Window Into The State House

Relief on the way: Lawmakers reach deal to avert UI rate hike and exempt PPP loans from taxes   Beacon Hill lawmakers have reached a deal to freeze employers’ unemployment insurance rates, exempt PPP loans from state taxation and increase paid-leave benefits for workers who contract the coronavirus, report the BBJ’s Grey Ryan, SHNS’s Katie Lannan and CommonWealth’s Shira Schoenberg. They’re cutting it close in terms of deadlines, but legislative leaders seem confident they can get the measures passed soon.  
  When vaccinations aren’t exactly free   The actual vaccines are free. But providing all those vaccine shots isn’t free. And it turns out the Baker administrations sweetened the financial pot for providers to administer vaccinations – with insurers picking up much of the tab. And … why do we get the awful feeling individual policyholders are going to get the short end of all this? The Globe’s Priyanka Dayal McCluskey has more.  
  ‘Egregious violations’: UMass Amherst issuing suspensions over 200-person bash   We’re not sure what “interim suspensions” mean. But they’re imposing them in Amherst, after UMass officials determined that “egregious violations” of COVID-19 restrictions were committed at a party of about 200 people that police had to break up on Saturday, reports Jim Russell at MassLive. Speaking of young ones, it seems most coronavirus cases today involve, well, young ones – and experts say it’s largely because young ones can’t help but act like young ones. MassLive’s Melissa Hanson has more.  
  Meanwhile, Harvard signals a ‘full return’ to campus in the fall   Speaking of higher education: As Harvard goes, so goes the nation? Kirk Carapezza at GBH spots distinct signs that Harvard University is poised to bring all students back to campus in the fall. And since Harvard’s moves are closely followed by others, that means … Of course, some schools have already brought back students – with mixed results. See above post.  
  MBTA hedges bets on future ridership, plans both worst- and better-case scenarios   The MBTA is forecasting revenue shortfalls over the next four years due to the sharp pandemic-era decline in ridership. Then again, maybe it won’t be that bad. And so, just in case, the T is planning for both service cuts and some service restorations. It all depends. The Globe’s Adam Vaccaro and SHNS’s Chris Lisinski have more. Btw, via the Patriot Ledger: “South Shore may not see weekend commuter rail for months.”  
  Check’s almost in the mail: Neal confident $1.9T rescue plan will pass this week   U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, head of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, is confident the $1.9 trillion federal relief bill will be on President Biden’s desk by the end of this week, reports Jim Kinney at MassLive. And that means individual stimulus payments of up to $1,400 could be directly deposited in people’s bank accounts starting next week, reports CBS Boston. Those without direct deposits should start to receive checks via snail-mail later this month. And don’t forget: The bill also includes billions of dollars flowing to state government – and Beacon Hill lawmakers are eager to have a say in how those funds are spent, reports SHNS’s Matt Murphy.  
  Police departments see ‘pretty depressing’ decline in new recruits   MassLive’s Patrick Johnson reports that cities and towns are seeing a decline in the number of new police recruits, after recent police-misconduct incidents and last year’s Black Lives Matter protests across the nation.  
  Alert: Municipalities warned of high-risk threats to email systems   These cyber threats are relentless. From SHNS’s Colin Young: “The state’s cybersecurity chief warned municipal leaders of a high-risk threat to a common email system over the weekend as federal officials urge businesses and governments to protect themselves against what the White House said is ‘a significant vulnerability that could have far-reaching impacts.’”  
  ‘Bill of rights’: House approves legislation updating child protection laws   SHNS’s Michael P. Norton reports (pay wall) that a “popular child protection bill that fell through the cracks last legislative session is gathering momentum in the new session,” winning House approval yesterday. The legislation – which, among other things, establishes a “bill of rights” to help recruit and retain foster parents and transparency measurers – now awaits action by the Senate.  
  Vineyard Wind I moves closer to reality   It’s amazing how the fate of environmental reviews, which are supposed to be based on scientific facts, can change from administration to administration, in this case the Biden administration’s completion of a review of the Vineyard Wind I project that the Trump administration dragged its feet on and that the Obama administration once touted. In any event, the offshore wind project is now one regulatory step closer to reality, reports CommonWealth’s Bruce Mohl.  
  Say what? Tufts student wins rare campus free-speech victory   While a Harvard professor fends off attacks on his academic work, a Tufts student who “stood up to the mob of Israel-haters” on campus scored a minor victory after critics backed off threats to have him removed from his student government post, writes Jonathan S. Tobin at the Jewish News Syndicate. The student’s transgression? Protesting anti-Semitism. At the Herald, Jeff Robbins is blasting the campus cultures at Tufts and elsewhere that he says allows anti-Semitism to openly flourish.   
  Boston no longer has worst traffic in America – for the time being   It took a pandemic, but let it be known: Boston no longer has the worst traffic in America. After the pandemic, well, we’ll deal with it then. The Herald’s Sean Philip Cotter and Rick Sobey have more.  
  Animal rights group to AG: Issue the cage-free rules, pronto   Christian Wade at CNHI News reports that a California-based animal rights group is “ratcheting up pressure on Attorney General Maura Healey to release new regulations for a voter-approved law banning sales of eggs and meat from cage-confined animals.” They say any delay jeopardizes farm animals.  
  BPS launches investigation of controversial student therapy sessions   The Boston Public Schools system has suspended its ties with a nonprofit youth group and launched an investigation into allegation that students may have been subjected to controversial counseling sessions that reportedly encouraged them to cry and let out their inner traumas, etc. The Globe’s Naomi Martin and James Vaznis have more.