Window Into The State House

    ‘Charlie Parker of Massachusetts’   The Herald couldn’t resist – and neither can we – when it comes to pointing out Joe Biden’s good-intentioned but botched shout-out yesterday for our very own “Charlie Parker of Massachusetts.” …  Hey, we all need a laugh these days, right? … Anyway, back to the governor’s emergency coronavirus orders. …     It’s still OK to panic-buy at supermarkets   So what are essential versus non-essential businesses under Gov. Charlie Parker/Baker’s new stay-at-home advisory issued yesterday? WBUR’s Ally Jarmanning has an excellent list of what essential businesses are open and what non-essential businesses are closed under the governor’s emergency edict. The good news for those worried about home and other provisions: Supermarkets, pharmacies, gas stations, liquor and convenience stores, and restaurant take-out services will remain open and residents can drive to them when needed. Btw: The exemptions are in line with what other states are doing regarding shelter in place/stay at home policies.     But marijuana industry cries foul over Baker’s essential-business split decision   Cannabis company executives are slamming Gov. Charlie Baker’s decision to exempt medical marijuana dispensaries — not to mention liquor stores — but not retail pot shops from his statewide closure order yesterday, Felicia Gans and Dan Adams at the Globe report. Word of the shutdown sparked a run on recreational shops on Monday, including in Brockton, where that city’s only shop drew huge crowds, the Enterprise reports.         Grocery stores installing plexiglass barriers to protect workers   They’re now officially considered “essential” workers – and some grocery store chains are making plans to protect their employees by installing plexiglass barriers at checkout lanes in an attempt to limit the spread of the coronavirus, WCVB reports.   Meanwhile, in other supermarket-related news, from Universal Hub: “Cambridge orders coronavirus-related ban on reusable bags at stores, lifts 10-cent fee for store bags.”     So what happens if you don’t comply with social-distancing rules? Hint: The police are watching   Steph Solis at MassLive reports that Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration is “now imposing a fine for anyone who overtly violates the ‘social-distancing’ guidelines issued by the state Department of Public Health.”  In Haverhill, the mayor has ordered police to keep a watch over public parks and other gathering places now that the governor has enacted a stay-at-home advisory to combat the spread of coronavirus, reports the Eagle Tribune’s Allison Corneau.     Ten-hut: Walsh drafts retired Army general to review Boston’s emergency response plans   Mayor Marty Walsh is calling up the reserves: Retired four-star Army Gen. Stanley McChrystals’s consulting firm. The mission: To review the city of Boston’s emergency plans and response to the coronavirus pandemic. The Herald’s Sean Phillip Cotter and the Globe’s Danny McDonald have the details.     Commissioner to insurers: Be flexible with premium payments, please   This is a hidden big monthly cost facing many hard-pressed people, in addition to rent and mortgage payments. From SHNS’s Matt Murphy: “Insurance Commissioner Gary Anderson published a notice on Monday urging all insurers, including those who provide health coverage to millions of residents, to provide employers and individuals ‘as much flexibility as is reasonably possible’ on the payment of premiums during the public health crisis.”         Chaos in Washington: Tempers flare over stimulus bill, Trump considers reopening economy   It was a wild day in Washington yesterday, as tempers flared and Democrats and Republicans squabbled over a national economic stimulus bill, the Washington Post reports. But there were signs last night that lawmakers are close to agreement on a $2 trillion economic-stimulus package. The Herald’s Joe Battenfeld is blaming Democrats for delaying passage of the legislation, saying they’re trying to stuff standard liberal-agenda items into the bill. Meanwhile, yet more policy confusion emerged yesterday when President Trump openly said he’s considering relaxing social-distancing requirements, arguing that the economy is suffering too much and that the coronavirus cure cannot be “be worse than the problem itself,” the NYT reports. Public health officials say relaxing social-distancing rules is exactly what the president shouldn’t be doing. The Herald’s Jeff Robbins is ripping into President Trump over just about everything he’s said to date.     Keller at Large: Baker’s superior political instincts are serving him well   In his latest Keller at Large on Massterlist segment, veteran political journalist Jon Keller takes a look at what President Trump is saying and doing versus what Gov. Charlie Baker is saying and doing regarding the coronavirus crisis – and he’ll take Baker’s leadership style over Trump’s any day. From Jon: “Baker’s superior political instincts are serving him well.” Check out Jon’s thoughts on national-vs.-state leadership.     Comptroller struggles to pay state bills and employees   Amid the coronavirus emergency and a slowly cratering economy, Comptroller Bill McNamara’s office is working to ensure that payments related to the state’s coronavirus response are made as quickly as possible and that state employee payrolls are met, reports SHNS’s Colin Young. It isn’t an easy task and some payment systems are apparently under strain, but the checks are indeed flowing.         Special legislative elections postponed till May and June; lawmakers mull future signature-gathering requirements   As expected, Beacon Hill lawmakers have indeed postponed this month’s planned Senate and House special elections – and yesterday set specific make-up dates: Tuesday, May 19, for the two vacant Senate seats, and Tuesday, June 2 for the two vacant House seats, as SHNS’s Katie Lannan and MassLive’s Jeanette DeForge report. But now another election-related problem is rearing its head: What about election signature-gathering procedures moving forward amid coronavirus fears? SHNS’s Colin Young (pay wall) reports that House and Senate leaders are discussing the “possibility of lowering the number of signatures certain candidates must collect to secure ballot access.”     Hometown hero: Briefings superstar Dr. Fauci, the pride of Holy Cross   He’s not just a star — he’s our star. Bill Doyle at the Telegram reminds us that Dr. Anthony Fauci, a key point person in the federal government’s coronavirus fight, is a 1962 grad of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, not to mention the personal hero of fellow Holy Cross alum Bob Cousy.  Fyi: We felt it imperative to claim Fauci as our own ASAP, because reports are mounting that his tell-it-like-it-is approach is increasingly drawing the ire of President Trump. The Globe’s Kevin Cullen writes that it sure looks like Fauci’s days are numbered at the White House.     Transportation updates: Toll revenues plunge, Amtrak cancels Acela trains, MBTA juggles priorities   As the coronavirus scare reduces traffic on state roadways, the state is seeing a dramatic drop in toll revenues and expects to take a hit of $38 million in lost collections through June, assuming current trends hold, reports SHNS’s Chris Lisinski (pay wall) and CommonWealth’s Bruce Mohl. State Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack says the state is well-equipped to handle the shortfall. … Meanwhile, Universal Hub reports that Amtrak has cancelled Boston-NY-DC Acela Express service due to a lack of demand for fast-train trips. … SHNS’s Chris Lisinski (pay wall) reports in a separate story that the MBTA is also grappling with lower ridership and falling revenue, while GM Steve Poftak is hinting “there may be a situation in the future” where the T further scales back transit services.     ‘A Coronavirus End Game That Avoids A Depression’   Boston University economist Laurence Kotlikoff has a plan to avoid long-term economic disaster: The National Governors Association should band together to set coordinated responses to the coronavirus crisis – and ignore most everything President Trump is saying. The key to saving the economy, he writes at Forbes, is to kill off the virus outbreak ASAP so it doesn’t keep rearing its head over the next year and drawing out the economic pain. …

State of emergency: Baker orders closure of non-essential businesses, issues stay-at-home advisory
As SHNS’s Matt Murphy (pay wall) and the Globe’s Matt Stout report, Gov. Charlie Baker, after days of resisting calls to impose more strict lockdown measures in Massachusetts, yesterday imposed the most dramatic restrictions yet in the battle against the spread of the coronavirus: He ordered closure of all non-essential businesses, issued a stay-at-home advisory and lowered the public-gathering limit to just 10 people in Massachusetts. In doing so, Baker is following the lead of governors in other states (and the leaders on Nantucket and in Provincetown) who have already issued shelter-in-place/stay-at-home orders (they’re all roughly the same thing). And Baker is winning some applause here from previous critics, as WGBH’s Adam Reilly.