A spike in COVID-19 cases on Cape Cod prompted some communities there to call for mask advisories. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker says he's not planning another statewide return to masking — but in the past, he's put restrictions in place, and required residents to mask up.
Matt Murphy of the State House News Service joins us to talk about whether the governor has shifted his views about much of the benefit or drawbacks of a mask mandate.
Matt Murphy, State House News Service: I think what you saw in Provincetown, you're likely to see in other parts of the state should other severe clusters pop up.
But regarding the governor's reaction, I think what you're seeing is less a shift in his view towards the efficacy of masks and more his belief in the efficacy of vaccines.
He feels that the state has worked hard to get people vaccinated, that vaccines work, and that the state is following the guidance — particularly the guidance that comes from agencies like the CDC revolving around what fully vaccinated people can do safely.
I know Dr. Fauci and others in the federal government and the Biden administration have said they are beginning to look at mask mandates again, even for the vaccinated, perhaps indoors.
And should some new guidance come out, I think we would look to see if the governor responds to that.
But for right now, the governor says the statewide mask mandate will remain as it is, advising people who are unvaccinated to wear masks, but that it is safe for everyone else to go about their business.
And that includes schools coming up this fall. The governor has long been a proponent that schools can resume in-person instruction safely, as long as they follow safety protocols, get vaccinated, and maintain things like social distance.
Carrie Healy, NEPM: The Massachusetts House again passed sports betting legislation last week. Now the pressure's on for state senators who have yet to put sports betting on their calendar. Many other states have already jumped on board with sports betting. And with sports teams back in action, cheered on by fans in stands, what's holding up Massachusetts lawmakers?
I think at this point, since the 2018 Supreme Court ruling, there are now about 30 states that have legalized sports betting within their borders. That includes neighbors of Massachusetts: New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New Hampshire.
This year could be the year for Massachusetts — at least, advocates hope so. The House, for the second session in a row, passed legislation legalizing sports betting. And this year, for the first time, we've seen the Senate more seriously consider a proposal.
Senator Eric Lesser, who chairs the committee looking into this issue, has filed his own bill that has been reported favorably out of committee to the Senate. He has said he believes he and his colleagues are ready to take action this session.
The start of the NFL sports season has often been the line that people have tried to look at as a deadline. That may be a long shot. But I think we are looking at a possible vote in the Senate this year. The question is, can they resolve their differences involving things like college sports betting, and whether it should be allowed in Massachusetts?
The mayor of Springfield has written to lawmakers urging them to support legislation clamping down on illegal fireworks. A city councilor told MassLive that the City of Homes had 3,300 fireworks related complaints in 2020. State law fines those in possession of fireworks $100. Broadly, what changes are in that bill under consideration by lawmakers?
Fireworks are not a new problem in Massachusetts, where they remain illegal, but cities have seen big upticks, especially during COVID — cities like Boston, Springfield. Mayor Sarno is saying its real problem is not just the noise and disruption they cause, but also fire hazards and public health.
The Judiciary Committee on Tuesday will hear a bill filed by Rep. Susan Gifford that would substantially increase penalties for the sale, use and the possession of fireworks — in some cases tenfold, from as little as $100 to as much as $1,000 if you are found in possession or using fireworks in a city like Springfield.
And that's separate from the sparkler legalization bill?
Yes, that is separate legislation. We have seen lawmakers in the past try to legalize some types of fireworks. That was often pitched as a job creator, and a competitiveness issue from lawmakers who reside in districts along the border. That’s where people go to New Hampshire, buy their fireworks and bring them back across state lines. But that is not something that we've seen gain much traction in past years.