Window Into The State House

State recommends smaller classes this fall even as some towns face teacher layoffs   The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has issued preliminary guidelines for the reopening of schools this fall in Massachusetts – and they include the wearing of face masks, cleaning protocols and various social-distancing rules. But it also suggests smaller class sizes, with perhaps as few as 10 students per class, as CBS Boston, MassLive’s Scott Croteau and CommonWealth’s Sarah Betancourt report. But that begs the question: How? Even during normal times, it’s difficult, if not impossible for some districts, to reach such low teacher-to-student ratios. And the Globe’s Meghan Irons reports that many school districts across the state are bracing for potential teacher layoffs amid widespread budget problems caused by the coronavirus-tied economic downturn. Btw: The Herald’s Andrew Martinez reports that parents and teachers are not happy with the idea of every kid having to come to school with their own masks. Btw II, and speaking of reopenings, via MassLIve: “UMass Amherst releases report outlining plans to combat coronavirus ahead of campus reopening.”  
  Outdoor dining returns to some restaurants   Forget about fall reopenings. Spring finally arrived yesterday for some restaurants, though not all, as the Phase Two reopening of eateries commenced across the state, although it applied to only outdoor dining. People seemed happy for any type of change, as CBS Boston and the Boston Globe and the Patriot Ledger and Telegram and Berkshire Eagle report, among others.  
  What?! Bars quietly moved to last phase of reopening   One of the reopenings we were dearly anticipating and now this. SHNS’s Chris Van Buskirk reports that the planned reopening of bars has been, quietly, pushed back from Phase Three to Phase Four of Gov. Charlie Baker’s reopening schedule. “It is unclear when the change was made,” SHNS  Chris Van Buskirk reports.  
  Wasn’t state testing supposed to increase, not decrease, with the reopening?   The Globe’s Kay Lazar and Andrew Ryan report the Baker administration may have vowed to increase state testing for COVID-19 as the state slowly reopens the economy, but testing has actually decreased a bit of late. One possible explanation (and fear): People aren’t taking the coronavirus as seriously today as they were just a few weeks ago.  
  It’s official: Nation and state have entered a recession – and perilous budget times   The Cambridge-based National Bureau of Economic Research reported yesterday that the nation (and state) officially entered a recession in February, as if we already didn’t know, as the NYT reports. Besides widespread unemployment and business failures, the recession has brought with it severe budget problems for the state and local governments alike. Take a gander at this BBJ headline on one state fund alone: “State projects $6B hole in unemployment fund by end of 2021.” Meanwhile, Tufts University’s new Center for State Policy Analysis, whose mission is to serve as a sort of CBO-like watchdog for the state, reports the commonwealth is going to have to be very creative in order to navigate the choppy budget times ahead, reports SHNS’s Colin Young (pay wall). One other budget-related item, also from SHNS: “Local Road $$$ and Future T Oversight Tackled in New Senate Bill.”  
  The debate: Kennedy and Markey go at it over law enforcement (and 1970s busing)   In their second U.S. Senate debate in as many weeks, Democrats Ed Markey and Joseph Kennedy engaged in a spirited debate last night that ultimately came down to two things: A.) Who is more progressive? B.) Who is a bigger champion of law-enforcement reforms amid today’s racial strife? CommonWealth’s Michael Jonas, the Globe’s Victoria McGrane and the Herald’s Hillary Chabot have more, including Kennedy’s “wayback machine” reference to Markey’s stand on school busing in the 1970s (before Kennedy was even born, it should be noted).  
  Walsh under pressure to produce on police reforms   The Globe’s Milton Valencia and Danny McDonald report the Mayor Marty Walsh is facing increasing pressure from city councilors and activists to come up with specific police-reform proposals. But the Herald’s Lisa Kashinsky reports the mayor is largely mum about what he hopes, or plans, to do, other than saying he will look at reallocating funds in the city’s police budget. Walsh is not the only mayor facing pressures these days. From Peter Goonan at MassLive: “Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno calls for review of police use-of-force policies in response to George Floyd killing.”  
  Inconvenient truth: ‘Democratic pols rake in Boston Police union donations’   They may be calling for police reforms. But state and local Dems have also been accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations over the years from police unions and committees largely opposed to reforms in the past, the Herald’s Joe Battenfeld reports.  
  Cambridge police chief: Cops now duty-bound to intervene when a colleague uses ‘unreasonable force’   Why wasn’t this the policy before yesterday? That’s our question. From Universal Hub: “(Cambridge) Police Commissioner Branville Bard today issued an order, effective immediately, that requires ‘all sworn members of the Cambridge Police Department present at any scene where physical force is being applied, to either stop, or attempt to stop, another member of the Department when force is being unreasonably applied or is no longer required.”  
  Healey backs bill de-certifying cops who have committed misconduct   On another police-reform front, from SHNS’s Katie Lannan (pay wall): “Attorney General Maura Healey supports legislation that would create a standards and training system for certifying police officers and de-certifying those found to have committed misconduct or abuse, she said on social media Monday. Healey said she also supports a U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley resolution condemning police brutality.”  
  Keeping the peace: Webster officials defend police chief’s viral moment during a protest   Selectmen, the police union and protesters alike are all rushing to the defense of Webster Police Chief Michael Shaw, who is facing heat from some fellow law enforcement officers for his decision to lie on the ground during a weekend protest, Brad Petrishen at the Telegram reports. Shaw has been pilloried by some right-leaning media sources for the move, which he says was aimed at keeping the peace and not a comment on law enforcement writ large.   
  ‘Bashing Romney’   Want to guess who was bashing Mitt Romney yesterday for taking part in a weekend anti-racism march in Washington? Hint: The Washington Post’s Philip Bump, in an analysis piece, says the basher in question is very nervous about the splintering of the GOP base and his re-election prospects this fall.  
  Protests: Fewer but still passionate   There’s been noticeably fewer protests of late around the region. But there are still some rallies, events and campaigns of note. … From Saraya Wintersmith at WGBH: “Boston Honors Unarmed Violence Victims In Interfaith Memorial Service.” … From the Globe’s Jeremy Fox: “Public defenders hold Black Lives Matter march in Roxbury.” … From SHNS’s Chris Lisinski: “Thousands Demand Answers in African Meeting House Case.” … And from the BBJ’s Greg Ryan, regarding an event over the weekend that got lost in the protest-coverage shuffle (and shouldn’t have): “To protest police brutality, Black professionals stand, silent, at Faneuil Hall.”