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Budget Includes Ignition Lock Devices for First-Time OUI Offenders

In addition to the abortion access proposal that's generated headlines in recent weeks, state budget negotiators have also agreed to another major policy change: a Senate proposal to authorize ignition interlock devices for first-time drunk driving offenders.

MBTA Service Cuts Not Necessary, T Advisory Board Says

The MBTA overestimated its budget deficit and could erase its argument for a controversial package of service cuts by using a less conservative outlook, according to an independent oversight panel representing cities and towns that help fund the transit system and are served by it.

State Tax Revenues Eclipse Total For Last November

When this fiscal year ends, budget managers expect that it will have generated about 6 percent less tax revenue for the state than the last. But almost halfway into fiscal year 2021, state tax collections are still running ahead of the pace set in fiscal 2020 and moved even further ahead last month.

Frustrated Walsh Gives Voice to “Shutting Things Down”

Boston stands at a crucial inflection point in the pandemic's latest surge, and the arc of case growth over the next few days could determine whether city leaders reinstate a near-total shutdown, Mayor Martin Walsh warned Thursday. In Walsh's view, the city has already deployed almost every resource and strategy -- a curfew, a mask mandate, shuttered school buildings and more -- it can to combat the spread of the highly infectious coronavirus.

No Deal, But Mariano Says Negotiators “Close” on Health Care Accord

House-Senate negotiators are "close" to a deal on health care legislation dealing with access to telehealth services in Massachusetts, according to one top member of the conference committee.

Senate Session Summary - Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020

The Senate saved its most significant item for last Thursday -- an order to return Friday afternoon for a full formal Senate session to consider the compromise fiscal year 2021 budget that House and Senate negotiators were expected to file later Thursday afternoon. Between prolonged recesses, the Senate advanced a handful of sick leave bank bills and legislation with local importance to Milton, Lowell, Dedham, Gloucester, Weston and Boston. Senators will return to consider the compromise budget at 1 p.m. Friday.

Baker Expects 300,000 Vaccine Doses in Mass. by End of Month

Massachusetts expects to receive around 300,000 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the month, though the start of the distribution process could be a little "lumpy," Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday.

House Session Summary - Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020

The House tended to a slew of local bills Thursday and kept their session open all day while talk of a deal on the full fiscal 2021 general budget circulated.

At Worcester Field Hospital, Baker Says Second Unit Going Up in Lowell

Hoping to avoid the same kind of pressure that stretched the state's health care system thin in the spring, Gov. Charlie Baker's administration is working to get field hospitals up and running again around the state amid a second deluge of coronavirus activity that is showing no signs of receding.

“TBD” May Be Code For Long-Awaited Budget Accord

The House and Senate appeared to be holding open their sessions Thursday in anticipation of a possible agreement on a full-year budget, or in its absence a potential need to pass another interim budget.

Mass. Hospital Margins Fell Despite CARES Act Aid

Hospital margins in Massachusetts fell in the second quarter despite a massive infusion of federal and state COVID-19 relief funds. About half of Massachusetts hospitals reported positive fiscal margins in the quarter that ended June 30, but the median margin was under 1 percent, despite an infusion of government COVID-19 relief funds, and fell 4.3 percentage points from the same period in 2019, according to data released Thursday by the state.

At Worcester Field Hospital, Baker Says Second Unit Going Up in Lowell

[Coverage Developing] The Worcester field hospital being readied amid a second surge of COVID-19 will have "a lot more capacity" than it did when it was active in the spring, Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday morning, and it will be ready to take patients Sunday.

Healey Concerned by No-Knock Warrant Proposals

Attorney General Maura Healey is calling the police reform bill passed by the Legislature this week a "meaningful step forward for justice and accountability," but the state's top law enforcement officer has concerns about the bill's approach to no-knock warrants and is reviewing limits put on the use of facial recognition software.

Fed Report Examines Local Economic Indicators

The regional economy continued its plodding recovery during October and into November but persistent uncertainty fogs a cautiously optimistic outlook for the coming months, the Federal Reserve Bank said in its latest Beige Book update Wednesday.

Balance of Power in Play on Proposed Police Board

As the death of George Floyd began to galvanize Beacon Hill around the idea of joining the majority of other states that certify police officers, a group of Black and Latino lawmakers began meeting with police union leaders in mid-June to discuss a path forward.

Insurers Launch Major Study of Telehealth Inequities

Massachusetts health insurers are launching a new research project that aims to get a handle on inequities in telehealth usage and recommend ways to bring down barriers to access. Telehealth has surged in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic, offering a way for patients to keep up with their care without leaving home and risking exposure to the highly infectious virus.

It’s Long Overdue, But Rodrigues Not Rushing Budget

As state government rolls into the sixth month of the fiscal year still operating on stopgap spending authorizations, the Senate's budget chief said Tuesday that while a resolution to the fiscal 2021 budget could be close at hand he does not want to "rush" finalizing the bill.

Virus Cutting Into Available Watershed Protection Staff

COVID-19 may be starting to catch up to the agencies responsible for monitoring and protecting public water supplies, but a persistent watershed protection staffing shortage looms as a more serious threat, officials said Wednesday.

Reps Fear Pandemic Being Used to Delay Gun Licenses

A new bill filed by a Webster Republican would create a process for Massachusetts residents to be able to apply for a gun license during the COVID-19 pandemic without first having to get fingerprinted by local police as is normally required. Rep. Joseph McKenna said his bill is meant to prevent cities and towns from using the pandemic "as an excuse to deny someone their constitutional rights to obtain a license to carry."

House, Senate Sign Off On $46.2 Billion Budget

[Coverage Developing] The House votes 147-10 and the Senate 40-0 to pass a $46.2 billion fiscal 2021 budget, which is on its way to Gov. Baker's desk today, more than five months into the fiscal year.

Uncaptioned image for story:Wendlandt Becomes Second SJC Justice Sworn In This Week

Wendlandt Becomes Second SJC Justice Sworn In This Week

Judge Dalila Argaez Wendlandt officially joined the Supreme Judicial Court on Friday in the second swearing-in ceremony for the high court this week.

An assistant clerk looked over the signatures on the fiscal 2021 budget agreement after it was handed over by House Ways and Means Chief of Staff Blake Webber (center) around 7:30 p.m. Thursday, while Senate Ways and Means Budget Director Christopher Marino (left) held the weighty text of the $46.2 billion spending plan. [Sam Doran/SHNS]

Negotiators Push Spending to $46.2 Bil in Budget Accord

A final, long-overdue annual budget to be voted on Friday proposes to spend $46.2 billion in the fiscal year that is almost half over, and Democratic leaders will present Gov. Charlie Baker with another tough decision for the Republican on how to respond to an expansion of abortion access in Massachusetts.

Dr. Kenneth Duckworth of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Baystate Health President and CEO Dr. Mark Keroack, Lynn Community Health Center CEO Dr. Kiame Mahaniah and Lora Pellegrini of the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans discussed the future of telehealth during a Massachusetts Health Policy Forum webinar. [Screenshot]

Telehealth Pivot Called “Fastest” in Mental Health History

As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in Massachusetts, telehealth transformed from "a dusty back road that no one took" into a 16-lane highway, Dr. Kenneth Duckworth said Thursday.

Rep. Aaron Michlewitz of Boston and Sen. Michael Rodrigues of Westport are the Legislature's lead budget writers. [Sam Doran/SHNS/File 2020]

Lawmakers Reach “Agreement in Principle” on Overdue Budget

House and Senate leaders struck a deal Thursday on a long-overdue state budget that proposes to spend roughly $46 billion in fiscal 2021, which began in July.

Uncaptioned image for story:Poftak: MBTA Cuts "Not Permanent," Target "Primarily Non-Essential Services"

Poftak: MBTA Cuts “Not Permanent,” Target “Primarily Non-Essential Services”

The Baker administration pushed back Thursday against a new poll that found not only opposition to proposed cuts in MBTA service levels, but skepticism over whether eliminated bus and ferry routes and reduced train schedules would be restored if the T's finances improve after the pandemic.

Proposed MBTA cuts include less frequent subway and commuter trains. [SHNS/File]

Residents Believe Cut MBTA Services Won’t Return

A majority of Massachusetts residents believe that if the MBTA sharply cuts back on services to balance its budget next year those commuting options will not return after the state's economy fully reopens, according to a new MassINC poll.

Supreme Judicial Court nominee Serge Georges Jr. fielded questions from Governor's Council members at a public interview Wednesday. [Sam Doran/SHNS]

Georges Poised to Bring District Court Perspective to SJC

On the doorstep of reaching the state's highest court, Boston Municipal Court Judge Serge Georges Jr. acknowledged the impact of systemic racism on criminal justice and defended his peers who "try to get it right every day."

Who’s On The Move? Check The Personnel File

... There's change afoot at the top of two major organizations that have had stable leadership for nearly two decades ... A Mattapan native has been selected to lead the city of Boston's civic engagement efforts ... And a former Boston Herald reporter has launched his own public relations consultancy ...

Cowan: Nominee Georges Dedicated to Fairness, Justice and Honor

[Story Developing] The Governor's Council could cap a year of international turmoil with "hope and the promise of possibility" by approving the nomination of Boston Municipal Court Judge Serge Georges Jr. to the state's highest court, former U.S. Sen. Mo Cowan said Wednesday.

Early Edu Wants In on Rapid Testing Program

Early education advocates are asking Gov. Charlie Baker to include their sector in a rapid-testing program being rolled out in K-12 schools. The Early Education for All campaign wrote a letter Monday to Baker, saying its members have been advocating for improved early education testing measures but that child care providers' requests "have gone largely unanswered."

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Latest COVID-19 Figures in Mass.

Data as of 5 p.m. Wednesday.
New Confirmed Cases4,613
Total Confirmed Cases225,787
Total Deaths10,824

Of Interest

State House Takeout Podcast

The Mass. Almanac – free to subscribers through 2020 – includes up-to-date info on replacements in the Executive agencies, a quick reference to legislators not returning in 2021, and much more info on the people who make the government run.

Click here to learn more

State House News Service