Podcast: Sen. DiZoglio Cosponsors Legislation to Make Juneteenth a Statewide Holiday

Last Friday was the observance of “Juneteenth,” commemorating the day in 1865 when Texas became the last state in the nation to be notified of President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation to free its’ slaves. State Sen. Diana DiZoglio wants to make the date a formal holiday. Appearing on WHAV’s morning show, DiZoglio said is co-sponsoring legislation to officially recognize Juneteenth in Massachusetts. “You know, I believe this legislation is a testament to the importance of this day, and I look forward to fighting for the day to actually become recognized as a state holiday,” she says. DiZoglio says Juneteenth was observed on the local level in several communities.

Gov. Baker Says Veterans Lived in ‘Deplorable Conditions;’ Urena Resigns Post

Gov. Charlie Baker plans to introduce a bill Thursday addressing governance of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, after a scathing report outlined failures and delays leading up to the death of 76 veteran residents from COVID-19. At a noon press conference, Baker called the report “hard to read” and its contents “gut-wrenching,” saying veterans lived in “deplorable conditions” when the home’s leadership combined two dementia care units that housed some patients who were COVID-19 positive and others who had tested negative. Baker said he accepted the resignation of Department of Veterans Services’ Secretary Francisco Urena and tapped Cheryl Poppe, the superintendent of the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home, as acting secretary. Baker said he was also “moving to end the employment” of Bennett Walsh, the Holyoke superintendent who has been on paid administrative leave. “Immediate action” has been taken to remove “unqualified staff,” from their positions, Baker said.

Gov. Baker Allows Restaurants to Resume Indoor Dining Monday with Restrictions

Restaurants that have been serving patrons on patios and sidewalks for the past two weeks will be able to welcome diners indoors beginning Monday as Gov. Charlie Baker announced Friday that he was triggering the next stage of his economic reopening plan. In the midst of a heat wave, no less. Baker, at a State House press conference, also said offices would be able to bring back to work more employees and increase their capacity from one quarter to 50 percent of their workforce. And close-contact personal services offered at nail salons, massage and tattoo parlors and personal training can resume on June 22. The progress through the phases of the Baker’s administration’s reopening strategy comes as Massachusetts has continued to see downward trends in hospitalizations, which are now under 1,000, and positive test rates, which have fallen to 2.3 percent.

House Passes Vargas-Cosponsored Early Voting, Mail-In Voting; Stated Aim to Keep People Safe

State lawmakers are talking about changing the way people may vote in Massachusetts. The state House of Representatives last week passed a bill, cosponsored by Haverhill Rep. Andy X. Vargas, to address concerns around elections access during the pandemic. It provides options for early in-person and mail-in voting for the primary and general, local, state and federal elections. Vargas, who was a guest Friday on WHAV’s morning show, said bill allows everyone who wants to vote by mail to be able to do so. “The process for that is going to be as follows.

Education Commissioner Riley Tells Schools to Plan on Six Feet Between Desks, Masks, Handwashing

Smaller, “isolated” classes, masks on students and staff, frequent hand washing and six feet of spacing between desks are among the elements necessary to safely reopen schools in the fall, according to new state guidance. Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Riley on Friday sent school superintendents guidance around safety supplies to help them prepare to reopen school buildings that have been closed to students since March, noting that some items may take longer than others to procure. The department recommends ordering enough supplies for the first 12 weeks of school, based on current estimates, and says that state officials “are committed to providing support to districts in their acquisition of required supplies.”

Required supply items include disposable masks, gloves and gowns; eye protection; face shields; hand sanitizer; and smaller quantities of N-95 ventilating masks, only to be used when staff is in contact with a suspected positive COVID-19 case or “performing aerosol-generating procedures.” Supplies like gloves, gowns and face protection are intended for staff, like nurses and some special education teachers, who may have “high-intensity” contact with students or the custodians who handle waste. In addition to laying out the supplies to equip schools for educating during a pandemic, Riley’s message also outlines a series of other health and safety measures he describes as necessary for a fall reopening, based on current state and federal recommendations. The guidance calls for maintaining six feet of separation at “all time,” including in how desks are arranged.

Vargas: House Passes Restaurant Relief Bill, Easing Local Permitting and Capping Delivery Fees

Coinciding with this week’s partial lifting of restrictions on restaurants, the state House of Representatives last week approved a restaurant relief bill. Rep. Andy Vargas, a guest Friday on WHAV’s morning program, says one aspect of the bill delays payment of the states’ meals tax for the third and fourth quarters, extending action that was taken earlier this year. Vargas says the bill also reins in possible abuses. “The one that I’m really excited about is putting a cap on delivery platforms like Grubhub and DoorDash. Recently, I’ve seen online people sharing about how Grub Hub and Doordash are taking all these fees, and all this money away from local restaurants and making their margins very thin.

Sen. DiZoglio Champions ‘Cocktails for Commonwealth’ Restaurant Aid Bill; Mirra Lends House Support

Restaurants could sell sealed containers of mixed drinks with to-go orders under a bill filed last week by Sen. Diana DiZoglio. DiZoglio's bill is intended “to expand revenue-generating options in response to the COVID-19 economic crisis for local establishments licensed to sell alcoholic beverages.” Mized drinks aren’t covered under Gov. Charlie Baker’s April 3 law that allows restaurants and bars to sell limited quantities of beer and wine, in their original containers, with takeout and delivery orders. Restaurants remain barred from serving customers in their dining rooms under a March order from Baker. Some restaurateurs and bartenders have been advocating to be allowed to serve cocktails with their takeout orders as well, a measure that has been allowed in some other states, including Rhode Island. An online “Cocktails for Commonwealth” petition had more than 400 signatures as of Monday morning.

Podcast: Sen. Diana DiZoglio Wants More Legislative Input into Baker Business Reopening Plans

With legislation moving forward in the state Senate to help businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, state Sen. Diana DiZoglio says she and other legislators felt cut out of Gov. Charlie Baker’s recovery program. DiZoglio made the revelation Thursday when she appeared as a guest on WHAV’s morning program. “It’s not a situation where we have been able to participate in those discussions, necessarily, you know. When this thing is planned, which is rolled out by the lieutenant governor and the secretary of economic development, alongside the governor, those conversations on the advisory board were being had with not one legislative representative being able to speak during those meetings. We were able to listen, but we were not allowed to speak, and give input,” she explains.