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Advances - Week of Oct. 17

House and Senate Democrats are more than halfway through the fall stretch of formal sessions and most of their agenda items are still under wraps, an approach that will lead to either a compressed period of significant activity or further delays on important issues.

Mass. Gaming Revenues Set Three-Month Record

The last three months rank as the top three for state gaming revenues since legal betting began more than six years ago, cumulatively generating nearly 10 percent of all of the gaming tax revenue collected to date.

Baker Signs School Meals Bill

Gov. Charlie Baker on Thursday signed a new state law that focuses on students' access to school meals, with provisions around free breakfast and lunch as well as unpaid meal debt.

Emergency Meeting Called To Address Violence in Lawrence Schools

Elected officials in Lawrence have called an emergency meeting for Monday evening to address violence in their schools and they want state Education Commissioner Jeff Riley to join them.

Federal Vax Mandate Case “Under Advisement” Following Arguments

With just days until the deadline for executive branch employees to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19, a federal judge on Thursday took "under advisement" the request made by correction officers to block Gov. Charlie Baker's mandate from taking effect on Monday.

Senate Session Summary - Thursday, Oct. 14

The Senate shipped a $303 million spending bill to Gov. Charlie Baker's desk Thursday afternoon to close the books on fiscal 2021, which ended June 30, and address unpaid bills. The state comptroller must finalize the books on the fiscal year that ends each June 30 and file the state's annual Statutory Basis Financial Report by each Oct. 31.

Whelan Eyeing Jump from House to Barnstable Sheriff’s Office

Three of the state's 14 county sheriffs are former state representatives, and Rep. Timothy Whelan hopes to add his name to that list next year.

Lawrence Compiling Data In Bid For CCC’s DIA List

Marijuana regulators spoke this week with the mayor of Lawrence and are working with the city as it compiles the data necessary to make the case that the Merrimack Valley city should be included on the list of municipalities that the Cannabis Control Commission considers to have been disproportionately affected by marijuana prohibition.

Genocide Education Bill Moving Through the Senate

All middle and high schools in Massachusetts would be required to teach students about the history of genocide under a bill that cleared the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Thursday.

Economic Experts See Payoff From Equity Investments

With the Legislature and local governments beginning to make decisions on how to spend billions of dollars in federal relief funding, two economic experts on Thursday urged policymakers to be mindful of equity as they chart a path forward for recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

House Session Summary - Thursday, Oct. 14

The Legislature sent Gov. Charlie Baker a $303 million supplemental budget (H 4200) Thursday that closes out the books on fiscal year 2021.

Researchers: Evidence Insufficent To Back THC Concentration Cap

There is strong demand among marijuana users for products with high concentrations of THC, the main psychoactive compound that provides many of the drug's cognitive effects, but Cannabis Control Commission researchers said there is not enough scientific evidence of the risks of high-potency products to recommend setting a limit.

House Gives Roar of Approval to State Dino Bill

Massachusetts is a step closer to becoming the land of the swift-footed lizard after the House passed legislation (H 3190) on Thursday naming the Podokesaurus holyokensis as the official state dinosaur.

Baker Scraps Wind Price Cap in $750 Mil Clean Energy Bill

Gov. Charlie Baker announced sweeping legislation Wednesday to reshape the way Massachusetts procures offshore wind power, proposing to use $750 million in federal stimulus funds to establish a clean energy investment fund and jettisoning the requirement that each project carries a lower price than the one that came before it.

Info Privacy Act Aims To Create “Bright Line Rules”

Personal information security legislation pending on Beacon Hill targets a common feature of internet life: the "click-to-agree" privacy policies and terms of use pages that pop up, requiring a user's consent to often lengthy explanations and disclaimers before they can proceed. "Who reads them? Nobody," Rep. Dave Rogers said. "No one, but we want to be on Facebook or we want to be on countless other things, so we just click 'OK.'"

Seatbelt Use Rates Dropped During Pandemic

Massachusetts has long had one of the lowest seatbelt use rates in the nation, and those figures dropped "dramatically" during the pandemic, a AAA official told lawmakers Wednesday.

Lawmakers Push Surplus Decisions Deeper Into Fall

Sitting on roughly $5 billion in unbudgeted tax revenue from last year, the House on Wednesday passed a $303 million budget to cover old expenses, but delayed choices on how to spend the bulk of the surplus until later this fall as the Legislature also considers how to use billions of dollars in American Rescue Plan Act funds.

Rep. Russell Holmes of Mattapan, a past chair of the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus, stands on a curbstone behind the Beacon Hill press corps as he listens to a news conference Tuesday in Ashburton Park about the Redistricting Committee's proposed constituency maps. [Sam Doran/SHNS]

Weekly Roundup - Demography Meets Cartography

Almost like a business, the Legislature every 10 years goes through a corporate reorganization and the employees, in this case 200 legislators, are forced to wonder what their fate holds.

Redistricting Committee Co-chair Sen. Will Brownsberger, pictured at a Tuesday press conference where he released the Senate's proposed map changes, faced criticism at a hearing Friday about the map not combining Brockton and Randolph into a single district.  "If there was a Voting Rights claim there, believe me, we would do it," he said. [Sam Doran/SHNS]

Senate Faces Blowback Over Proposed Districts

Voting rights advocates knocked the Senate redistricting proposal as "overcautious." A state representative with eyes on a seat in the other chamber slammed the potential split of Haverhill as "robbing Peter to pay Paul." And in the most visible sign yet that internal dissent is rumbling, a member of the Senate called for her colleagues to just hit pause and reconsider its map.

Worcester Voting Settlement Would Reshape School Committee Elections

Worcester officials and a coalition of voters who filed a federal lawsuit alleging the city's School Committee structure illegally dilutes the electoral power of communities of color have reached an agreement that would make November's municipal election the final time the current entirely at-large system is used.

Jaywalking Bill Knocked As “Just Not Realistic”

Warning against a punitive approach, transportation advocates on Thursday urged lawmakers not to advance legislation imposing stricter punishments on pedestrians who do not use crosswalks.

Economic Experts See Payoff From Equity Investments

[Story Developing] With the Legislature and local governments beginning to make decisions on how to spend billions of dollars in federal relief funding, two economic experts on Thursday urged policymakers to be mindful of equity as they chart a path forward for recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Connector Call Center Recovering From “Bad Stumble”

The Massachusetts Health Connector took a "bad stumble" as it transitioned to a new call center vendor this week but has since diagnosed and addressed the problem that created access hurdles for members, the agency's director said Thursday.

Healey To FERC: Overhaul Power Transmission Planning

Attorney General Maura Healey is calling this week upon federal regulators to take a longer-range view of transmission planning to account for the planned deployment of offshore wind and other renewable energy sources.

Map Makers Use Light Touch On Leaders' Districts

Voters in the eastern part of Natick, meet your potential new state senator: Senate President Karen Spilka. And voters in segments of Franklin, prepare to say farewell to being represented by the chamber's top Democrat.

Pacheco Passes On Auditor’s Run

A state senator with his eyes on higher office has opted against a state auditor's run and instead endorsed one of his colleagues who is already in the race to succeed Auditor Suzanne Bump.

DPH Chief Sees “Very Good Trend” On COVID-19 Cases

The state's acting public health commissioner said Wednesday she sees a "very good trend" in COVID-19 metrics in Massachusetts, which have lately featured declining hospitalization and case numbers. As of Tuesday afternoon, the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases recorded in Massachusetts since February 2020 stood at 772,932, or nearly 100,000 more than the population of Boston.

Janulevicus Approved For District Court, Ham Nominated For Superior

After over two years in the Boston Municipal Court, Judge Catherine Hyo-Kyung Ham could be jumping to the Superior Court.

Voting Reform Lobby Applying Pressure In House

Voting reform advocates have shifted their focus to the House and lobbying leadership there to support same-day voter registration as part of a broader package of reforms they're hoping to pass this fall.

House Session Summary - Wednesday, Oct. 13

The Legislature moved a step closer to closing out the books on fiscal year 2021 after the House shipped a $303 million closeout budget bill (H 4200) to the Senate Wednesday afternoon.

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Latest COVID-19 Figures in Mass.

Data as of 5 p.m. Thursday.
New Confirmed Cases153248
Total Confirmed Cases766,883
Total Deaths18,729
Full Vaccinations4,653,822

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State House News Service