August 2020 Update: State's Reopening Phase 3, Step 2 Postponed Indefinitely
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I hope this finds you and those you love well and staying healthy.
In the legislature, we had a VERY busy second half of July with much deliberation on many important items. In short time, we passed significant proposals and both chambers voted to extend our formal sessions, meaning we're "on call" over the next five months to reconvene. When we do, we'll be taking enacting votes (up or down on the entire package) on five anticipated conference committee reports relative to compromise legislation concerning climate change, policing reforms, telehealth, transportation and economic development bonding, as well as on the state's FY21 operating budget when the time comes.
On Friday 8/7 Governor Baker announced due to the recent increase in positive COVID-19 cases, step two of phase III of the Commonwealth’s reopening plan is postponed indefinitely. There's also an updated gatherings order that goes into effect on Tuesday 8/11.
The updated order:
1. reduces limit on outdoor gatherings from 100 to 50 people (indoor gatherings limit remains 25) 2. applies to all types of gatherings on public and private property
3. requires face coverings where more than 10 people from different households will be mixing
Updated restaurant rules, also effective Tuesday 8/11, state that alcoholic beverages may only be served for on-site consumption if accompanied by orders for food prepared on-site. Local and state public safety officials have jurisdiction to enforce these orders and event hosts in violation of these orders will be subject to fines or cease and desist orders.
The Governor also announced a targeted cross-agency COVID Enforcement & Intervention Team that will be responsible for ramping up enforcement statewide and coordinating local intervention efforts at the local level in higher risk COVID-19 communities. Starting next week, additional town-by-town reporting data will be published weekly to show the spread at the community level.
The 17 free testing sites for residents, including those who are asymptomatic, in Agawam, Brockton, Chelsea, Everett, Fall River, Framingham, Lawrence, Lowell, Lynn, Marlborough, Methuen, New Bedford, Randolph, Revere, Springfield, Taunton, and Worcester will be open through September 12 (extended from August 14). mass.gov/stopthespread
If you test positive, please answer the call from the state’s Community Tracing Collaborative or your local board of health. If you need a safe place to isolate and recover at no cost, please call about a recovery site 617-367-5150.
Remember, the state’s COVID-19 travel order, effective 8/1, requires all visitors over the age of 18 and unaccompanied minors entering MA, including returning students who do not meet an exemption, to complete the MA Travel Form prior to arrival unless visiting from a lower-risk state (current list as of 8/7: Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Vermont).
The rule requires you must quarantine for 14 days unless you: 1. Are coming from a lower-risk state or 2. Can produce, on request, proof of negative test result for COVID-19 from a test administered on a sample taken not longer than 72 hours before your arrivals in MA or 3. Meet the exemption criteria
Failure to complete the MA Travel Form or failure to comply with the quarantine, if applicable, may result in a $500 fine per day. Please help protect yourself, others, our state, and our residents by continuing to do your part to keep your physical distance from others and wear a mask please!
Please continue to operate with kindness towards yourself and others, with courage and patience, and with intention and caution, so the virus isn't given any easy opportunities to spread.
And please remember to complete your US Census Application and make sure you're ready to vote! To do both, visit: http://www.sec.state.ma.us/
11th Suffolk District
State & Legislative Updates
8/7 - The Governor signed into law An Act Financing the General Governmental Infrastructure of the Commonwealth, which authorizes up to $1.8 billion in capital funding for key investments in public safety, food security, and information technology. This includes programs to enhance the security of the Commonwealth’s IT assets, improve the delivery of state and local services, and continue responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Among many important provisions, the bond bill includes $2,500,000 for technology improvements in the office of the commissioner of probation to automate the process for sealing criminal records; now we need to change our statute to permit the automate sealing by passing my timely filed legislation supported by Greater Boston Legal Services.
8/6 - The state's unemployment rate has triggered federal extended benefits. This is a federal extension of 7 weeks for all Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claimants, and up to 13 weeks for certain eligible regular unemployment claimants. Regular unemployment insurance claimants who are eligible to apply for extended benefits will receive notification. PUA claimants do not need to do anything to receive the additional 7 weeks and will receive a notice through the PUA system that their benefits have been extended.
8/6 - UMass Amherst announced 8/5 that it is changing its fall reopening plan. Students are no longer allowed to return to campus if they have online-only classes. Students who are dependent on campus housing and dining, some international students with specific visa requirements, and students in healthcare fields who need to live on campus will be held on a case-by-case basis and will be accommodated in most cases. The university is encouraging students who live off-campus to not return to the Amherst area.
8/5 - There will be service changes to MBTA bus routes starting 8/30. Service is being added on 23 bus routes. Some bus routes with low ridership or routes with other service options nearby will have service frequency reduced or will continue to have service suspended. Starting 9/1, CharlieTicket and cash fares will be lowered to CharlieCard prices. There will be virtual public meetings on Wednesday 8/12 (Spanish language) and Thursday 8/13 (English language) where members of the public can learn more about these changes and provide feedback.
8/4 - Governor Baker signed a three-month interim budget, but sent back provisions that would have required his administration to fund departments and programs at or above FY20 levels or the levels proposed in the Governor's proposed FY21 budget and that would set a firm deadline of 10/31 for the funding to expire.
8/4 - Governor Baker announced there is a modest uptick in new positive cases over the last few days, and the state is monitoring the cause of this. He stated that his administration could consider scaling back reopening efforts if positive COVID-19 cases continue to increase.
8/3 - Over the weekend, the state reported 643 new cases of COVID-19, up from 483 the weekend before, and 395 the weekend prior to that. New cases have exceeded 200 for 9 of the last 14 days. Samuel Scarpino, a Northeastern University epidemiologist said this is evidence that a surge of cases is coming and the state should roll back reopening.
7/31 - The RMV will be piloting drop-off registration and title services at the Braintree Service Center starting this Monday 8/3. The Boston / Haymarket Service Center, Chicopee Service Center, Haverhill Service Center, Milford Service Center, Taunton Service Center, and Wilmington Service Center will follow beginning Monday, 8/10. Registration Drop Off Centers will be dedicated to performing a number of vehicle-based registration and title services for both commercial and individual customer transactions on a drop-off only basis.
7/31 - Governor Baker held a press conference at the State House. He cited situations in which people gather and do not wear masks or do not keep their distance as being the source for recent COVID outbreaks.
7/30 & 7/31 - The House deliberated An Act creating a 2050 roadmap to a clean and thriving commonwealth. For the first time, the bill establishes the criteria in statute that define environmental justice populations. The legislation also increases support for clean energy workforce development programs, improves access to renewable energy and energy efficiency programs for low-income communities, and requires the state to increase its use of renewable resources for its electricity needs. It also incorporates higher energy efficiency standards for a variety of common appliances including plumbing, faucets, computers and commercial appliances, increases the required total procurement of offshore wind power by an additional 2,000 megawatts, adopts several measures aimed at improve gas pipeline safety, including increased fines for safety violations and expedited timelines for repairing gas leaks, and increases the required minimum percentage of the state’s renewable energy via updates to the Commonwealth’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS).
7/30 - The Legislature and the Governor's Administration committed to keeping local aid and school aid at last year's levels for FY21 and providing an additional $107 million in school aid to cover inflation and enrollment factors.
7/30 - Governor Baker held a press conference at Pfizer facilities in Andover. He announced that his administration is reviewing the state's guidance on gathering sizes. The state's current guidance instructs a limit of 25 people at indoor gatherings and 100 people at outdoor gatherings, depending on the size of the venue. On 7/29, Governor Raimondo of Rhode Island announced that her state is lowering the limit on social gatherings there to 15 people, down from 25.
7/28 & 7/29 - The House continued its deliberations on H.4888 An Act Putting Patients First and passed the bill. I'm grateful that four amendments filed by the House Chair of the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery were adopted; they are important additions in preserving access to behavioral healthcare. I'm also very pleased that the amendment I filed in coordination with 1199 SEIU was included. The amendment establishes care team planning to help elevate the worker's voice in all acute-care settings. Just like on the Administration's acute-care reopening committees, this labor-management model clearly works and is essential to reopening of services that work for both patients and caregivers.
7/29 - The House of Representatives voted unanimously to extend the legislative session past the deadline of July 31.
7/29 - The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released Career/Vocational Technical Education Reopening Guidelines that address the unique challenges these schools will face when resuming instruction this fall.
7/29 - Governor Baker did not hold a press conference today.
7/28 - The MA House and Senate unanimously approved a $16.53 billion three-month interim budget. This budget would cover the state's costs through 10/31/20.
7/28 - The MA House and Senate also voted unanimously to approve An Act Regarding Breakfast After the Bell. This policy change will increase students' access to breakfast by making it a part of the school day in high-poverty schools.
7/28 - Fare collections will resume on The RIDE starting 8/1. Fare collections resumed on buses and trolleys at street-level stops on 7/20 with the resumption of front-door boarding.
7/28 - Several state residents report receiving unsolicited packages appearing to have originated in a foreign country that contain seeds. If you receive an unsolicited package of seeds, you should not plant them, and you should report your receipt of them on this Mass. Department of Agricultural Resources online form.
7/28 - Governor Baker did not hold a press conference today.
7/27 & 7/28 - The House of Representatives passed H.4879 An Act enabling partnerships for growth. This economic development bond bill takes important sectors of our economy such as the restaurant, arts, culture and tourism industries that have been most adversely affected by Covid-19 and seeks to give them, and many displaced workers, an opportunity to rejoin the local economy and workforce. The bill pairs initiatives to improve the housing market for buyers while providing protections for tenants. It authorizes the Housing Choice concept, reducing the voting requirement for a range of housing-related zoning changes and special permits at the local level, from a two-thirds threshold to a simple majority. The legislation also creates a local option for the tenant right to purchase/first right of refusal to purchase buildings landlords put up for sale, increases the low-income housing tax credit from $20 million to $40 million, and requires DHCD to notify tenants they have a right to mediation with landlords prior to the eviction process. The bill establishes the Rural Jobs Tax Credit for businesses that make a capital contribution to a rural growth fund, which will be established within the Office of Business Development. It allows for the creation of Tourism Destination Marketing Districts, which, following local approval, can add an additional 2% surcharge on room occupancy taxes to fund tourism marketing activities within these districts. The legislation also creates a Cultural Council Recovery Commission to review and develop recommendations for the recovery, promotion and continued growth and vitality of the cultural and creative sector in the commonwealth.
7/27 - The MBTA launched a "Ride Safer" campaign that includes messaging and guidance in stations and vehicles and a new webpage with videos depicting cleaning and disinfecting techniques, FAQs and helpful travel tips.
7/27 - The Department of Unemployment Assistance revised its fact-finding instructions to make the identity verification process easier for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). Some PUA claimants who have been denied because of identity verification issues will be receiving a link to allow them to correct issues on their claims, and may approved to receive benefits without having to attend a hearing.
7/27 - Six legislators were named to the conference committee that will negotiate on police reform, House Chair of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary Claire Cronin, Chair of the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus Representative Carlos Gonzalez, Representative Timothy Whelan, Senator William Brownsberger, Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, and Senator Bruce Tarr.
7/27 - Governor Baker announced the expansion of the "Stop the Spread" initiative which provides free COVID-19 testing in targeted communities across the state. New testing sites will be located in Agawam, Brockton, Methuen, Randolph, Revere, Springfield, Taunton and Worcester. These sites are in addition to existing "Stop the Spread" testing sites in Chelsea, Everett, Fall River, Lawrence, Lowell, Lynn, Marlborough and New Bedford.
7/24 - The Governor signed into law a $1.1 billion supplemental budget. This supplemental budget covers some COVID-19 spending and designates 6/19/20 as a state holiday honoring Juneteenth.
7/24 - Governor Baker announced that starting on 8/1/20, all visitors and returning residents who are entering Massachusetts must follow new travel orders. All those who do not meet an exemption will be required to complete a travel form prior to arriving in Massachusetts and either quarantine for 14 days or produce a negative COVID-19 test result unless they are coming from a lower-risk state. Failure to comply may result in a $500 fine per day.
7/24 - The Department of Conservation and Recreation reminded residents today to adhere to COVID-19 guidance such as wearing a face covering, practicing social distancing, and washing hands frequently when visiting state beaches and parks. Governor Baker announced at his press conference that the level of crowding, particularly at the M Street Beach in South Boston last weekend, cannot continue, and that the state will intervene and impose limits on the number of people who can be there if necessary.
7/23 - The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released transportation and facilities and operations guidance to supplement its initial Fall Reopening Memo. The information in these documents is subject to change depending on COVID-19 trends and medical research.
7/23 - Governor Baker did not hold a press conference today.
7/22 - The MA House debate began on police reform and racial equity legislation and continued for next three days. In the end, the House passed a bill An Act relative to justice, equity and accountability in law enforcement in the Commonwealth to improve policing in Massachusetts by establishing a certification process, creating an independent and empowered oversight board, and codifying restrictions on the use of force measures, among other measures. As I understand it, in the end, the bill included the four major priorities of the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus: 1. standardized police training in the Commonwealth 2. an independent body to investigate police misconduct 3. a civil service review to increase diversity 4. a commission to study structural racism.
Overall, the House-passed bill, as amended, does the following: establishes the Massachusetts Police Standards and Training Commission (MPSTC), a seven-person board charged with the responsibility to certify, restrict, and, following due process, revoke and suspend certification for police officers; removes qualified immunity for those individuals whom have been decertified by the MPSTC and limits the use of facial recognition technology; forms the Division of Training and Certification, comprised of 6 police chiefs, the Colonel of the State Police, the Boston Police Commissioner, 2 sheriffs, one police officer appointed by the governor, and one person selected by the Secretary of Public Safety and Security, to devise appropriate training and certification standards for police; and creates a number of commissions to investigate structural racism in correctional facilities, the parole process and probation services as well as a commission on the status of African Americans in Massachusetts.
More specifically, the bill:
Establishes restrictions on the use of force:
Allows physical and deadly force only in the event of certain conditions Bans Chokeholds Limits the discharge of a firearm into a fleeing vehicle Restricts the use of tear gas, rubber pellets and dogs
Sets Massachusetts on a path for reform and investigation of: The Civil Service System Structural racism in: Correctional Facilities, Parole Process, Probation Services
Creates a law enforcement body camera taskforce
Establishes permanent commissions on the status of African Americans and Latinos, respectively, to ensure African Americans and Latinos equitably benefit from and have access to government services in the same manner as other citizens of the commonwealth
Creates a statewide law enforcement officer cadet program
Creates two separate and parallel tracks: removes qualified immunity for those police officers who are decertified by the commission after due process and continues to study qualified immunity more broadly
Creates a process around the use and training of School Resource Officers and limits on student
record sharing by schools
Prohibits officers from having sexual intercourse with a person in custody and creates strong penalties for such conduct
Makes it a crime for an officer to submit a false timesheet
Requires no-knock warrant be issued by a judge (previously left to a clerk magistrate) and only if the affidavit supporting the request establishes probable cause that if the officer announces their presence their life or the lives of others will be endangered and only if no minor child or person over 65 is present. An officer may only enter a residence without a no-knock warrant if there is a credible risk of imminent harm.
7/22 - MA Public Health Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel signed a public health order barring health care providers in Massachusetts from billing those without insurance for a COVID-19 test after receiving reports that some providers were sending large bills for testing to uninsured individuals. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act requires COVID-19 testing without cost-sharing.
7/22 - Governor Baker held a press conference at the Salvation Army in Lynn. He announced that 26 organizations will receive $3 million in grants through a new food security infrastructure program launched in June. Organizations that will receive this funding include farms, school meal programs and food pantries.
7/21 - Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, Congressman Jim McGovern, and nearly two dozen other lawmakers from the northeast sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture demanding that it provide equitable resources to the Northeast region through the Farmers to Families Food Box program. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, the northeast region has received the second lowest allocation of any area.
7/21 - Governor Baker extended the state's pause on evictions and foreclosures for 60 days until 10/17/20. The moratorium was set to expire on 8/18/20.
7/21 - The MIAA Board of Directors approved pushing the start date of high school fall sports to 7/14, if there are high school sports this fall. The Department of Elementary & Secondary Education, Executive Office of Environmental Affairs and Governor Baker's office will determine whether fall sports will be played.
7/21 - Governor Baker did not hold a press conference and filed a $5.5 billion interim budget for the month of August.
7/20 - Governor Baker signed a bill into law to allow restaurants to sell sealed mixed drinks with takeout and delivery orders.
7/20 - Attorney General Maura Healey and 22 of her counterparts filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration over a federal rule finalized on 6/12 that would remove health care and health insurance nondiscrimination protections for transgender patients.
7/20 - The UMass system will be freezing tuition for undergraduate and graduate students for the upcoming academic year. The system will also be cutting 6% of its full-time equivalent workforce and will be furloughing thousands to close its budget gap, which will affect nearly 3/10 UMass employees.
7/20 - Governor Baker did not hold a press conference today.
7/17 - In June, the Massachusetts unemployment rate increased to 17.4%, which is the highest in the country. The May unemployment rate in Massachusetts was 16.6%, and the national unemployment rate is currently 11.1%.
7/17 - Visitation has resumed at four Department of Correction (DOC) facilities: Northeastern Correctional Center (NECC) in West Concord, Pondville Correctional Center in Norfolk, South Middlesex Correctional Center in Framingham, and Boston Pre-Release Center in Roslindale. All facilities are minimum-security or pre-release facilities.
7/17 - Governor Baker held a press conference in southeastern Massachusetts to discuss efforts to reduce flooding in the region. He reminded people to respect the COVID-19 virus as the state continues to fight the pandemic.
7/16 - Governor Baker announced plans to make $20 million in CARES Act funding available to 181 municipalities through the Community Development Block Grant program to assist with homelessness prevention, food pantries, and job training. He also stated that he will need to make a decision soon on whether to extend the temporary ban on evictions and foreclosures in the state.
7/15 - The House Committee on Ways and Means and Joint Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing on S.2820 An Act to reform police standards and shift resources to build a more equitable, fair and just commonwealth that values Black lives and communities of color. Comments were emailed to Chair Aaron Michlewitz and Chair Claire Cronin at Testimony.HWMJudiciary@mahouse.gov. Deadline to submit testimony: Friday 7/17 at 11AM.
7/15 - The Safe Communities Act was reported favorably out of the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security and into the House Committee on Ways and Means.
7/15 - The MBTA will be returning to traditional front-door boarding on buses, above-ground Green Line trolleys and the Mattapan Line starting this Monday. Passengers will be asked to enter through front doors, where fare boxes are located, and exit through rear doors.
7/15 - The Massachusetts Cultural Council announced the cost of recovery for cultural nonprofits in the state is $441.8 million. The sector has lost $425 million in revenue and faces $117 million in reopening costs.
7/15 - Governor Baker did not hold a press conference today.
7/14 - The Senate passed S.2800 An Act to reform police standards and shift resources to build a more equitable, fair and just commonwealth that values Black lives and communities of color. This bill would impose more oversight on police by creating a Police Officer Standards and Accreditation Committee and limit qualified immunity legal protection for police and other public employees.
7/14 - Attorney General Maura Healey and 21 other Attorneys General wrote a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer asking the Senate to include at least $50 billion for child care providers in the next round of federal stimulus funding.
7/14 - Governor Baker did not hold a press conference today.
7/14 - The Trump administration rescinded rules it released last week which would have barred international students from being in the U.S. if taking only online classes.
7/13 - Attorney General Healey, along with attorneys general from 16 other states and Washington D.C., filed a lawsuit that challenges the Trump administration's change to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program that would require international students to enroll in programs with on-campus instruction in order to maintain their legal status.
7/13 - The Governor announced $16.1 million in relief funding for 32 special education residential school providers. This funding will help to cover costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
7/13 - Governor Baker announced the launch of a new website that outlines the steps that residents can take to report businesses who are not complying with reopening standards and protocols. Residents can report businesses or workplaces that are non-compliant with mandatory workplace safety standards to their local board of health, or report it to the Department of Labor Standards by calling (508) 616-0461 x 9488 or emailing email@example.com.
If you have thoughts or concerns about reopening in Massachusetts, you can submit questions and comments via this online form.