As the deadline approaches for them to get vaccinated for COVID-19, some Massachusetts state troopers remain at odds with the governor. This week, the police union representing some 1,800 troopers will sit down at the bargaining table with the state.
This follows a judge's ruling denying the union's request to delay a COVID vaccine mandate put in place by Gov. Charlie Baker. Judge Jackie Corwin said the harm a delay could cause the public outweighs the harm to union members.
Time is running out for troopers to get the vaccine before that October 17 deadline. Matt Murphy from the Statehouse News Service unpacks what is known about the status of this mandate.
Matt Murphy, State House News Service: The deadline really has already passed for troopers to get the Moderna vaccine [due to the four-week wait between doses]. There are just a few days left for anyone in the State Police Union who is unvaccinated to start the process of being fully vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine by October 17, which is the deadline that Gov. Baker set for all state employees under his control.
The union does go back to the bargaining table, as other unions continue to bargain with the administration. We are unclear exactly on how many, if any, unions the administration has reached agreement with on this vaccine mandate. But what we do know is the governor is not budging from that October 17 date. That is still the target to have all roughly 45,000 Mass. state employees in the executive branch vaccinated. The question is what sort of discipline will kick in if people are not fully vaccinated then, or will the administration give a little leeway if people have started the process? This is something that we'll be watching closely this week, particularly as...those deadlines are coming right up.
Carrie Healy, NEPM: A bill is now on the governor's desk that sets out a revised process for that once-in-a-decade redistricting and re-precincting process. A previous version of this legislation was opposed by Secretary of the Commonwealth Bill Galvin and by the Massachusetts Municipal Association. Did lawmakers address their concerns?
Not really. This bill looks largely like the ones that Secretary Galvin was upset with. At issue here is the fact that the census numbers, the data that the Legislature uses to redraw these maps, was very, very late. Information that usually comes from the federal government in April didn't really arrive until August.
The bill that passed would change the order of things by allowing the Legislature to draw legislative, congressional, Governors Council districts before local cities and towns draw their local precincts. And it would give the municipalities about 30 days after those maps are finalized to do their work. Usually, the cities and towns go first, and the Legislature uses the precincts as the building blocks.
Secretary Galvin said that he worried this would, you know, disrupt and take some local control over how those precincts are drawn. But this is a one-year-only thing, you know, taking effect just this cycle for this next 10-year process.
Now I know Massachusetts House and Senate leadership aren't committing to any known dates for completing those new district maps. But are there some target dates for completing the process? And are those realistic at this late date?
Yeah. The Legislature knows they have to get this done by the end of the year and the one big target on the calendar is November 8. That's the date for House members who have to live in their districts if they want to run in them in the next election cycle. So if any incumbent were to find their district shifted or want to perhaps move — we've seen reps move in the past to get into their district or avoid having to run against a colleague — that would be the date, and it's coming right up.
But I think we can safely expect that in the next month, or probably in October, we would see some draft maps. And they would look to finalize these sometime in November, before their Thanksgiving recess.
Massachusetts regulators took a lot of flak from gamblers who were distraught by the poker ban at the state's casinos earlier in the pandemic, for social distancing reasons. And now, months after regulators lifted that ban, MGM Springfield says it's going to open up a limited number of poker tables. Wynn Resorts, which owns the Boston Harbor casino, has not said if it's bringing back poker. So, Matt, I guess it turns out poker isn't a big moneymaker for these casinos?
It's not, actually. Poker is not a game where these casinos make a lot of money. Part of that has to do with the fact that the players are playing against each other, not necessarily the house. The popularity of the game is something that casinos use to draw people into their buildings. But during the pandemic, some of these poker rooms were used to house additional slot machines when those machines have to be spaced out, and it's proven quite lucrative for some of these casinos.
But we do know that it is reopening at MGM. And Encore has committed to taking another look at this towards the end of the year to see if they might bring back some poker tables for players because, like you said, it is a popular game.