Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Pursuing Safety for Men and Women in Commercial Fishing

Here is the text of a letter that I sent to the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Dear Under Secretary Jacobs, Mr. Pentony, and Dr. Hare:

The current waiver from the requirement of At Sea Monitoring (ASM) in the Northeast groundfishery is a critically important safeguard not only for the health and safety of those engaged in this fishery, but also for preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus, and should not be ended as our nation continues to confront devastating impacts of this disease. Accordingly, I write to join with Congressmen Moulton and Congressman Keating and the Massachusetts Fishing Partnership to request that you extend this waiver and the essential health protections that it provides.

Clearly the men and women engaged in commercial fishing are at significant and cognizable risk from infection from COVID-19 due to the inherent conditions of their working environment at sea, which requires them to be close to each other in confined wheelhouses and crew spaces, and working in close proximity to each other on decks to haul and tend gear, sort and stow fish, and maintain and repair the equipment necessary to the operation of a fishing vessel. Because of these known conditions that are conducive to the spread of COVID-19, these harvesters have taken substantial steps to protect themselves from that threat, and they continue to do so. They should not now be forced to contend with the new and serious threat to their health posed by the imposition on board vessels of observers, who have not been part of those efforts and could well become agents and victims of viral transmission as they move between vessels in the groundfish fleet. While the data collected by these observers is neither irrelevant nor without some value, these attributes are not outweighed by the clear health threat to themselves, vessel crews, and the public posed by requiring ASM at this time.

Our nation continues to witness and experience the tragic loss of life, human suffering, and economic devastation from the COVID-19 virus, and across the country rates of transmission in many states are rising sharply, demonstrating the importance of taking and continuing practical steps to prevent or mitigate that transmission. Extending the waiver from ASM is one of those steps, and one that should continue in the face of the ongoing threat we must confront effectively.

Thank you for your attention to this request, and please do not hesitate to contact me if I may be of further assistance.


Baker-Polito Administration Announces Updated Travel Guidelines to Support COVID-19 Response

Today, the Baker-Polito Administration announced new COVID-19 public health guidelines on travel and transportation. Effective Wednesday, July 1, all travelers arriving to Massachusetts, including residents returning home, are instructed to self-quarantine for 14-days. This guidance does not apply to travelers from Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, New York or New Jersey. Additionally, workers designated by the federal government as essential critical infrastructure workers are also exempt from this directive.

Travelers who are displaying symptoms of COVID-19 are instructed to not travel to Massachusetts. All visitors and residents of Massachusetts are also reminded that the use of masks or face coverings in public places where individuals cannot socially distance from others remains required.


Saturday, June 27, 2020

Drought Conditions in Several Regions of Massachusetts

Low precipitation since May and recent above normal temperatures have led to drying conditions across the Commonwealth and steep declines in streamflow in several regions. As a result, Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Kathleen Theoharides declared a Level 2 – Significant Drought in the Northeast, Connecticut River Valley, Western, and Central regions.

At Level 2 – Significant Drought, as outlined in the Massachusetts Drought Management Plan, conditions are becoming significantly dry and warrant detailed monitoring of drought conditions, close coordination among state and federal agencies, emphasis on water conservation, more stringent watering restrictions, and technical outreach and assistance for the affected municipalities.

“The Baker-Polito Administration continues to closely monitor the very dry conditions, and this drought declaration is an important tool which will help officials on all levels of government to work together to address the drought,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides. “While the dry conditions continue and as we enter the summer months, we ask residents and businesses to aggressively conserve water and take increased care with any outdoor burning.”

Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency Director Samantha Phillips stated, “Because of the increased threat of brush and wildland fires due to the dry conditions, the public is urged to exercise caution when using charcoal grills, matches, and other open flames during outdoor activities and to call 911 immediately if there is a fire to prevent the fire from spreading.”

For Regions in Level 2 – Significant Drought
Residents and Businesses:
Minimize overall water use;
Limit outdoor watering to hand-held hoses or watering cans, to be used only after 5 p.m. or before 9 a.m. one day a week.

Immediate Steps for Communities:

Adopt and implement the state’s nonessential outdoor water use restrictions for drought.

Limit or prohibit installation of new sod, seeding, and/or landscaping; watering during or within 48 hours after measurable rainfall; washing of hard surfaces (sidewalks, patios, driveways, siding); personal vehicle or boat washing; operation of non-recirculating fountains; filling of swimming pools, hot tubs, and backyard informal rinks.

Implement drought surcharge or seasonal water rates.
Establish water-use reduction targets for all water users and identify top water users and conduct targeted outreach to help curb their use.
Short- and Medium-Term Steps for Communities:
Establish a year-round water conservation program that includes public education and communication;
Provide timely information to local residents and businesses;
Check emergency inter-connections for water supply; and
Develop a local drought management plan.


Friday, June 26, 2020

Massachusetts Department of Transportation Tobin Bridge/Chelsea Curves Rehabilitation Project Update

Tobin Bridge/Chelsea Curves Rehabilitation Project

Construction Look-Ahead: June 28 – July 11, 2020 This is a brief overview of construction operations and traffic impacts for the Tobin Bridge/Chelsea Curves Rehabilitation Project. MassDOT will provide additional notices as needed for high-impact work, temporary ramp and street closures, and changes to traffic configurations beyond those described below.

ROUTE 1 NORTHBOUND: Approaching the Tobin Bridge from Boston, the work zone begins in the left lane. 2 of 3 travel lanes will be open during daytime hours (5 a.m.–10 p.m.)
ROUTE 1 SOUTHBOUND: Approaching the Chelsea Curves from the North Shore, the work zone begins in the left lane before the Carter Street off-ramp. 2 of 3 travel lanes will be open during daytime hours (5 a.m.–10 p.m.)

The Carter Street off-ramp closure scheduled to begin on Friday, 6/26 has been postponed.

The Silverline busway will continue to have single lane bus traffic where the Line passes through the Silverline Gateway underneath the Chelsea Viaduct. This single lane bus traffic will help to facilitate safe bridge construction. Silverline service will be maintained without interruption or delay using alternating direction bus traffic. The alternation of direction will be controlled by MBTA police and flaggers. The single, alternating lane condition has now been extended through Friday, 7/10.

CARTER STREET: Carter Street will be temporarily closed on 7/6, 7/8, 7/15, and 7/16 during the day from 7 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. WORK HOURS

Most work will occur during daytime working hours (7:00 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. on weekdays. Some work will take place on a 2nd shift (2 p.m. - 1 a.m.) and overnight hours (9 p.m. - 5 a.m.) and on Saturdays (7 a.m. - 7 p.m.)


Senate Passes Patients First Act

Bill expands access to telehealth, protects patients from surprise billing, and enhances quality care

The Massachusetts Senate unanimously passed the Patients First Act, the third piece of signature healthcare legislation advanced by the body to increase access to health care, protect patients, and enhance quality care. The legislation builds on vital lessons learned during the COVID-19 public health crisis, as unprecedented demands on the healthcare system have prompted innovation and the expedited adoption of policy changes.

“When it comes to making telehealth services permanently accessible, ending surprise billing and expanding scope of practice, let me be clear: we cannot wait,” stated Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland).

“Today's passage of the Patients First Act reflects the Senate’s commitment to supporting our healthcare system during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “I applaud my colleagues for voting to expand access to care, including vital telehealth services, while bolstering patient protections. Thank you to Senator Friedman for her tireless efforts to safeguard the healthcare system and thank you to all frontline healthcare workers for keeping us safe in the face of unprecedented challenges.”

"This bill provides important flexibility to ensure that health care is available when and where it is needed during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it also builds a foundation for innovation in the future to achieve quality care that is cost-effective, affordable and sustainable,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R- Gloucester).

The Patients First Act ensures that telehealth services are available across the Commonwealth –services that have experienced a dramatic expansion during the COVID-19 pandemic, enabling patients across the state to continue receiving vital medical care through phone or videoconference without risking exposure to the coronavirus. Experience from the last few months has shown that telehealth has the ability to improve efficiency and expand access to care. These services, however, were not widely utilized before COVID-19.

The bill does the following to put patients first:
Requires insurance carriers, including MassHealth, to cover telehealth services in any case where the same in-person service would be covered. It also ensures that telehealth services include care through audio-only telephone calls, and requires reimbursement rates to match in-person services over the next two years.

Eliminates “surprise billing,” the unfair practice of charging patients who are unaware they received health care services outside of their insurance network for costs that insurance carriers refuse to pay. The situation is common especially prior to a planned procedure, and it can be impossible to avoid uncovered services, particularly in emergency situations.

Expands the scope of practice for several health care professionals, increasing patient access to critical care. The bill would allow registered nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists and psychiatric nurse mental health specialists to practice independently as long as they meet certain education and training standards.

Recognizes pharmacists as health care providers, enabling them to integrate more fully into coordinated care teams.

Creates a new professional license for “dental therapists,” who will be authorized to provide dental hygiene and other oral health services, which will help expand access to dental care in underserved communities.

Tasks state health care oversight agencies to analyze and report on the effects COVID-19 has had on the Commonwealth’s health care delivery system as it relates to accessibility, quality and fiscal sustainability. The analysis will include an inventory of all health care services and resources serving Massachusetts residents from birth to death, as well as an analysis of existing health care disparities due to economic, geographic, racial or other factors.

The passage of the Patients First Act marks the third major piece of healthcare legislation passed in the Senate this session, in addition to the Pharmaceutical Access, Costs and Transparency (PACT) Act and the Mental Health Addressing Barriers to Care (ABC) Act.

The Patients First Act now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.


Thursday, June 25, 2020

Bob Luz, President of the MA Restaurant Association

Up next hour on North Shore 104.9 is Bob Luz, President of the MA Restaurant Association (MRA) Bob joins me and show hosts Erika and Donnie to talk about how the MRA Iis helping the food service industry advance from the Coronavirus era. Restaurants are an important part of our lives and, for nearly 1 in 10 of us, our livelihoods with $18 billion in annual sales in our state.


Wednesday, June 24, 2020

The COVID-19 Outbreak at the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke

The Baker-Polito Administration released the independent report ordered on April 1st by Governor Baker to investigate the COVID-19 outbreak at Holyoke Soldiers’ Home which resulted in 76 deaths. Governor Baker retained Attorney Mark Pearlstein, a former federal prosecutor, to investigate the causes of the tragic events that occurred at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home. The investigation and report was completed independently from the Baker-Polito Administration.Here is a link to the released report https://www.mass.gov/doc/report-to-governor-baker-re-holyoke-soldiers-home/download


Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Sales Tax Holiday Weekend Set For August 29th and 30th

I authored and filed bills to make an annual sales tax holiday permanent for many years. Last legislative session those efforts came to fruition when the House and Senate adopted legislation to do just that.

Now, you can plan for August 29th and 30th as a sales-tax-free holiday. The sales tax holiday allows shoppers to forgo paying the tax on most items, excluding food and drinks at restaurants, on purchases that cost less than $2,500. It is s a limited but effective way to give families some modest relief while also supporting local employers and businesses.


Thursday, June 18, 2020

On Governor Charlie Baker's "Act to Improve Police Officer Standards and Accountability and to Improve Training”.


Massachusetts Announces Additional Administrative Tax Relief Measures for Businesses Across Massachusetts

Governor Charlie Baker, Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, Senate President Karen Spilka and House Speaker Robert DeLeo today announced additional 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 tax relief builds upon previous similar tax extensions and includes postponing the collection of regular sales tax, meals tax, and room occupancy taxes for small businesses that would be due from March through August, so that they will instead be due in September. Additionally, all penalties and interest that would otherwise apply will be waived.

“We are proud to join our colleagues in the Legislature to announce this additional relief for local businesses throughout Massachusetts while we all continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and work to protect the health and safety of the Commonwealth’s residents,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “These administrative changes extend tax relief measures put into place earlier in March and will allow additional support for local companies including small businesses in the restaurant and hospitality industries.”

“The Commonwealth is carrying out a historic response to the COVID-19 crisis,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “We continue to seek ways to provide local businesses with tools, resources, and support to help reopen the Massachusetts economy while also ensuring key public health measures are in place.”

“From the start of the COVID-19 public health crisis, the Senate has actively sought to act quickly, creatively and collaboratively to mitigate the effects of this pandemic,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka. “This tax collection adjustment is an example of this willingness to change the way we do business during these extraordinary times, and will help ease the burden restaurants face as they restart and recover.”

“The House has been proud to provide local businesses with a toolkit of resources to help them weather the economic realities resulting from COVID,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo. “In addition to the House’s multifaceted restaurant relief package, we believe that a deferral of tax collections will provide the restaurant and hospitality industry with a measure of stability and clarity.”

Businesses that paid less than $150,000 in regular sales plus meals taxes in the year ending February 29, 2020 will be eligible for relief for sales and meals taxes, and businesses that paid less than $150,000 in room occupancy taxes in the year ending February 29, 2020 will be eligible for relief with respect to room occupancy taxes.

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


Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Senate Unanimously Passes Comprehensive Elections Bill to Address

Voting Safety Concerns during COVID-19 

The Massachusetts State Senate unanimously passed legislation to expand voter access and address safety for all remaining 2020 elections, including the September 1, 2020 state primary and November 3, 2020 general election, in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill, An Act relative to voting options in response to COVID-19, would, for the first time in state history, give all eligible residents the opportunity to vote early for the state primary and general election, allow residents to vote-by-mail, and expand absentee ballot access.

“One of our most important duties is to ensure we have an accessible and inclusive election process that is free and fair,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D -Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “I applaud Senate President Spilka and Senator Finegold for their leadership to preserve equal access to safe and secure voting options for all voters the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and my colleagues for taking action to remove barriers and safeguard our democracy by ensuring all voices are heard without putting our communities at risk during this uncertain time.”

“While almost every dimension of our lives has been disrupted because of the COVID-19 pandemic, our system of elections is the bedrock of our democracy and must continue to function. The measures contained in this bill expand options to facilitate voting while at the same time protecting the integrity of the process and the health of voters,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R - Gloucester).
v The bill does the following:
· Implements an early vote-by-mail system: An application to receive an early voting ballot will be mailed to all registered voters by July 15, 2020. The Secretary will then mail another application for the general election in the voter booklet sent out in the fall. Both applications and ballots will be postage paid.

· Creates early voting for the primary and expands early voting periods: For the first time in Massachusetts, early voting will be available for the state primary, to take place from Saturday, August 22, 2020 through Friday, August 28, 2020. Early voting for the general election would take place from Tuesday, October 17, 2020 to Friday, October 30, 2020. Early voting hours would vary according to the size of the municipality in order to give voters ample opportunity to participate while not overburdening small towns’ election departments. Voters may return their early voting ballot in the mail, in a secure drop box, or in person.

· Tasks the Secretary of State with creating an online portal: The bill requires Secretary Galvin’s office to create an online portal by October 1, 2020 to make it as easy as possible for people to apply for general election early voting ballots electronically.

· Expands absentee voting: The bill provides for absentee voting by any person taking precautions related to COVID-19. Voters may also return absentee ballots via a secure drop box.

· Provides tools to assist clerks: Acknowledging the increased burden these options may place on municipalities and clerks, the bill also provides for several accommodations to make the logistics of processing votes easier. The legislation allows for tabulating ballots prior to election day, and it offers pre-addressed envelopes to voters, so their applications go directly to their clerk’s office.

· Makes in-person voting more efficient: The bill allows municipalities to consolidate polling places and eliminate the check-out table at these locations, allowing for a more efficient process and fewer poll workers. It also expands who is eligible to serve as a poll worker, knowing that many current volunteers are seniors who may feel less comfortable working in public during COVID-19.

The legislation must now be reconciled with the Massachusetts House of Representatives


Senate Approves Voting Options Bill in Response to COVID-19

After working through 41 amendments, the Senate voted on an overhaul bill that would make changes for the September Primary and November. 3rd General Election.

The bill requires the Secretary of State to mail every registered voter an application for a mail-in ballot by mid-July and it expands early voting hours to help limit the risk of COVID-19 at polling places.


Tuesday, June 16, 2020

A Happy 100th Birthday For Mrs. Bertha Cook

I visited yesterday with Berth Cook at the Port Healthcare Center in Newburyport to present her with a Senate Citation in recognition of her centennial birthday. From June 15, 1920, to this very day Bertha has made people smile.

Bertha was always very active in her hometown of Rowley with her husband Lenard. He was the Fire Chief for many years and later served as a Selectman. Jack, their son has also been a civic leader for many years.


Childcare Expert Sue Todd on North Shore 104.9 this Morning

Joining me this morning at 9:20 on North Shore 104.9 is Sue Todd the CEO and President of Pathways for Children. Early care and education has been a key priority, made particularly more challenging during the Covid-19 emergency. Sue has been a champion for children for 4 decades.

Pathways is a leading provider of education and care programs on the North Shore serving over 500 children and their families from 14 communities. They operate year-round programming, including Head Start and Early Head Start, They serve children birth to age 13 and their families. They have centers in Gloucester, Beverly and Salem.


Monday, June 15, 2020

Pop-Up Testing Sites for Participants of Large Gatherings

Today, the Baker-Polito Administration announced the availability of pop-up COVID-19 testing sites throughout the Commonwealth for individuals who have recently participated in large gatherings. These free testing sites will be available at over 50 sites throughout the Commonwealth on Wednesday, June 17th and Thursday, June 18th. The Administration is urging anyone who has attended a large gathering in the past two weeks to get tested for COVID-19 at one of these sites. Test results will be provided to each participant confidentially, and participants are encouraged to share these results with their doctors.

A full list of all testing sites is available at www.mass.gov/gettested.

Social distancing, wearing face coverings, the frequent use of disinfectant and handwashing have been important to the Commonwealth’s efforts to decrease the number and rate of newly confirmed positive cases. COVID-19 can spread easily and quickly in large groups of people who are in close contact. Some people do not have symptoms but may have the virus and could spread the virus to others, including family members.

The Administration has worked with partners across the Commonwealth to provide these sites including Baystate Health, Berkshire Medical Center, Beth Israel Lahey Health, Brockton Community Health Center, Brookside Community Health Center, Cambridge Health Alliance, Community Health Connections, CVS, Fairview Hospital, Lawrence General Hospital, Lynn Community Health Center, Massachusetts General Hospital Chelsea, Outer Cape Health Services, Manet Community Health Center, and UMass Medical Center.

To date, Massachusetts has tested more than 700,000 people for COVID-19. On average, 10,000 individuals are tested each day, comprising 4.4% of the state’s population each month. The state currently has capacity at 45 labs to perform up to 30,000 COVID-19 tests per day, and its nursing home testing strategies have been replicated by states across the country.

The Administration continues to prioritize expanding access to testing, with a key focus of that strategy being ensuring access to testing in skilled nursing facilities, rest homes, and assisted living residences and other 24/7 staffed congregate care settings. On May 30, 2020, the Administration filed its required federal plan to expand COVID-19 testing under the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act of 2020. Massachusetts has received $374 million in federal funding from the Act.

This funding will help the Commonwealth implement a comprehensive testing strategy that includes:
Increasing lab testing capacity to 45,000 by the end of July;
Goal of reducing and maintaining a positive test rate to less than 5 percent;
Ensuring on-demand access to testing for all symptomatic individuals and their close contacts;
Increasing access to testing for vulnerable and high-risk populations;
Building a testing infrastructure to support a potential second surge;
Modernizing public technology infrastructure to provide real-time data on cases and testing; and
Operating a best-in-class contact tracing program.


Thursday, June 11, 2020

Senate Passes Bill to Protect Residents from Mosquito-Borne EEE Virus

The State Senate today passed legislation that will help protect residents from Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), a mosquito-borne arbovirus that is rare but can be fatal. The legislation comes as the state prepares for what is expected to be another active season for mosquitos across the state.

“With the mosquito season already underway, we must act quickly to protect our residents from the potentially deadly effects of EEE,” stated Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “This bill will establish a comprehensive and coordinated approach to tackling EEE that will reach all corners of the Commonwealth.”

Last year, Massachusetts saw a resurgence of EEE, with more than two hundred communities designated as moderate to critical risk by the Department of Public Health (DPH). The virus is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito and can impact humans of any age as well as animals. Massachusetts typically experiences outbreaks every 10-20 years, and the outbreak can last for two to three years. In September 2019, the DPH confirmed three deaths due to EEE.

“To better prepare for serious public health risks like EEE, it is important our Commonwealth takes steps to mitigate the risks and protect the well-being of our communities from the threat of mosquito-borne illnesses,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D – Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.

"We all saw what happened last year with the rapid expansion of Eastern Equine Encephalitis, and the consequences of it. That is why this bill strikes a careful balance between the state government's responsibility to respond to an emergent public health situation while properly protecting the environment, including a recognition of the plight of pollinators, as well as the interests of property owners and municipalities so that the spraying is correctly tailored to the threat," said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R -Gloucester).

The bill authorizes the State Reclamation and Mosquito Control Board (SRMCB) to take actions to reduce the mosquito population if the Department of Public Health determines there may be an elevated risk of EEE.

These actions include public education, surveillance of the mosquito population, elimination of standing water and application of larvicides that safely prevent mosquitoes from becoming adults. The SRMCB would also be authorized to conduct aerial pesticide spraying, subject to notifying the public and putting in place procedural safeguards.. Certain landowners, such as owners of organic farms, may apply to opt-out of spraying, and a municipality may opt-out of spraying if the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs approves an alternative mosquito management plan provided by the municipality. The bill also creates a Mosquito Control for the 21st Century Task Force to recommend reforms to modernize and improve the state’s mosquito control system.

The bill now moves to the Massachusetts House of Representatives.


Senate to Launch COVID-19 Listening Session on Economic Recovery, Reinvestment & Workforce

Friday, June 12 at 11AM by watching live online and/or offering questions for us to ask. The listening session will be a chance for the Senate members to hear from the Baker administration, labor, the business community, and other important stakeholders to continue our discussion on the future of the Commonwealth's economy and workforce.

These listening sessions will help inform the Senate’s work on an economic development and jobs bill and what is needed to put people back to work and stimulate Massachusetts’ economy.

Here is a link so that you can watch it live https://malegislature.gov/Events/SpecialEvents/Detail/353

The full agenda:
  • 11AM-12PM – Retail and restaurants Jon Hurst, Massachusetts Retailers Association Bob Luz, Massachusetts Restaurants Association 
  • 12PM-1PM – Administration and Reopening Advisory Board Secretary Kennealy, Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development Secretary Acosta, Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development 
  • 1-2PM – Labor Tim Foley, SEIU 1199 Carlos Aramayo, Unite Here Yamila Ruiz, One Fair Wage 
  • 2PM-3PM – Business John Regan, Associated Industries of Massachusetts Segun Idowu, Black Economic Council of Massachusetts Jim Rooney, Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce 3-4PM – Unemployment Insurance Monica Halas, Greater Boston Legal Services


Tuesday, June 9, 2020

New Senate Rules

The Senate has adopted an order to protect the public, staff, and members of the Senate by adopting additional methods of voting and participation during Senate sessions. As a member of the committee which developed this order, I considered the guidance of public health professionals, the Governor, and other governmental officials.



Monday, June 8, 2020

Reopening Massachusetts Plans And Guidance

A brief review of the second phase of the reopening Massachusetts plan which began today.


Friday, June 5, 2020

The Massachusetts Department of Revenue announced that preliminary revenue collections for May totaled $1.738 billion. This is $320 million, or 15.6%, less than the benchmark, and $262 million or 13.1% less than the actual collections in May 2019.

For the fiscal year-to-date through May, revenue collections totaled $24.782 billion, $1.726 billion or 6.5% less than the same fiscal year-to-date period in 2019, and $2.253 billion

The net figure for revenue collections in May is influenced by the individual tax filing season, which generates both inflows and refund outflows during the month. Individual tax returns continue to be received and processed in May, although in a volume well below the peak levels of March and April.

  • DOR has received 20% fewer income tax returns through May 31st than the same period last year, which is mostly due to the 2019 return filing and payment date extension. 
  • Income tax collections for May were $1.123 billion, $31 million or 2.7% below benchmark, and $12 million less than May 2019. 
  • Withholding tax collections for May totaled $1.121 billion, $116 million or 11.5% above benchmark, and $140 million or 14.3% more than May 2019. 
  • Income tax estimated payments totaled $25 million for May, $1 million or 4.5% more than benchmark, but $0.2 million or 0.8% less than May 2019. 
  • Income tax returns and bills totaled $74 million for May, $135 million or 64.8% less than benchmark, and $137 million or 65.1% less than May 2019.


Thursday, June 4, 2020

Tobin Bridge/Chelsea Curves Rehabilitation Project Updates from Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

Route 1 Northbound Lane Shift

Beginning on Monday, June 8, 2020 at 9:00 p.m. and concluding by 5:00 a.m. on Tuesday, June 9, traffic will be shifted in the Northbound work zone in the Chelsea Viaduct portion of the combined Tobin Bridge/Chelsea Curves Rehabilitation project.

Currently, the two lanes of Northbound traffic are pushed to the east side of the viaduct with traffic traveling in the center and right lanes. Following the operation, the two lanes of Northbound traffic will shift into the median area, currently under construction, placing traffic into the left and center lanes. The area of the shift will be between the 6th Street on-ramp, approximately opposite the FBI office building to Orange Street, just North of the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Swimming Pool.

Drivers traveling north are advised to choose their lanes as early as possible when crossing the Tobin Bridge to avoid congestion at the point of the lane shift. Motorists should likewise take care to pay attention to all signage and move carefully through the work zone. Police details, lane markings, temporary barriers, traffic cones, signage, and other tools will be used to control traffic and create safe work zones.

Project information and how to stay informed:
Public transit options: mbta.com/TobinBridge
Live and personalized traffic reports: mass511.com
MBTA parking lot capacity updates: @MBTA_Parking on Twitter


Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer Program

The P-EBT is additional money for families to buy food while schools are closed due to COVID-19. Families will get $5.70 per child per day for every day school is closed .

Using P-EBT does NOT impact you or your child’s immigration status. The public charge rule does NOT apply to P-EBT benefits
Use P-EBT with grab and go student meal sites
Got a P-EBT card in the mail and not sure how to PIN it? See the instructions below or visit http://map-ebt.org. You will need the DTA letter to activate your card - this letter was mailed separately from the card.

Up next on North Shore 104.9 with Erika and Donnie will be Ann Marie Casey, Executive Director of the North of Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau. I join Erika and Donnie each and every workday morning to bring you leaders from industry and government, extraordinary citizens, and the latest information about the state's actions to help control the spread of the Coronavirus.

You can tune in at 104.9 FM or live stream at https://streamdb4web.securenetsystems.net/cirrusencore/WBOQ


Wednesday, June 3, 2020

I am committed to eradicating the evils of racism in our state and in our country.


DCR Reopens Agency-Managed Golf Courses

New Measures in Place to Enable Social Distancing and Reduce the Spread of COVID-19

Today, the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) has reopened Ponkapoag Golf Course in the Town of Canton and Leo J. Martin Memorial Golf Course in the Town of Weston for the public to utilize. Importantly, the facilities will have several new measures in place that will aid users with social distancing and reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

At this time, golfing will only be allowed for in-state residents, which will be determined by vehicle license plate. The agency has installed new Pay & Display Machines at both golf facilities, enabling users to make payment outside of the clubhouse. The opportunity to reserve tee times will be done by phone and in advance only. Tee times will be scheduled in 18-minute intervals with season ticket holders able to reserve a time three days in advance and general public users two days in advance. Additionally, DCR has placed signage throughout the facilities to remind users of new rules that have been put in place, which include:

Players are required to book a starting time in advance of play. Walk-on play is prohibited. Visit DCR’s Golf Interim Guidelines webpage for contact information. Players must remain in their vehicles until 18 minutes prior to their scheduled tee time. All players must bring their own golf equipment and players may not share equipment.

Participants must respect social distancing guidelines throughout course play, such as maintaining six feet of separation and/or wearing a facial mask or covering.
Flagsticks must remain in their holes, and hole liners will be raised so picking a ball out of the hole doesn’t occur.
Participants are asked to play “ready golf”, and to be aware of pace of play.

Once a round of golf is complete, participants must leave the facility.
Clubhouses and concessions will remain closed.
Congregating in the parking areas is prohibited.

For up-to-date information on state parks during the COVID-19 public health emergency, please visit the agency’s Massachusetts State Parks COVID-19 Updates webpage.


Monday, June 1, 2020

Governor Baker Issues Executive Order in Advance of Phase II

Executive Order updates reopening phases with details on additional sectors Allows Phase II Enterprises to begin preparations to resume in advance of Phase II Details rules required in advance of resuming amateur sports, outdoor dining

Today, Governor Charlie Baker issued an Executive Order that provides a detailed list of businesses and activities that fall into Phases II, III, and IV of the Commonwealth’s Re-Opening Plan. The Order also permits all Phase II enterprises, including retail, to begin preparations to safely resume operation in advance of the start of the second phase. In addition to the retail sector, the Executive Order details further requirements for the safe resumption of amateur youth and adult sports and outdoor dining.

Effective immediately, the Executive Order permits Phase II businesses to reopen their physical workplaces to workers only to conduct necessary preparations prior to the start of Phase II. Preparations include but are not limited to completing a COVID-19 Control Plan, implementing sector-specific protocols, and complying with Mandatory Workplace Safety Standards.

For Reopening Phase II Executive Order, click here.

For Childcare Provider Reopening Order, click here.


Retailers: Retail stores will transition from curbside pickup and delivery-only to browsing and in-store transactions with restrictions at the start of Phase II.

Social distancing guidance requires each retail store to monitor customer entries and exits and limit occupancy at all times to either 8 persons (including store staff) per 1,000 square feet of accessible, indoor space, or 40% of the retail store’s maximum permitted occupancy, whichever is greater.

Grocery stores and retail stores with pharmacy services must provide at least one hour of dedicated time for adults 60 years of age and older, while all stores are encouraged to offer exclusive hours or other accommodations for high-risk populations. For staffing, stores should adjust workplace hours and shifts, including leveraging staggered arrival / departure, to minimize contact across workers and to allow for on-going and off-hour sanitation and cleaning. Stores should also conduct frequent disinfecting of heavy transit areas and high-touch surfaces.

Operators of enclosed shopping malls and other indoor, multi-tenant retail spaces must monitor customer and worker entries and exits to common areas and limit occupancy of common areas at all times to 40% of maximum permitted occupancy levels. Mall amenities like seating in food courts, children’s play areas, and arcades must remain closed, while mall food vendors and restaurants may only provide take-out or delivery service.

Once Phase II begins, these standards will apply to all retail businesses except for Farmers’ Markets, which shall continue to be governed by Department of Public Health guidance. These standards will supersede and replace existing Department of Public Health guidance governing grocery stores and pharmacies.

Retailers that have been defined as providing Essential Services pursuant to COVID-19 Order No. 13 will be required to comply with these sector-specific safety protocols within one week of the date that Retailers are authorized to open pursuant to the Governor’s Phase II Reopening Order.

For full retail business guidance, click here.

Sports: The Order also allows organizers of amateur sports programs for youths and adults to open their premises to staff only to make preparations in advance of the start of Phase II. In addition to requiring generally applicable COVID-19 workplace standards, the Order specifies that during Phase II organized sports programs will operate under the following provisions:

Limiting traditional contact sports to no-contact drills and practices; Prohibiting games, scrimmages, and tournaments; Separating participants to into groups of 10 or less; Restricting the use of indoor athletic facilities to supervised sports programs and sport camps for youths under the age of 18.
Further sector-specific guidance for youth and adult amateur sports programs will be issued in the coming days. Subject to the implementation of COVID-19 health and safety rules adopted by respective leagues, this Order permits professional sports organizations to reopen their premises to employees and other workers for practices and training; however, professional sports organizations are not allowed to engage in inter-team games and sporting facilities will remain closed to the public.

Restaurants: Lastly, the Order permits restaurants to provide outdoor dining service with restrictions upon the start of Phase II; providing continued positive progression of public health data, indoor dining may be authorized by a subsequent order during Phase II. In order to provide improved opportunities for outdoor table service, the order also provides flexibility to a local licensing authority to grant approval for a change for any type of license that permits the sale of alcoholic beverages for on- premises consumption. In both outdoor and indoor dining cases, restaurants will be required to comply with sector-specific COVID-19 workplace safety rules for restaurants.

On May 18th, the Baker-Polito Administration released Reopening Massachusetts, the Reopening Advisory Board’s report, which details a four-phased strategy to responsibly reopen businesses and activities while continuing to fight COVID-19.