Monday, September 21, 2020

Remembering Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Ruth Bader Ginsberg

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg lived a life filled with courage, passion,  unyielding commitment to principle , and the rule of law. Her passing causes a deep and sad loss for our nation , yet her legacy will long endure as an inspirational example of the difference a person can make in this world. 




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Friday, September 18, 2020

Happy Rosh Hashanah

Chag Samayach 

A wish for the New Year to my Jewish friends, constituents and the community. May this New Year be sweet, healthy and happy. 

L’shanah Tovah and always… Shalom!




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Baker-Polito Administration Awards $4 Million to Improve Coastal Resilience

The Baker-Polito Administration announced $4 million in grant funding to support local and regional efforts to proactively plan for and reduce coastal storm and climate change impacts, including storm surge, flooding, erosion, and sea level rise. The grants, funded by the Office of Coastal Zone Management’s (CZM) Coastal Resilience Grant program, were awarded to municipalities and nonprofits pursuing projects across the Commonwealth. 

The grants were announced by state and local officials as part of the Baker-Polito Administration’s celebration of Climate Week in the Commonwealth. “Massachusetts’ coastal communities coast face increasing damages from increasingly severe storms, sea level rise and erosion,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “As we celebrate Climate Week in Massachusetts, we’re proud to support local efforts to protect residents, businesses and infrastructure from climate change impacts.”

“Massachusetts’ coastal communities are making climate adaptation a local priority and reality,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “Through these grants, cities, towns, and nonprofits gain financial and technical assistance to explore options to manage flooding and erosion, enhance the natural environment, and support other public benefits like recreation along the coast.”

Including the grants announced, the Baker-Polito Administration has now invested $18.9 million in 107 coastal resilience improvement projects through the Coastal Resilience Grant Program since 2015.

“With these funds, our Administration is proud to support the continued leadership and commitment at the local level to making progress year after year toward a more climate resilient future,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides. “These projects provide many benefits to the residents and businesses in coastal communities, and demonstrate the value of investing in resilient solutions for a changing climate.”

CZM’s Coastal Resilience Grant Program provides financial and staff support for local efforts to analyze vulnerabilities to climate impacts, increase community awareness and understanding of these issues, plan for changing conditions, redesign vulnerable community facilities and infrastructure, and restore shorelines. Grants may fund feasibility assessments, public outreach, design, permitting, construction, and monitoring of projects that enhance or create natural buffers to erosion and flooding.

“Effective resilience means planning, investing and acting now,” said State Senator Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester). “These grants join together local vision and state resources to get projects done that will respond to significant vulnerabilities in a meaningful way.”

“We need to take substantive steps now to mitigate the impacts of climate change on the North Shore, the Commonwealth, and our nation,” said State Senator Joan B. Lovely (D-Salem). “I appreciate these badly needed grants that will buttress the beautiful coastlines of Beverly and Salem that help to drive the economies and quality of lives that people in both cities enjoy.”

“I want to thank the Baker-Polito Administration for understanding and addressing the unique challenges our coastal communities face,” said State Representative Brad Hill (R-Ipswich). “I’m proud to see Ipswich taking the lead by protecting our vulnerable coastline and riverine areas.”

Beverly-
Feasibility Assessment and Conceptual Designs for Green Infrastructure and Resilience Improvements at Obear Park - $58,340

The City of Beverly will assess feasibility and develop conceptual designs for nature-based improvements at Obear Park, a coastal park along the Danvers River, to withstand impacts from flooding, erosion, and sea level rise. The study will investigate potential living shoreline techniques, culvert alterations, and relocation and retrofits to existing park facilities.

Vulnerability Assessment and Feasibility Study for the Beverly Pump Station on Water Street - $135,445

The City of Beverly will conduct a vulnerability and feasibility assessment of the Beverly Pump Station on Water Street, a sanitary sewerage facility serving Beverly, Danvers and other entities. The analysis will evaluate alternatives to address both short- and long-term risks of flooding and sea level rise.

Essex-
Elevation of Apple Street Roadbed for Alternate Transportation Route - $27,282

The Town of Essex will develop design plans for elevating a low-lying section of Apple Street, which is vulnerable to flooding during coastal storm events. Apple Street provides an alternate north-south transportation link in Essex when the primary route, the Essex Causeway (Route 133), is flooded during storms.

Essex County Greenbelt Association-
Essex County Coastal Resiliency Outreach and Planning Project - $41,312

Essex County Greenbelt Association will assess infrastructure improvements and management options and produce a Climate Adaptation Management Plan for their headquarters at the Cox Reservation, which is vulnerable to coastal storm flooding and sea level rise. Greenbelt will also host a free film and lecture series for the public on coastal resiliency and climate change.

Ipswich-
Ipswich River Coastal Resiliency and Bank Stabilization Project: Phase 3 - $39,860

The Town of Ipswich and its partner, Ipswich River Watershed Association, will finalize design plans for stabilizing an eroded section of coastal bank along the Ipswich River, located near the County Street Bridge and along a well-traveled trail adjacent to the river, in downtown Ipswich. The project team will also develop plans for stormwater management improvements, acquire necessary permits, and prepare bid-ready plans and specifications for future construction.

Building Climate Resilience through Adaptation at the Crane Estate, Argilla Road Adaptation Phase 3 - $85,000

The Town of Ipswich, in partnership with The Trustees of Reservations, will continue to advance design plans and permitting for elevating a vulnerable portion of Argilla Road that crosses a salt marsh and stabilizing the side slopes of the roadway using nature-based techniques.

Salem-
Coastal Resilience at Collins Cove, Monitoring and Maintenance of the Restored Salt Marsh - $62,825

This year’s Climate Week marks four years since Governor Baker signed Executive Order 569 which lays out a comprehensive approach to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions, safeguard residents, municipalities and businesses from the impacts of climate change, and build a more resilient Commonwealth. More recently, the Administration has committed to investing $1 billion in climate resiliency by 2022 and achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.The Commonwealth is working to determine how best to achieve this emissions limit through its 2050 Roadmap, a nation-leading quantitative and qualitative planning effort that will chart multiple technical and policy pathways by which the Commonwealth can equitably and cost-effectively achieve net zero emissions by 2050, and will conclude with the publication of a long-range 2050 Roadmap report. Additionally, the Administration is working with municipalities throughout the Commonwealth to prepare for the impacts of climate change through the nation-leading Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Program, which has now enrolled 89 percent of cities and towns.

“CZM is excited to continue working collaboratively with our local community and nonprofit partners to identify climate vulnerabilities, raise public awareness, and advance shoreline management efforts,” said CZM Director Lisa Berry Engler. “We look forward to another successful round of projects that contribute to a more resilient coast.”

The Massachusetts Office Coastal Zone Management is the lead policy and planning agency on coastal and ocean issues within the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. Through planning, technical and grant assistance and public information programs, CZM seeks to balance the impacts of human activity with the protection of coastal and marine resources. The agency’s work includes helping coastal communities address the challenges of storms, sea level rise and other effects of climate change; working with state, regional and federal partners to balance current and new uses of ocean waters while protecting ocean habitats and promoting sustainable economic development; and partnering with communities and other organizations to protect and restore coastal water quality and habitats.



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Massachusetts RMV Renews Over 163,000 Licenses & IDs Online During REAL ID Promotion

Customers who renew a Standard license or ID online will have $25 REAL ID upgrade fee waived upon a future return visit to a Service Center in 2021 

Renewal transactions can be conducted at Mass.Gov/RMV; Promotion remains in effect until the State of Emergency is lifted

The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) continues to encourage all eligible customers to renew their Standard Massachusetts driver’s license or Massachusetts ID card online at Mass.Gov/RMV in order to qualify for a free upgrade to a REAL ID credential in 2021. This promotional opportunity, authorized and extended by Executive Order, will remain in effect until Massachusetts’ State of Emergency is lifted to provide customers more time and flexibility to conduct transactions and to support the RMV’s ongoing efforts to implement social distancing protocols while limiting in-person service center visits to keep customers and staff safe.

Customers are eligible to renew online and take advantage of this offer up to one year in advance of the expiration date printed on their license or ID, or up to two years after the expiration date. Customers will not be able to seek their free REAL ID upgrade until at least six (6) months after the State of Emergency is lifted. The RMV continues to see a dramatic increase of online renewals by customers during the pandemic and this promotional opportunity period. More than 163,000 online renewals were completed since promotion began June 12th, compared to just 49,600 over the same time period in 2019.In August 2020, there were over 62,000 online credential renewals, compared to just 15,739in August 2019. The RMV has bolstered back office support efforts to accommodate this continuing increased demand.

Beginning in mid-August, limited in-person license renewal appointments became available in Service Centers for customers. The RMV suspended those in-person transactions due to the pandemic and applied multiple extensions to expiring licenses and IDs as outlined below. The RMV asks that those who can renew online please do so and preserve these limited appointments for those individuals with credentials expiring in September 2020 who cannot, especially if their license or ID currently benefits from an extension.

Qualifying customers who complete their renewal online and wish to upgrade to a REAL ID for free will have to wait until at least six (6) months after Massachusetts’ State of Emergency is lifted to visit an RMV Service Center. Customers currently do not need a federally compliant REAL ID for the purposes of boarding domestic flights prior to October 1, 2021, as the federal government delayed the compliance effective date by one year. The fee for renewing a non-commercial standard or REAL ID license is $50, while the fee for upgrading to a standard or REAL ID card is $25. The typical $25 upgrade / amendment fee will be waived under these qualifying circumstances.

Obtaining an initial federally compliant REAL ID requires customers to visit a Service Center in-person to present verifying documents. The RMV introduced this initiative and fee waiver pursuant to Executive Order 39 which was issued by Governor Baker on June 12, 2020, and was subsequently extended through Executive Order 47 on August 11, 2020, in light of the COVID-19 public health emergency to encourage social distancing and limit unnecessary travel by reducing the need for many customers to visit a Service Center. This also allows for the prioritization of essential in-person transactions, which remain by appointment only. Customers should take the following steps to determine their online renewal eligibility and qualify for this offer:
● Visit Mass.Gov/RMV, login to their “myRMV” account, and find out if they are permitted to renew online.
● Renew online – their new standard license or ID card will be sent via U.S. mail.
● The cost for renewing a driver’s license is $50. The cost for renewing an ID card is $25. These costs are the same for both a standard or REAL ID license or ID card. The cost for upgrading or amending a license or ID card outside of their renewal cycle is $25, which will be waived for participating, eligible RMV customers.
● Customers who renew online will have to wait until at least six (6) months after Massachusetts’ State of Emergency is lifted to make an appointment for a REAL ID and have their $25 upgrade / amendment fee waived. Anyone who holds a valid U.S. passport
or other federally-compliant form of identification may never need an RMV-issued REAL ID.
● As a service to its members, AAA continues to issue REAL ID credentials for their members only and members should make an appointment before visiting a AAA location.
● Limited in-person license renewal reservation appointments are available in RMV Service Centers for customers. The RMV asks that those who can renew online please do so, especially if their license or ID currently benefits from an extension, thus preserving these appointments for those individuals with credentials expiring in September 2020 who cannot renew online.

While the RMV has previously announced the below automatic extensions to certain expiring licenses and ID cards, all eligible customers are encouraged to take advantage of this offer by renewing online up to one year prior to their expiration date:
● Driver’s licenses and ID cards that expired or were set to expire in March, April, and May 2020 have been extended until September 2020.
● Driver’s licenses and ID cards that expired or were set to expire in June have been extended until October 2020.
● Driver’s licenses and ID cards that expired or were set to expire in July have been extended until November 2020.
● Driver’s licenses and ID cards that will expire in August have been extended until December 2020.


All RMV customers are encouraged to visit the RMV Online Service Center or www.Mass.Gov/RMV to renew their license or ID card, and complete one of over 40 other transactions available online, by mail, or by phone.

For details on these and other credential expiration date extensions and additional information on RMV service offerings during the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit www.mass.gov/rmv or https://www.mass.gov/info-details/rmv-covid-19-information.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Massachusetts Announces Extension of Administrative Tax Relief for Local Businesses

Governor Charlie Baker, Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, Senate President Karen Spilka and House Speaker Robert DeLeo today announced an extension of administrative tax relief measures for local businesses that have been impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, especially in the restaurant and hospitality sectors. 

This includes the extension of the deferral of regular sales tax, meals tax, and room occupancy taxes for small businesses due from March 2020 through April 2021, so that they will instead be due in May 2021. Businesses that collected less than $150,000 in regular sales plus meals taxes in the twelve month period ending February 29, 2020 will be eligible for relief for sales and meals taxes, and businesses that collected less than $150,000 in room occupancy taxes in the twelve month period ending February 29, 2020 will be eligible for relief with respect to room occupancy taxes. For these small businesses, no penalties or interest will accrue during this extension period.

“Our Administration is committed to supporting local businesses and Main Street economies recovering from the impact of COVID-19, and we’re glad to work with our legislative colleagues on this additional measure to provide administrative tax relief,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Extending the tax relief measures we put into place earlier this year will help support companies across Massachusetts including small businesses in the restaurant and hospitality industries.”

“Providing this tax relief is an important step to support local businesses throughout Massachusetts and we are glad to work with our legislative colleagues on this important issue,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “This extension allows certain local companies to defer remitting regular sales tax, meals tax, and room occupancy taxes, an important tax relief measure for businesses that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

For businesses with meals tax and room occupancy tax obligations that do not otherwise qualify for this relief, late-file and late-pay penalties will be waived during this period.

“The Senate is committed to further assisting our restaurant and hospitality industries hit hard by COVID-19,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka. “As we continue to safely reopen and recover, we will work with our partners in the Administration and the House to mitigate the economic distress felt by local businesses brought on by the unprecedented public health crisis.”

“As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to affect our economy, the House is proud of its ongoing efforts to reinforce restaurants, such as its passage of a restaurant recovery package thanks to the work of Chair Michlewitz and the membership,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo. “We support the deferral of tax collections as it will provide a clear business pathway, especially to our restaurant and hospitality industries.”

The Department of Revenue will issue emergency regulations and a Technical Information Release to implement these administrative relief measures.

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Monday, September 14, 2020

Baker‐Polito Administration Awards Funds to Municipalities for Improvements to Road-Stream Crossings

Ipswich Awarded Funds For Culvert Upgrades 

The Baker‐Polito Administration today announced $806,880 in grants to support culvert replacement projects that improve municipal roads and river health in communities across the Commonwealth. Provided by the Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Ecological Restoration (DER), the grants support projects that strengthen community preparedness for large storms, protect fisheries, wildlife, and river habitats, and promote smart investments in climate-ready infrastructure.

“As climate change brings fiercer storms and increased rainfall to the Commonwealth, the safety issues surrounding undersized culverts become more urgent and apparent,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Replacing this aging infrastructure is critical to ensure the resilience of our communities and natural resources, and the availability of resources like this report and these grant awards is vital for driving this important work forward.”

“These granted projects represent the culmination of hard and thoughtful work and collaboration between local and state officials to transform ecologically vulnerable spaces into well-engineered infrastructure that supports people and the environment,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester). “Through a culvert replacement, Ipswich will maintain a critical roadway for public safety and emergency access and safe passage for important species of wildlife.”

The town of Ipswich received $48,500 to conduct final design and engineering as well as permitting for a culvert replacement. Upgrading the culvert will improve the reliability of the road, which serves as an emergency access to Route 1, western sections of the town, and nearby hospitals. The upgrade will also allow brook trout access to coldwater streams, which is particularly important as the climate warms and stream temperature increases.

DER’s Culvert Replacement Municipal Assistance Grant Program helps municipalities replace undersized and deteriorating culverts with crossings that meet improved design standards for fish and wildlife passage, river health, and storm resiliency. The grants also help municipalities deal with the ever-pressing cost of aging road infrastructure.

“Failing and undersized culverts can negatively impact communities in many ways, from causing flooding or road failures during storms, to preventing wildlife from accessing necessary habitat,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides. “This culvert replacement report and these newly-funded projects address these issues, allowing waterways to return to a more natural state and increasing resilience to climate change.”

“Culverts play a vital role in protecting roadways, safeguarding wildlife and river habitats and redirecting waterways that could impact homes and businesses,” said Transportation Secretary and CEO Secretary Stephanie Pollack. “The report’s recommendations will serve as a valuable path forward for local and state planners and the grant money gives cities and towns the ability to undertake field data collection, design and engineering work, and other steps in an effort to strengthen municipal preparedness.”

Nearly half of Massachusetts’ estimated 25,000 small bridges and culverts act as barriers to fish and wildlife because they are undersized or poorly positioned. Undersized culverts can also present a serious risk to public safety. As high intensity rainfall becomes more frequent and severe due to climate change, culvert bottlenecks can cause flood waters to overtop roads, resulting in washouts and road closures. Installing culverts that meet the Massachusetts Stream Crossing Standards allows rivers to flow unrestricted and with a lower risk of flood damage.

The Administration also announced the release of a report titled, “Recommendations for Improving the Efficiency of Culvert and Small Bridge Replacement Projects,” prepared by the Massachusetts Culverts and Small Bridges Working Group. This report highlights the safety and environmental challenges presented by over 25,000 road stream crossings across the state and the need for funding and technical assistance for municipalities and partners to address these issues. It also provides recommendations to address the barriers faced by municipalities to implement this work.

The Massachusetts Culverts and Small Bridges Working Group was charged with providing a report to the Massachusetts Legislature with recommendations to replace culverts and small bridges more quickly and cost efficiently with climate resilient structures that withstand storms, improve public safety, and protect and restore natural resources.

Key recommendations of the report include expanding and improving existing state technical assistance and training programs, developing an interagency program to help municipalities navigate the process of culvert and bridge replacement, and providing additional grant funds to municipalities for culvert and bridge replacement projects. The report also recommends revisions to engineering standards, including helpful resources such as standard culvert and small bridge design templates to reduce design and construction costs and streamline permitting and structural review.



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Friday, September 11, 2020

Remembering September 11, 2001

Images from this morning's moving ceremony in Gloucester to honor all the victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. My hope is that we will all take a few moments to remember not only those lost on that infamous day but also the many military and civilian personnel who continue to protect our great nation from terrorism and making strides in advancing the ideals of democracy.

 



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