Virus notes: State, local elections being postponed

Only 25 people, including board members, allowed at MassDOT meeting

HOUSE AND SENATE LEADERS signaled that their branches plan to take action on Monday to postpone upcoming legislative and municipal elections because of the coronavirus threat.

Senate President Karen Spilka and House Speaker Robert DeLeo said the two branches would pass legislation on Monday allowing municipal officials to postpone their local elections, some of which are occurring in the next few weeks. Currently, the only way to move the date of a municipal election is by seeking a court order.

Spilka and DeLeo also said their branches would take separate actions to postpone two Senate and two House special elections slated for March 31 to fill seats that have been empty for several months.The new date for the special elections has not been determined yet.

Spilka said the legislation would also make it easier for voters to cast absentee or mail-in ballots.

“The ability to hold elections is fundamental to the continued functioning of our democracy,” Spilka said in a statement. “We are also aware that we must protect the health and safety of the public during this unprecedented global pandemic. As such, the Senate has determined that moving forward with traditional elections at this time would put our voters, election workers, volunteers and others in our cities and towns at excessive risk.

Transportation boards limit attendance to 25

In keeping with a directive from Gov. Charlie Baker, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board are limiting attendance at their joint meeting Monday to 25 people, including board members.

A MassDOT spokeswoman said a couple controversial issues scheduled for the meeting, including an update on the Allston I-90 project, are being put off until April. Most of the board members are expected to participate by phone and only written comments will be accepted from the public.

“Currently, we plan to have 16 available seats for the public; they will be spaced apart and available on a first-come, first-serve basis,” an advisory said. “There may be fewer than 16 available seats if Directors now planning to be on the phone change their minds and decide to be present physically.”

Interestingly, the governor’s ban on gatherings of more than 25 people are routinely ignored when he meets to brief the press.

Baker calls out National Guard

Gov. Charlie Baker activated the Massachusetts National Guard on Thursday, planning to use up to 2,000 members for “logistical support and other assistance” in the state’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.

In an evening press release announcing the activation, Baker’s office said the order will bring new supply chain resources on board to respond to state and local requests for equipment, logistics, and warehousing.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Meet the Author

Chris Lisinski

Reporter, State House News Service
“Activating the National Guard will help support our Administration’s efforts to keep residents safe and secure during the COVID-19 outbreak,” Baker said in the release. “The expertise of the Massachusetts National Guard will benefit our communities with logistical support and other assistance as we continue to respond to this crisis.”

Baker has on several occasions in the past week emphasized that he is not planning a statewide shelter-in-place order.