Lawmaking by press release

Sometimes it’s the little things – a phrasing of a sentence or the timing of an announcement — that reveal a lot about the way the Legislature operates.

 On Monday afternoon, Senate President Karen Spilka, House Speaker Ron Mariano, and the chairs of the House and Senate Ways and Means Committees issued a statement about a bill providing tax relief to unemployed workers and certain businesses; paid time off for employees infected by the coronavirus, ordered to quarantine, or taking time off to get vaccinated; and financial relief for companies worried about skyrocketing unemployment insurance costs.

“The Senate and House have reached agreement on a bill to help workers and employers jumpstart our nascent recovery as we begin to slowly emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic,” the statement said.

The problem was that the House and Senate haven’t agreed – only their leaders had. Even more disturbing, there was no bill; it was still being worked on, so details are still missing.

“Time is of the essence to bring this much needed relief to businesses and employees, and so we will act expeditiously to get this comprehensive bill to the governor’s desk,” the statement said. 

It wasn’t clear what “expeditious” meant, but a lot of the situations the bill seeks to address are coming to a head next week and later this month.

Of course, most of those situations aren’t new. The unemployment insurance issue has been well known for months; Gov. Charlie Baker filed a bill to address it in December. Monday’s rush appeared to be another example of the Legislature waiting until the last minute to take action. (See the marathon session on the final, extended day at the end of the last legislative session for more examples.)

Sen. Bruce Tarr, the Republican minority leader in the Senate, applauded the legislation but reminded its backers that they can pass it in a democratic fashion. Public hearings, for example, have been scarce so far this year.

“It is critical for us to act on these matters in a timely fashion, and also imperative for us to do so in a transparent way that includes one or more public hearings,” Tarr said in a statement. “Time and again, the Legislature has proven that where there is a will to act, public hearings can be held quickly without sacrificing expeditious consideration and approval of important bills. This should be one of those times.”

 BRUCE MOHL

 

FROM COMMONWEALTH

Legislative leaders say they have reached an agreement in principle on a bill that would funnel tax relief to some businesses and individuals, provide paid time off for workers dealing with the coronavirus, and stabilize the state’s unemployment insurance fund. One provision of the legislation would eliminate a state tax on PPP grants.

The MBTA projects fare revenue will remain below pre-pandemic levels for at least five years, and officials say they would prefer to plug budget holes with federal, not state, aid.

T notes: Capital spending is about to start falling as state and federal funding sources dry up, and the chair of the Fiscal and Management Control Board says it’s time to start paring back or postponing projects. … Keolis Commuter Services permanently furloughs 9 percent of its conductors. … New fare collection system presents some challenges and some opportunities. … T may reverse some of its service cuts this summer or next fall.

Following a CommonWealth story on a forgotten provision in a 2017 state law allowing women to obtain a 12-month prescription for contraceptives, the state’s health insurers pledge to publicize the benefit.

The Biden administration moves forward on Vineyard Wind, completing a final environmental impact statement that could win final approval shortly. 

The Massachusetts House passes a bill to improve operations at the Department of Families and Children.

FROM AROUND THE WEB

 

BEACON HILL

The Baker administration has set high insurance reimbursement rates for COVID vaccines, good news for providers and bad for payers. (Boston Globe

MUNICIPAL MATTERS  

The Springfield City Council elects veterans activist Gumersindo Gomez to fill the council seat vacated by Gomez’s son Adam Gomez, who resigned to focus on his duties as state senator. (Western Mass Politics & Insight)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

The CDC says fully vaccinated people can resume some semblance of normal activities, including unmasked gatherings with visitors in their homes. (Boston Globe

Replacement nurses are working at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Worcester as the staff nurses go on strike amid a contract dispute. (Telegram & Gazette)

A study says the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine appears to be very effective against the more contagious virus variant first identified in Brazil, raising hopes that vaccination efforts will help curb the spread of the new forms of the virus. (Washington Post)  

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

The US House Ways and Means Committee asks the IRS to extend the tax filing deadline again this year, but Chairman Richard Neal says he thinks it’s unlikely. Neal also voices confidence that the $1.9 trillion American Rescue plan will become law. (MassLive)

ELECTIONS

In a city council election in Newton, writes Globe columnist Marcela Garcia, talk by a newly formed group about a move to get rid of Santa is a proxy for zoning fights over allowing greater density housing in the wealthy suburb. 

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Animal rights groups are pressuring Attorney General Maura Healey to release the regulations governing a soon-to-be implemented law banning the sale of eggs and meat from tightly caged animals. (Eagle-Tribune)

A federal judge throws out a bid by Legal Sea Foods to claim insurance coverage for losses sustained due to the pandemic. (Boston Globe

NPR has an explainer on what to expect with this round of stimulus payments. The Senate passed President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill yesterday, and it’s expected to pass the House. 

EDUCATION

The Boston public schools are suspending their relationship with a nonprofit that oversees a student-based advocacy group after charges from students that the group engaged in emotional manipulation through a peer counseling process it employs. (Boston Globe

Prominent scholar and activist Cornel West bolts from Harvard — for the second time — saying he was disrespected by the university in his bid for tenure. (Boston Globe

UMass Amherst is threatening to suspend students who organized or attended a 200-student party on Saturday. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

Boston Herald columnist Jeff Robbins says anti-Semitism has become common on lots of campuses, including Tufts University. 

ARTS/CULTURE

The New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center will honor the roles of women in the commercial fishing industry with programs and a new exhibit. (Standard-Times)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

The attorney for Thomas Latanowich, who is accused of shooting and killing Yarmouth police Sgt. Sean Gannon, cites COVID-19 as a reason for seeking an alternative trial location. (Cape Cod Times)

Boston police confiscated 16 guns over a three-day period. (Boston Herald

New research from UMass Amherst found that places where there were Black Lives Matter protests since 2014 have had lower numbers of police-involved fatalities. (MassLive)

A Holyoke police officer posts a video online alleging corruption at the police department – and is placed on administrative leave. (MassLive)

MEDIA

The publisher of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s book on leadership during the pandemic says it has no plans to continue promoting it, given the undercounting of COVID-19 deaths at nursing homes. (New York Times)

PASSINGS

Thaddeus “Ted” Buczko of Salem, the son of Polish immigrants who became a Probate and Family Court judge and the state auditor, and was the first Polish-American to hold statewide office in Massachusetts, dies at 95. (Salem News)

Gordon Lankton of Clinton, who grew Nypro into an international national plastics firm and founded the Museum of Russian Icons to display his own collection, dies at 89. (Telegram & Gazette)