MASSACHUSETTS

Coverage of Massachusetts from New England Public Radio, NPR, and other NPR stations.

Maine Court Derails Transmission Project Ballot Question

12 hours ago
Electricity lines.
pxhere / Creative Commons

A decision Thursday from Maine's high court means voters in that state will not decide at the Nov. 3 election whether to reverse a utilities commission decision to approve a 145-mile transmission project critical to the Bay State's energy horizons. 

Massachusetts voters are evenly split on a ballot question that would fundamentally change how they select candidates for state and federal office.

After five months of pandemic living, the uncertainty over the new school year is pushing many parents to the brink. When it comes to returning to school, what parents want depends on what their children need and what the risk is for staying at home.

Four in 10 likely voters in Massachusetts plan to cast ballots by mail this November, according to a new WBUR poll (topline, crosstabs).

On a recent Tuesday morning, the English For Advancement class at Jewish Vocational Service was reviewing a lesson on team building. Like most academic classes this year, this English class for adult learners was also happening through a screen.

“Alright, we’re going to have a team meeting because you want to try to build your team’s confidence,” said teacher Wayne Griffin to the group of students appearing in boxes on the screen.

As a statewide deadline nears, school administrators across Massachusetts are deciding how to restart learning in a fall still overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic.

State officials — including Gov. Charlie Baker and Commissioner Jeff Riley of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education — have repeatedly recommended that districts invite as many students as possible back into school buildings this fall.

An empty classroom.
Violet Jiang / Creative Commons / flickr.com/photos/124094550@N02

Schools in Massachusetts are deciding whether to start the year with in-person classes. Governor Charlie Baker says he wants local school committees to make the call, but he's making his own opinion pretty clear.

Massachusetts Gov. Baker Orders New Enforcement, Gathering Size Limit

Aug 7, 2020
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker on July 31.
State House News Service

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker is indefinitely postponing the next step of the state's reopening in response to the uptick in COVID-19 cases that Massachusetts has seen in recent weeks.

How Markey And Kennedy Are Working For Workers

Aug 6, 2020

When the Democratic primary between Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Joe Kennedy began, Massachusetts boasted one of the strongest economies in the country.

Now, the candidates find themselves representing the state with the nation’s highest unemployment rate. Roughly 1 million people in Massachusetts remain out of work, according federal data released Thursday.

Many people who have no symptoms can still carry very high levels of the coronavirus and potentially spread it, according to preliminary research from the Broad Institute in Cambridge that was based on mass testing in Massachusetts nursing homes.

Before the first wave of COVID-19 infections hit Massachusetts last spring, nobody was sure exactly when it would arrive. Experts only knew that it was on the way. By the time testing showed cases were rising dramatically, thousands of people had already caught the coronavirus.

“You’re behind the virus. You’re chasing it, always trying to catch up, and speed is absolutely of the essence,” says William Hanage, an epidemiologist at Harvard University. “The pace with which some of our response has taken place has just been too slow for it.”

School Committees Face Tough Reopening Decisions

Aug 4, 2020
MAXPIXEL.NET / CREATIVE COMMONS

Massachusetts education officials are reviewing school districts' initial reopening plans and expect to issue guidance on athletics and extracurricular activities next week, Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Riley said Tuesday.

 A Black Lives Matter rally in front of Nathan Bill's Bar and Restaurant in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Hoang 'Leon' Nguyen / The Republican / Masslive.com/photos

Springfield's police commissioner, Cheryl Clapprood, has acknowledged no changes have been made to the department's use-of-force policy. This comes two months after the department said Clapprood accepted suggestions offered by the City Council.

Out on the flat, rock-carpeted roof of the West Somerville Neighborhood School, consultant Scott LeClair steps up to an air handler unit as big as a semi-trailer.

He opens a metal panel and pulls out a filter shaped like a pizza box.

“This unit’s actually sending the air into the building,” he explains. “We’re looking to see what types of filters they have and what level they can filter to,” so the filters can be upgraded if possible.

The Massachusetts Statehouse in Boston.
William Zhang / Creative Commons

Goodbye, Massachusetts Joint Rule 12A — and hello, months of drawn-out negotiations in the state legislature. 

The Connecticut State Capitol in Hartford.
Photo Phiend / Creative Commons / flickr.com/photos/photophiend

This week, the Connecticut Senate passed a police accountability bill, which its colleagues in the House passed last week. It changes how misconduct cases are investigated, clarifies when deadly force can be used, and bans chokeholds in most cases.

DON MCCULLOUGH / CREATIVE COMMONS

The delicate balancing act of anticipating electric demand before and during the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown electricity suppliers, regulators and customers an unwelcome surprise this summer: massive jumps on electric bills. 

A new survey led by the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy coalition (MIRA) suggests many immigrant households in the state are struggling with unemployment as well as food and housing insecurity as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Historic Massachusetts Legislative Session To Continue Beyond Traditional Deadline

Jul 31, 2020
Massachusetts Rep. Aaron Michlewitz and Rep. Ronald Mariano speak in outside the House chamber.
State House News Service

The notorious July 31 date is not looming over Massachusetts lawmakers in the same way as usual this year.

Massachusetts lawmakers are working to reconcile their differences over police reform, with a joint House-Senate committee working on a compromise that can pass both chambers and be signed by Gov. Charlie Baker.

One area where the two chambers differ involves changes to qualified immunity, the doctrine that protects police officers and other public officers from lawsuits. Police unions have been fighting to keep it unchanged, while others want it abolished.

As schools around Massachusetts look to bring students back into the classroom this fall, education and public health leaders are looking to the latest research to guide schools’ reopening safely. But experts say that the science on how easily COVID-19 can spread in schools is still very uncertain.

Massachusetts House Session Extension Advances Amidst COVID-19, Bill Crunch

Jul 29, 2020
The empty Massachusetts House chamber.
State of Massachusetts

Massachusetts House lawmakers on Wednesday took a key step towards striking from their calendar a Friday deadline for passing major bills, which legislators have been working toward for the past year and a half.

It’s been compared to a colonoscopy.

The vetting of potential vice presidents is famously invasive, and it’s going on now.

Mass. Schools To Start 2 Weeks Later After State, Teachers Union Ink Planning Period Deal

Jul 28, 2020
Massachusetts Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Riley in June 2020.
Pat Greenhouse / Boston Globe / pool / State House News Service

Officials in Massachusetts signed a memorandum of understanding (PDF) Monday that will officially reduce the 180-day school year requirement to 170 days. The agreement accommodates a 10-day period for districts to prepare to reopen school buildings that have been closed since March.

Massachusetts House Judiciary Chair Claire Cronin and Rep. Paul Tucker, a retired police chief, conversed in a chamber entryway.
Sam Doran / State House News Servic

The Massachusetts House and Senate have both passed their own bills changing some rules for police in the state. Now, the hard part: working out their differences before the session ends.

COVID-19 Case Counts On The Rise Again In Massachusetts

Jul 27, 2020
A packaged COVID-19 test at the Urgent Care Center of Connecticut in Bloomfield on March 25.
Joe Amon / Connecticut Public / NENC

There were nearly 500 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Massachusetts over the weekend, and the percentage of tests that come back positive for the coronavirus is rising.

Despite agreeing on most issues, Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Joe Kennedy III found plenty to argue about in their latest debate Sunday night, five weeks before the Sept. 1 primary. They sparred about their records, who is the most progressive and who is best prepared to lead during a pandemic and a racial justice movement.

Maggie Melchiorre of Lyonsville Farm wears a mask as she helps a customer at the Greenfield Farmers Market in Greenfield, Massachusetts.
Mary Byrne / Daily Hampshire Gazette / gazettenet.com

Some members of the Massachusetts public expressed their displeasure on Friday about a proposed state regulation that would formalize the mask order Governor Charlie Baker issued in early May.

When Massachusetts urgently needed masks and other supplies for frontline workers facing a surge of infections, the federal agency handling protective gear sent large shipments to states with smaller populations and far fewer coronavirus cases.

Massachusetts recently announced that it was ending its pandemic moratorium on reusable shopping bags, saying towns could go back to reinforcing their bans on single-use plastic bags. 

Meanwhile, New Hampshire and many other states are still not letting shoppers bring their reusable bags to stores. But is that actually helping to slow the spread of coronavirus?


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