COVID-19 End of Week Update 6/14 + Police Licenses, Use of Force, Testing & Tracing, Inclusive P
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
This week, we witnessed more powerful protests, heartbreaking violence, and the beginning of a true reckoning.
After almost 1.5 years of working with my colleagues in the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus, the Governor announced he'll be filing legislation in the coming weeks to create a long-overdue police certification/license system, like many states already have, to bring forces in line with other trained professions where workers must be in good standing with an active license or certificate to operate in their official capacity.
On Thursday, I cosponsored my colleague Rep. Liz Miranda's bill that seeks to overturn many of the injustices baked into our current systems, most notably around the use of police force. As always, I will continue to stand with my colleagues in support of proposals that seek to make our systems work for everyone in an equitable manner.
Remember, we're still in Phase 2: Cautious of the state's 4 Phased Reopening Plan.
The first part of Phase 2 includes the opening of retail, childcare facilities, restaurants, hotels and lodging, warehouses, personal services without close physical contact, post-secondary, higher education, vocational-tech and occupation schools, youth and adult amateur sports, outdoor recreation facilities, professional sports practices, non-athletic youth instructional classes, driving and flight schools, outdoor historical spaces, and funeral homes. These businesses are operating under careful guidelines.
If you have questions, input, or comments regarding the Reopening Massachusetts plan, you can submit comments online. These comments can be used by the Administration to support efforts to methodically reopen the economy. And please do not hesitate to reach out, especially if you need food, housing or unemployment assistance, or anything else.
We can listen and help point you to the next best step.
State Rep., 11th Suffolk
6/7 - Governor Baker signed H.4672 An Act addressing COVID-19 data collection and disparities in treatment. Elder care facilities will now have to make daily reports on COVID-19 cases and a task force will be formed to recommend ways to address health disparities during the pandemic.
6/8 - Governor Baker did not hold a press conference today.
6/8 - The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released guidance for summertime special education services to school districts.
6/8 - Those who applied for MassHealth during the pandemic and are under the age of 65 can apply to have their coverage applied retroactively for up to 90 days to cover health services received no earlier than March 1st.
6/8 - The MA Department of Developmental Services has revised its visitation policy to allow for outdoor visitation with conditions at its residential programs.
6/8 - The reopening of bars without seated food service has been moved to phase 4 of reopening after being originally slated for phase 3.
6/9 - MBTA services will increase starting 6/21. Regular weekday service will operate on the Blue Line, increased weekday service will operate on the Red, Orange, Green, and Mattapan Lines; and service will increase for nearly sixty bus routes. Commuter rail service will increase and ferry service will resume on weekdays starting 6/22. Learn more here.
6/10 - Governor Baker did not hold a press conference today.
6/10 - Starting today, eligible customers will be able to complete the Class D (passenger) or Class M (motorcycle) Learner's Permit Exams online. To take the online test, customers must visit a Service Center to present their application. To visit an RMV service center, you must schedule an appointment.
6/10 - The USDA issued a waiver extension that will allow local partners that have been serving meals to children at meals sites across the state during the COVID-19 pandemic to continue doing so for the remainder of the summer!!!
6/11 - The Governor announced the availability of $41 Million in Support for food security programs to address urgent food insecurity for MA residents as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
6/11 - MassDOT and the Barr Foundation created the Shared Streets & Spaces program, which is funding a program to provide technical and funding assistance to cities and towns to help conceive, design and execute shared streets and spaces projects.
6/11 - The Commonwealth's COVID-19 Command Center provided House members with a Testing and Tracing Strategy Update.
6/11 - Starting 6/18, there will be a 14-day full closure of the Red Line between Braintree and Quincy Center Stations. Shuttle buses will be available for transportation between the two stations.
6/11 - During a press conference and tour of BIDMC, Governor Baker was joined by U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar. Secretary Azar provided an update that the federal government is aiming to have 300 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine ready for early next year, with no guarantees.
6/12 - Pride Flag Raising
On behalf of the LGBTQ+ Legislative Caucus, I was proud to help organize and join my colleagues on Friday 6/12 outside at a safe distance on the front steps of the MA State House to raise the INCLUSIVE "Chevron" Pride flag, with brown and black stripes to represent Black and Latinx queer people and blue, pink, and white stripes to represent the colors of the transgender flag.
This flag was raised at Boston City Hall earlier this Pride Month and made the front page of Saturday's Globe. We gathered to commemorate Pride Month and what would have been the 50th Annual Boston Pride Parade on Saturday, and the 4th Anniversary of the massacre at the Orlando Pulse Nightclub, and to stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter.
6/13 - The MA Trial Courts found that 6,661 requests for restraining and harassment orders have been made since 3/8, compared to 10,069 over the same 13-week period in 2019. You can currently request harassment protection orders by calling your local court clerk and filling out the relevant forms by PDF or by providing the information over the telephone. Orders are being sent by mail, and judges are holding hearings over Zoom. You can also find COVID-19 resources for abuse prevention orders and harassment prevention orders here.
6/13 - Governor Baker did not hold a press conference today.
Upcoming Items of Interest
BRIEFING ON POLICE LICENSING: Lawmakers in the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus and civil rights activists host a press briefing to discuss systems for licensing police officers and other accountability measures. According to a Boston Globe report, Gov. Baker is planning to propose legislation creating a statewide certification process for police. Participants include Reps. Russell Holmes and David Vieira, ACLU of Massachusetts Racial Justice Program Director Rahsaan Hall, Mass Police Reform founder Jamarhl Crawford, Saint Louis University School of Law professor Roger Goldman, Lawyers for Civil Rights Senior Attorney Sophia Hall, Strategies for Youth Executive Director Lisa Thurau, and Municipal Police Training Commission former executive director Dan Zivkovich. (Tuesday, 11 a.m. RSVP)
MATERNAL HEALTH: Rep. Liz Miranda is the guest for NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts' latest Pro-Choice Check-In and will discuss racial disparities in maternal health with the organization. NARAL said a Black woman is twice as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than a white woman in Massachusetts. Miranda is expected to detail legislation she has filed to address the disparities in maternal health. (Tuesday, 2 p.m., Register)
MASSHEALTH UPDATES: The Health Connector will be holding a live webinar titled "Get covered through the Health Connector: What you need to know if you've recently lost health insurance benefits" (Wednesday, 4-5 p.m. Register).
THE U.S. CENSUS: The Census is a constitutionally required nationwide survey conducted every 10 years by the U.S. Census Bureau to count the population of the United States.
The data collected by the Census:
Determines the number of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and influence in the Electoral College.
Informs redistricting, defining congressional districts, state legislative districts, and local city council districts for the next ten years.
Directs more than $675 billion in federal funding to states and cities.
Census Day of Action 6/17 is a day meant to highlight the importance of participating in the 2020 Census. To help the ongoing COVID-19 relief efforts and catalyze the redistribution of resources into historically marginalized communities, you can take action by filling out the 2020 Census. Whether you’re living with your siblings, your parents, your grandparents, or friends—EVERYONE in your home should be counted on your 2020 Census. The whole point is to help direct the resources to our communities by responding. (Wednesday, all day - *CORRECTION: in a previous update, I incorrectly indicated Census workers would begin door knocking; this actually won't begin at the earliest until Aug. 12, 2020.)
LGBTQ YOUTH REPORT: Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth holds a virtual event to release its annual report, yearly policy recommendations and findings on the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on LGBTQ youth and young adults. Speakers include commission Chair Sasha Goodfriend, commission director Corey Prachniak-Rincón, and Rep. Jack Lewis. The commission will also present awards and swear in its 50 members. In addition to the live event, participants can also sign up to receive an on-demand recording. (Thursday, 10 a.m. Register)
Unemployment Town Halls & Fraud
Please tune in to this week's town halls if you need to better understand how the different programs work.
If you believe someone is using your identity to falsely claim unemployment benefits, learn how to report the fraud and what to do to protect yourself here.
At the end of May, I joined my colleagues in the Massachusetts Legislature to pass a bill to make more information about COVID-19 cases publicly available, including cases at elder care facilities, soldiers’ homes, and houses of correction.
Notably, the proposal creates a task force to provide recommendations on how to mitigate health disparities for underrepresented and underserved communities in the wake of the pandemic. Many of my colleagues in the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus (BLLC) worked hard on the important data pieces in this bill, and I'm pleased they were included.
Requires the Department of Public Health to collect daily data on the number of individuals tested positive, hospitalized, deaths, and key demographic information, including cases and mortalities at elder care facilities;
Specifies details on the format of reporting data from local boards of health and elder care facilities;
Mandates that elder care facilities notify residents and their healthcare proxies if there is a new confirmed case or mortality due to COVID-19 or 3 or more residents or staff have symptoms;
Includes the Department of Corrections and each House of Correction among those facilities which must comply with the data collection and reporting provisions of the bill;
Creates a task force to study and make recommendations on addressing health disparities for underserved or underrepresented populations based on a variety of demographic factors;
Asks that the task force provide recommendations to improve safety for at-risk populations for COVID-19, remove barriers to quality and equitable health care services, increase access to medical supplies and testing, among other items.
Taken together, the provisions of An Act addressing COVID-19 data collection and disparities in treatment will provide the public with a greater understanding on how the virus is affecting those in locations hardest hit by the pandemic, including elder care facilities and urban areas. The task force, in turn, will make recommendations to alleviate disparities in infection and treatment among populations disproportionally impacted by the outbreak.
The Governor signed the bill into law on Sunday night 6/7, and filed an additional bill that seeks to make more changes around data collection.
Earlier this month, I joined my colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives to pass two important pieces of COVID-19 response legislation: one provides more tools to the restaurants of the commonwealth in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the other establishes an early vote-by-mail system for the primary and general elections.
The restaurant legislative package aims to assist a sector hard hit; the measures passed intend to help restaurants weather the economic crisis in the wake of the pandemic. The package eases outdoor dining restrictions, expands alcohol delivery options to include mixed drinks, extends takeout options to February 2021, waives interest on late meals tax payments and caps the amount that can be charged a food delivery service.
In 2019, the House created the Restaurant Promotion Commission, which is being repurposed as the Restaurant Recovery Commission. The bill builds on the House’s general focus on restaurants and previous action to permit alcohol delivery with meals as well as its focus on restaurants as an anchor on main streets.
Streamlines the Alcohol Beverage Control Commission (ABCC) approval process for restaurants to establish outdoor seating by waiving the approval of these licenses. Instead, it only requires restaurants to notify and place on file with the ABCC their outdoor seating plan;
Temporarily suspends some relevant local zoning laws on outdoor seating if cities and towns wish to do so;
Waives interest and late penalties for restaurants on their meals tax payments until December 2020;
Allows restaurants to include cocktails to-go with take-out food until February 2020;
Caps commissions on on-line restaurant delivery at 15% across the board so that these apps can continue to operate without placing an undue burden on our restaurants.
The MA House also passed the early vote-by-mail legislative package, which is designed to expand voting options in response to COVID-19.
*The MA Senate Formal Session Debate is THIS Tuesday, 6/16 -- watch livestream
The House passed the voting law changes nearly unanimously on Thursday 6/4. If approved by the Senate and signed by the governor, Secretary of State William Galvin would be instructed to send applications for mail-in ballots to all 4.5 million registered voters. For those who still wish to vote in person in the Sept. 1 primary and the Nov. 3 general election, early voting would be made available before both days, including a full two weeks with two weekends before the 2020 general election.
Establishes early voting-by-mail by directing the city or town clerk to mail an early voting by mail ballot and an envelope with return postage pre-paid to voters who apply.
Provides for absentee voting by any person taking precaution related to COVID-19 and for electronic signature and submission of early voting-by-mail applications.
Allows voters to return their early voting by mail ballot in the mail; in a secure drop box; or in person. The deadline to submit early voting by mail ballots will be the close of polls on primary and election day.
Requires the promulgation of regulations that require public health safeguards for in person voting, including social distancing of voters and election officers; face coverings and personal protective equipment; frequent use of sanitizers; and sanitary use of marking pens.
Provides for early voting by mail for any city or town elections held at the same time as the primary or general or on or before December 31, 2020.
Adopted by amendment:
For any election held in 2020, the voter registration deadline will be shortened to 10 days prior to the election.
For the 2020 primary and general election, city and town clerks will be able to deposit mail-in ballots into a tabulator or ballot box prior to Election Day. Results will not be disclosed until the close of the polls on Election Day.
For the general election, ballots will be counted through 5 PM on November 6, 2020 if they are postmarked by Election Day (November 3).
Cities and towns must evaluate and report prior to any change to a polling place if the change would result in a disparate impact on the basis of race, national origin, disability, income or age.
For the 2020 primary and general election, the state secretary will send early voting by mail applications to a voter’s mailing address if it differs from their residential address in the central registry.
Accommodations will be available for persons with disabilities including phone and electronic application submission, electronic ballot submission and a hole-punched area on mail-in ballots for a signature.
The use of electronic poll books will be permitted for the 2020 elections and all future elections.
The bills will now go to the Senate.
My Votes Explained
I know many of you were perplexed by my votes on amendments #14 and #25 relative to safeguards and election day registration (EDR). Allow me to explain what I understand to be true in these cases.
Amendment 14 sought to strike two sections of the Committee's bill in their entirety and replace them with more prescriptive language around notification, equity and access when municipalities move polling locations (similar language was ultimately included) and public health safeguards at in person polling places, which respectfully, is better suited to be included by regulation than by statute.
Amendment 25 sought to establish EDR. Recall, the Committee's bill included a provision to allow polling places to eliminate their check-out booths, in anticipation of a shortage of poll workers and as a way to help limit in-person interactions. Out of respect for our town clerks and poll workers who expressed concerns with both EDR and VBM systems according to the Committee, I didn't feel it was a prudent amendment to file or support.
A bit of history -- my dear friend and former colleague, Rep. Gloria Fox of Roxbury, originally filed the EDR bill. When she retired, the following session I've filed the bill to keep it alive. Pre-pandemic, EDR was never an easy lift. Many folks are not fans due to the uncertainty the policy, if implemented, would present, especially in districts where many college students live.
The Election Modernization Coalition did an incredible amount of work to get us where we are with automatic registration and early voting. I'm grateful to them, and I believe now is the time to listen to those who do the work. I was told the clerks feel there are serious capacity concerns when it comes to implementing a VBM system, let alone trying to implement EDR simultaneously for the first time.
When you think of it, we're already asking our clerks to:
1. Greatly increase their staffing and processing of vote-by-mail applications, sending of mail-in ballots to voters, and processing of those ballots when they're returned
2. Provide several additional days of early voting in-person and accommodate extensive public health safeguards to protect both voters and poll workers
In addition to these new and expanded systems, poll workers will be using new technologies, including electronic poll books and updated online processing systems. Given that a large population of the poll workers cities and towns rely on are seniors, the clerks did not think it would be feasible or sensible to introduce an additional new system to implement EDR at this time.
Consider the "sweat equity", nuance and balance that's involved in crafting compromise legislation with 200+ parties, and their respective interests, from across the state -- especially when the body is accustomed to operating in-person. Even if we agree to disagree, I hope you understand where I am coming from on this very important enfranchisement issue. Rest assured, this session’s EDR legislation (both H685 and H636) remains active in Committee and could certainly be taken up separately.
In the end, we all want to ensure everyone remains safe and that municipalities are able to prevent long lines and crowds from forming, which a main goal of this COVID-related VBM legislation.
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Mayor's Update 6/12
As of yesterday (Thursday) in Massachusetts: 104,667 cases and 7,492 deaths.
Also as of yesterday in Boston: 13,118 cases, 673 deaths, and 7,987 recoveries.
Declaration of racism as an emergency and a public health crisis:
The Mayor declared racism an emergency and a public health crisis in the City of Boston. He stated that the impacts of historic and systemic racism are clear in Boston’s COVID-19 case numbers, and that the impacts go far beyond the current crisis.
The Mayor is backing this declaration with an initial investment of $3 million transferred from the police overtime budget to the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC).
BPHC will work with City departments on strategies to directly address the impact racism has on the lives and health of Boston residents.
Marty Martinez, Chief of Health and Human Services for the City of Boston, said this:
“Racism is a driving force that shapes access to the social determinants of health like housing, education, and employment, and it’s a barrier to health equity for all Bostonians. The executive order that the Mayor will launch and the declaration that racism is a public health crisis is an important step in ensuring intentional focus on this work…We will work on an 8-step strategy to approach this work led by the BPHC in partnership with HHS…That will include an assessment of health equity in all of our policies to identify where there are gaps and where we can create real measures of success. We will create a Greater Boston Health Equity Now Plan that will detail objective and measurable goals that will get to the root causes of these inequities, not simply just respond to them...We will have complete and regular availability of specific race and ethnicity data that documents the health inequities that exist so that we can ensure that we are collecting, disseminating, and looking at the gaps that exist in partnership with our hospitals and healthcare centers…We will continue our focus on access to prevention and treatment that is culturally and linguistically competent; we will develop direct service programs and services that address the negative impact of these inequalities; and we will join advocacy at the national and state level for these policies.”
Establishment of new measures for law enforcement accountability:
The Mayor endorsed the 10-point action plan put forward by the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus and other elected officials of color in Boston and the Commonwealth. He thanked the elected officials for their advocacy, particularly the Boston City Council.
The Boston Police Department has completed its review of the use-of-force policies outlined by the national 8 Can’t Wait movement. The BPD is clarifying its rules to meet the standards, and has immediately implemented several reforms. These are use-of-force policies proven to reduce the likelihood of violence.
The Boston Police Department is also adopting a training program known as Ethical Policing is Courageous (EPIC). Officers will be required to intervene if they witness unnecessary use of force, and they will also be trained with strategies for preventing abuses.
The Mayor also announced that moving forward, the Boston Police Department will no longer use the “hair test” for evidence of drug use in officers or recruits.
Proposal to reallocate funding from law enforcement into other community resources and programming:
The Mayor announced new steps he is taking in the FY2021 budget to further ground public safety in community health and wellbeing. He is proposing to reallocate 20%, or $12 million, from the Boston Police Department’s overtime budget.
This money will be invested instead into community programs for youth, for the homeless, and for people who are struggling with the effects of inequality.
$3 million to implement the City’s declaration of racism as an emergency and a public health crisis;
$1 million to support trauma response and counseling at the Boston Public Health Commission;
$2 million for community investments through other city departments--- including violence prevention, language access, food security, immigrant advancement, elder support, and the Human Rights Commission;
$2 million for programs supporting minority and women-owned businesses;
$2 million for housing security and ending youth homelessness; and
$2 million for emergency clinicians and mental health supports provided through the Boston Police Department when they respond to residents in crisis.
Signing the Obama Foundation’s Mayor’s Pledge:
The Mayor has signed onto the Mayor’s Pledge issued by the Obama Foundation’s My Brother’s Keeper Alliance. My Brother’s Keeper was launched in 2014 to empower young men and women of color. Boston has been a leading member of this alliance since its founding.
The Mayor’s pledge states that signers will 1) review Police use-of-force policies; 2) engage communities by including a diverse range of input, experiences, and stories; 3) report the findings of the review to the community and seek feedback; and 4) reform use-of-force policies based on that conversation.
Creation of a new task force:
The Mayor announces the creation of a new task force, led by Bostonians from civil rights organizations, the legal community, and the faith community.
It will be chaired by Wayne Budd, the former U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts and a respected longtime leader in Boston’s legal and civil rights communities.
The Task Force will conduct an immediate review of force policies and other equity issues at the Boston Police Department. It will also provide guidance on how we strengthen the Community Ombudsman Oversight Panel, the Co-op Board, to ensure that their work is effective. The Mayor committed to accept any changes that they recommend on the Co-op Board.
The Task Force will begin immediately and produce recommendations within 60 days. The community will then have time to review the recommendations and provide feedback. The City will announce reforms later this year.
Boston’s role in the national movement for racial justice:
The Mayor closed with this reflection:
“We are not going to let this moment or this movement pass us by. I have pledged to make Boston a national leader in this work, and we are following through on that pledge... As a white elected official, I have depended on the guidance of leaders of color and residents of color. I want to thank them for their leadership and their partnership. State legislators. Members of my cabinet. Members of the City Hall staff. Friends and former colleagues who have been reaching out every day for over two weeks. And, the officers of color in the Boston Police Dept, who are respected and beloved members of our community... I also want to remind us that systemic change must go far beyond law enforcement. We began this year by launching bold plans that call for record investments in school equity and housing equity, in particular... Whether fighting the COVID virus or the virus of racism: We are going to move forward in equity and we are going to lead, inspired by the best aspects of our history and guided by the diverse members of our community.”