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Beacon Hill Update by O’Neill and Associates


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Tuesday, November 9, 2021:

  • As of Monday night DPH reported a total of 807,204 cases of COVID-19.
  • The state reported 4,039 new confirmed cases and 6 new deaths.
  • The state now has 18,695 deaths from the virus.
  • After last week’s disagreement over an amendment deadline for the Senate’s upcoming debate on revenue surplus and American Rescue Plan Act spending, senators voted Monday morning to immediately close the $3.668 billion package to additional amendments.
  • In total, senators filed 722 amendments since leaders unveiled the bill five days ago.
  • The surplus-ARPA bill will constitute a one-item calendar on Wednesday when the Senate plans to gavel into a formal session at 10 a.m.
  • In the interim, the Senate will meet without a calendar at 1 p.m. Tuesday.
  • The House is out of session until Wednesday.
  • The House will spend the bulk of its last full week for formal sessions instead meeting in lightly attended informal sessions.
  • The House on Monday approved local bills affecting Princeton, Nantucket, Rehoboth and Leicester, then adjourned until a Wednesday informal session without teeing up any major legislative business as the start of the holiday season recess approaches.
  • Speaker Ronald Mariano had advised representatives of possible full formal sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday, but the new plan signals that the House is not ready to bring forward either a health care oversight reform bill Mariano has been preparing or a plan to avoid the Dec. 15 expiration of mail-in and expanded early voting authorization.
  • Legislative rules call for Wednesday, Nov. 17 to be the final formal session of 2021, and the Legislature appears to be trying to get a massive American Rescue Plan Act and surplus spending bill into conference committee negotiations and then on to Governor Baker’s desk by that deadline.
  • House Speaker Ronald Mariano has targeted action on a health care sector oversight bill before lawmakers break for the holiday recess after Nov. 17, but a top deputy said Monday he is “not 100 percent sure yet” if that legislation will emerge in the next nine days.
  • Rep. Aaron Michlewitz, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee said that he is still working with Mariano to determine their “options” for rolling out legislation aimed at protecting community hospitals against competition from larger conglomerates.
  • Michlewitz also said his goal is to negotiate and send to Governor Baker a final spending bill allocating state surplus tax revenue and much of the American Rescue Plan Act funding before the recess.
  • Michlewitz said Monday that there are other bills “kicking around,” but “nothing to the forefront at the moment.”
  • Mail-in voting and expanded early voting policies that have been in place during the pandemic are set to expire Dec. 15 without action from the House.
  • The Legislature is off Thursday for Veterans Day and rarely holds formal sessions on Fridays.
  • Putting some numbers on his COVID-19 vaccination push, Governor Baker over the weekend estimated 12,000 state employees got jabs after he announced his vaccination mandate and said only “a handful” of state employees were fired after they indicated they would never agree to be vaccinated.
  • The governor estimated that the vaccination rate among state employees rose from 70 percent to about 95 percent in the weeks after he announced his vaccine mandate, and said the rate continues to rise.
  • About 100 state employees quit their jobs rather than get vaccinated.
  • Two state representatives who initially refused to disclose their vaccination status have since reversed course and complied with the House’s vaccine mandate, Speaker Ronald Mariano said Monday while continuing to voice his concerns about the challenges of reopening the State House to the public.
  • Neither Mariano nor his staff have disclosed the identities of the representatives who refused to attest to their vaccination status or seek an exemption by the House’s Nov. 1 mandate deadline.
  • Mariano told reporters Monday that the number of House lawmakers who were out of compliance dropped from seven last week to five after a pair changed course in recent days.
  • As of Wednesday, 362 executive branch workers were serving a suspension for refusing to comply with Governor Baker’s order requiring vaccination or an exemption, and another 141 had left their jobs. Senate leaders, meanwhile, say 100 percent of that chamber’s elected officials and staff either submitted proof or sought an exemption.
  • Although vaccine mandates are now in effect in both chambers, many constitutional offices and all executive agencies, legislative leaders still don’t have a timeline for allowing the public, including activists and lobbyists as well as tourists, back into the building.
  • Both Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka on Monday defended the Legislature’s mostly remote model, arguing that allowing more people under the golden dome is not as simple as reopening schools, restaurants or other public spaces.
  • Federal and state officials on Monday marked the approach of Veterans Day by cutting the ribbon on a new Worcester clinic they said will help the region’s veterans get care closer to home while equipping the next generation of medical professionals with skills to respond to veterans’ specific needs.
  • Congressman Jim McGovern said the opening of the 48,000-square-foot community-based outpatient clinic on the campus of the UMass Chan Medical School, a partnership between the school and the VA Central Western Massachusetts Healthcare System.
  • The clinic, on the first two floors of a new building, features 65 exam, consultation and procedure rooms where veterans will be served by care teams, and provides access to a pharmacy and specialty care like radiology and physical therapy.
  • Civilian drivers have been secured to enable 13 school districts to transport their own students and the National Guard has completed a rare mission, stepping in to drive school buses in communities that had struggled to secure qualified personnel.
  • The Baker administration on Monday afternoon said 200 National Guard drivers had driven school buses nearly 330,000 miles, making about 15,000 student pickups and dropoffs.
  • The Guard provided school transportation support in Brockton, Chelsea, Framingham, Haverhill, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell, Lynn, Quincy, Revere, Woburn, and Worcester and the Wachusett region.
  • The latest increase in gas prices means motorists in Massachusetts are now paying $1.33 more per gallon than they were paying at this time last year.
  • AAA Massachusetts reported Monday morning that gas prices rose 2 cents to an average of $3.38 per gallon in the group’s latest weekly survey.
  • In the last month, the average price of a gallon of gas has increased by 24 cents.
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