote work looks like its here to stay, by Shira Schoenberg, CommonWealth Magazine: As the pandemic begins to ease and vaccinations are becoming available, businesses in Massachusetts are thinking about the future, and what a return to work will look like. For many, workplaces will not look like they did in February 2020. There might be more opportunities to work from home and less travel. The ramifications are huge for employees, their families, and for businesses considering their office space and talent pool
Union calls out hotels that havent committed to rehiring workers, by Katie Johnston, Boston Globe: The union representing local hotel workers has launched a website identifying dozens of hotels in the area that it says have not committed to rehiring furloughed workers when business returns.
Hostile Architecture Is Everywhere in Boston, if You Know Where to Look, by Spencer Buell, Boston Magazine: Never heard of hostile architecture? You will soon. An increasingly vocal group of activists is pushing major cities like Boston to be more aware of the phenomenon, which primarily affects people experiencing homelessness, and the fight appears to be escalating
Council cant slow cops overtime roll, by Yawu Miller, Bay State Banner: Back in June of 2020, as activists took to Bostons streets to demonstrate against police brutality, activists issued a call that elected officials picked up on: Cut the $414 million Boston Police Department budget by 10% and invest the savings into anti-violence programs and social services aimed at preventing crime
Tufts University Will Close Controversial Confucius Institute, by Alex Newman, Patch: Tufts will close its Confucius Institute after six years, the university announced Wednesday. The university’s contract with the controversial educational program expires in September and will not be renewed
THE RACE FOR CITY HALL
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK: Moran And Honan Endorse Jon Santiago For Mayor, from the Santiago campaign: Jon Santiago has won the endorsement of two more Boston legislators, with Assistant Majority Leader Mike Moran and Chairman of the Committee on Steering, Policy and Scheduling Kevin Honan joining his campaign.
Alex Gray Went Blind As A Child. Now He’s Running For Boston City Council, by Callum Borchers, WBUR: Campaigning last week outside Forest Hills Station in Jamaica Plain, Boston City Council candidate Alex Gray paused at a granite curb with no cutout. Holding a red-and-white cane, Gray took the elbow of his communications adviser, and carefully stepped down.
PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES
John Kerry caught without a mask on Boston-to-DC flight; calls it malarkey by Joe Dwinell, Boston Herald: John Kerry, the nations special climate envoy, has been caught with his mask down. The former Massachusetts senator and Democratic presidential nominee was seen without a mask while reading a book on an American Airlines Boston-to-DC flight Wednesday in violation of a host of mask mandates
Mass. congressional delegation calls on MBTA to justify service cuts, by Matt Berg, Boston Globe: The Massachusetts congressional delegation on Wednesday called on MBTA officials to justify service cuts amid increased federal transit funding, saying the reductions disproportionately affect essential workers from low-income communities
Some Orange Line riders face three weeks on shuttle buses following derailment, by John R. Ellement and Charlie McKenna, Boston Globe: Some Orange Line riders instead traveled Wednesday on shuttle buses, a change in routine they will face for the next three weeks while the MBTA repairs derailment damage and assesses, once again, the safety of its new generation of subway cars
DAY IN COURT
DA Rachael Rollins Endorses New Trial To Vacate Sean Ellis’ Gun Conviction, by Phillip Martin, GBH News: Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins notified the Superior Court Wednesday that she supports a motion for a new trial filed by lawyers for Sean Ellis challenging a firearms conviction linked to the 1993 murder of a police detective. If the motion is granted, Rollins said she intends to request the charges be dropped, wiping out the last case against Ellis, who spent more than 22 years behind bars for the murder before his conviction was overturned in 2015
Massachusetts Bail Fund pays $100,000 to free woman charged with throwing her newborn in the trash, by Andrea Estes, Boston Globe: A Suffolk Superior Court judge had refused to lower Marie Merisiers $100,000 bail by a single dime. The Milton woman faces attempted murder charges for allegedly throwing her newborn baby into a Dorchester trash can, leaving it to a stranger to save the childs life
Sanders, Warren reveal bill to tax CEO pay during income inequality hearing targeting Amazon, by Rachel Lerman, The Washington Post: Amazon faced fresh scrutiny for its treatment of workers at a Senate hearing Wednesday on income inequality, as senators introduced a new bill to tax chief executives who make 50 times more than the median workers. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) drilled into the gap between most Americans and billionaires during his opening remarks, pointing to data that billionaires have gained significant wealth during the pandemic
FROM THE DELEGATION
Pressley seeks criminal justice reforms, by Riley Robinson, Bay State Banner: Last week, U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley reintroduced a wide-ranging resolution to overhaul the U.S. criminal-legal system. She first introduced the resolution called the Peoples Justice Guarantee in November 2019, after consultation with advocates, community groups and people who have experienced incarceration. It proposes reforms to incarceration, immigration and social programs
A Natick woman was charged in Capitol riot. Should she be removed as a Town Meeting rep? by Henry Schwan, MetroWest Daily News: Nearly two months after Sue Ianni was arrested for her alleged participation in the January riot inside the U.S. Capitol, a fellow Natick resident said that bit of news motivated her to take action. Kathryn Coughlin is sponsoring a measure on next months Town Meeting warrant that could start the process of removing elected Town Meeting members, such as Ianni, who run into trouble with the law
ABOVE THE FOLD
Herald: FIRST CLASS MASK HOLE,Globe: Shots open to all on April 19, at last, Rollins moves to bring Ellis case to close.
FROM THE 413
Boston attorney Mark Pearlstein, author of damning report on Holyoke Soldiers Home, set to testify before state legislators, by Stephanie Barry, Springfield Republican: Former federal prosecutor and Boston attorney Mark Pearlstein is set to testify Friday before the Special Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on the Holyoke Soldiers Home COVID-19 Outbreak. Pearlstein and his staff last year were appointed by Gov. Charlie Bakers administration to conduct an independent review of the outbreak that claimed the lives of at least 76 veterans between March and June 2020
Elite Boarding School for Troubled Teens Was Torture Chamber, by Alissa Fleck, The News Station: At John Dewey Academy (JDA) in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, teenagers with a range of mental health issues were deprived medication and proper treatment, and administered attack therapy, under the unchecked tutelage of Thomas Bratter, who himself had dubious mental health training and was found guilty of raping at least two of his own students in the nineties
Holyoke City Council OKs home rule petition to ditch special mayoral election, by Bera Dunau, Daily Hampshire Gazette: The City Council unanimously passed a home rule petition Tuesday that would do away with the need for a special mayoral election in 2021. The petition was prompted by the impending exit of Mayor Alex Morse, who is leaving March 26 to take the job of town manager in Provincetown
THE LOCAL ANGLE
Logistics, muting of public input factors in debate over return to in-person meetings, by Steven H. Foskett Jr., Telegram & Gazette: City Councilors Tuesday night batted around the idea of holding in-person meetings soon, but ultimately held off on requiring public participation to be part of that return to the Esther Howland chamber at City Hall
No show, no vote: Testy Malone-Ponte emails show Fall River school projects may be held up, by Jo C. Goode, The Herald News: Unless Superintendent Matt Malone agrees to appear before the City Council, the approval for funding of two major school capital improvement projects will not be placed on future council agendas for approval. That was the gist of a testy email exchange between City Council President Cliff Ponte and Malone last Thursday in what has been heating up as a very public feud between some councilors and the superintendent over the School Department leaders future employment, after allegations surfaced that he bullied and harassed school staff
Group prepares to launch New Bedford news site, by Bruce Mohl, CommonWealth Magazine: Concerned about the lack of local news coverage in New Bedford, a group of people in and near the city, some of them with strong newspaper backgrounds, are preparing to launch a nonprofit, digital news website called the New Bedford Light
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK: The Boston-based Voter Protection Corps is releasing a new report today titled “Democracy Benchmark: An Action Plan for State and Local Leaders to Address Obstacles to Voting” that offers ways for state and local policymakers to strengthen elections. The report.
TRANSITIONS Lisa Huygh joins the Massachusetts Association of Community Colleges as director of workforce development.
NEW EPISODE: ORANGE YOU GLAD WE DIDNT SAY RED LINE? On this weeks Horse Race podcast, hosts Jennifer Smith, Steve Koczela and Stephanie Murray speak with Danielle Allen, a Harvard professor who is considering a run for governor, and MassINCs Maeve Duggan breaks down a new education poll. The hosts also debate how to pronounce the #maleg hashtag. Subscribe and listen on iTunes
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HAPPENING TODAY – PLAYBOOK INTERVIEW WITH CONGRESSMAN LEE ZELDIN: The GOP has not won a statewide election in New York in nearly two decades. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), an ally of former President Donald Trump, is one of several Republicans considering a challenge against embattled New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Join Playbook co-authors Tara Palmeri and Ryan Lizza for a conversation with Rep. Zeldin to discuss a potential gubernatorial run and how he is working with Democrats in Congress. REGISTER HERE.