The Packet Post Update from Massachusetts State House vis MassAccess September 20, 2022

Update from Massachusetts State House vis MassAccess September 20, 2022

by: Press Release

David Gauthier

Wednesday, September 21, 2022:

As of Thursday, 9/15, DPH reported a total of 1,860,512 cases of COVID-19

The state reported 7,936 new confirmed cases and 37 new deaths

The state now has 20,206 deaths from the virus.

Though Gov. Charlie Baker would not give a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response to a reporter’s question on whether Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis committed any crimes by sending 48 migrants to Martha’s Vineyard under seemingly false pretenses last week, the Massachusetts governor did say he was glad a Texas sheriff has opened an investigation into the situation.

Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar in Texas opened a criminal investigation on Monday. Salazar declined to name possible suspects, according to CNBC reporting, but said in a news conference, “Everybody on this call knows who those names are already.”

“We need to figure out what did and didn’t happen,” Baker said Tuesday morning during a media scrum at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the South Station redevelopment project in Boston. He then echoed comments he made on Sunday, saying he had not spoken to DeSantis and urging federal immigration reform.

Baker said there are legal experts helping the asylum seekers with immigration processing, but the “big thing” the state is working on, along with its nonprofit partners, is “more effective housing solutions.”The migrants are currently housed on Joint Base Cape Cod in dormitory-style rooms. They were moved from the Vineyard on Friday.

A federal class action suit filed Tuesday alleges that Florida officials including Gov. Ron DeSantis engaged in a “fraudulent and discriminatory scheme” to transport nearly 50 immigrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, and aims to prevent similar situations.

Lawyers For Civil Rights announced the 35-page lawsuit, saying it was filed on behalf of Venezuelan immigrants stranded in Martha’s Vineyard, and Alianza Americas, a network of migrant-led organizations supporting immigrants in the U.S.

The plaintiffs are asking the court to enjoin the defendants, which also include Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Jared Perdue, from inducing immigrants to travel across state lines by fraud and misrepresentation, and to deliver damages for the harm suffered by the migrants.

The immigrants were drawn into a “ruse to exploit them for political purposes” after they were induced to board airplanes and flown across state lines under false pretenses, according to the suit. DeSantis and his alleged accomplices targeted immigrants recently released from shelters and made false promises of work opportunities, schooling for children, and immigration assistance in order to induce travel, the suit says, and the immigrants were unaware they were going to the Vineyard until just before landing there.

According to the suit, the immigrants fled Venezuela “due to rampant crime, civil unrest, poor health infrastructure, kidnapping, terrorism and wrongful detentions” in that country.

The House budget chief wants to “get something done in the shortest period of time possible” to revive an economic development bill, but he will not commit to keeping already-approved tax relief measures in the final legislation as the state prepares to return billions of dollars to taxpayers via another route.

While effectively stamping his support on the Baker administration’s plans to ship out $2.94 billion of checks and direct deposits to taxpayers this fall, House Ways and Means Committee Chair Aaron Michlewitz on Tuesday said legislative negotiators are still in need more time to reach an agreement on a bill they shelved this summer.

It’s been nearly two months since Gov. Charlie Baker announced he expected more than $2.9 billion to be due back to taxpayers under a law known as Chapter 62F, a revelation that paralyzed lawmakers at the time and has still left them in an indecisive state.

Baker projects the Legislature will have more surplus money to spend than they expected during the debate of the economic development and tax relief bills, even after accounting for the money that needs to be returned under a law known as Chapter 62F, yet Michlewitz indicated he is not yet sure of “what we can and can’t afford.”

Michlewitz suggested it remains an open question if top Democrats will try to call lawmakers back into a rare lame-duck formal session to consider the economic development bill, calling it “too early to tell.”

The state’s newest climate law made the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center the focal point for the state’s offshore wind efforts – everything from boosting academic research efforts and innovation to supporting the supply chain and dealing with barriers in the way of offshore wind companies – but its executive and board were not interested Tuesday in sharing their thoughts on the new responsibilities publicly.

Offshore wind projects are an essential part of Massachusetts’ transition from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources and are crucial for the state to be able to make good on its commitment to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

The law that Gov. Charlie Baker signed last month charges MassCEC with running a new offshore wind industry investment program and a related offshore wind tax incentive program worth up to $35 million a year (both were to be funded in the stalled economic development bill).

To meet the net-zero target and other goals along the way, Massachusetts will have to get on pace of bringing about 1 gigawatt (or 1,000 MW) of offshore wind power online each year in the 2030s, the Baker administration has said.

The new climate law authorizes the Department of Energy Resources to “coordinate with one or more New England states undertaking competitive solicitations to consider projects for long-term clean energy generation, transmission or capacity for the benefit of residents of the Commonwealth and the region.”

A star-studded cast of public officials and developers cut the ribbon on the massive South Station redevelopment project Tuesday morning against the backdrop of the already-under-construction South Station Tower.

The first phase of the project, which has been four decades in the making, will expand the bus terminal hub by more than 50 percent, remodel the outdoor concourse area to completely cover all tracks and platforms in an “architecturally significant gateway to the city,” and see the construction of the 51-story, mixed-use South Station Tower that will be one of the tallest buildings in Boston.

Gov. Charlie Baker said the project features a “$100 to $150 million reinvestment in South Station,” just for the transportation center, outside of the costs associated with the tower.

Currently, the bus station and train terminal are two separate buildings, and the construction will connect them into a large transportation center for easier transfers.

Along with increasing the size of the bus terminal and building the tower, the redevelopment will create new public space at the train station concourse and add new sidewalks, granite curbs, streetlights, greenery, and street furniture on Atlantic Avenue.

About one in nine Massachusetts residents are eligible for student loan debt relief under the plan President Joe Biden outlined last month, the White House said Tuesday.

Biden’s press team published state-by-state data projecting the number of borrowers who could get thousands of dollars of student loan debt erased. In Massachusetts, the White House estimated roughly 813,000 people meet the income requirements to receive relief, about 401,200 of whom are Pell Grant recipients.

That pool of potential recipients is the 14th-highest of all states and U.S. territories, and it represents a bit more than 11 percent of the Bay State’s population.

Altogether, the White House estimates more than 40 million borrowers nationwide are in line for relief, nearly 90 percent of which the administration says will go to those earning $75,000 or less per year.

Massachusetts schools for the first time will face a requirement to screen young students for dyslexia and other potential learning disabilities at least twice per year under a policy state education officials approved Tuesday.

Taking aim at what Education Secretary James Peyser dubbed a “wait-to-fail strategy,” the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted unanimously in favor of regulations setting statewide standards for districts to monitor student literacy progress.

Many Bay State schools are already performing some kind of dyslexia or learning disability screening, but officials said the existing framework is dotted with gaps.

Now, schools will be subject to the same requirement to assess every kindergartener, first grader, second grader, and third grader at least twice annually using state-approved tools to gauge their “reading ability and progress in literacy skills.”

Supporters hope the regulations will unjam more than a decade of stagnant reading proficiency scores and help identify students who need additional resources earlier on in their education.

The new regulations will take effect July 1, 2023.

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