The Landscape

Governor Baker’s request that students return to in-person instruction in January has been met with hesitation, even as participating school districts receive rapid COVID-19 test kits this week. The 15-minute antigen test produced by Abbot Pharmaceuticals will be administered to students and staff displaying symptoms of COVID-19 in order to stop the spread and quickly identify those through contact tracing. Many education leaders are calling for additional remote learning options as cases of COVID-19 are expected to dramatically increase over the next two weeks.

As the Legislature’s police reform bill remains unresolved, the New Commonwealth Racial Equity and Social Justice Fund, which was founded by prominent Black and Brown Massachusetts executives including Beacon Hill alums like former U.S. Senator Mo Cowan and former state Senator Linda Dorcena Forry, awarded $50,000 awards to 20 separate nonprofits last week. The New Commonwealth was launched in July to fight systemic racism after the killing of George Floyd and supports nonprofits working on policing and criminal justice reform, health care equity, economic empowerment and civic engagement.

With the Beacon Hill lame duck session in full swing, advocates are using this opportunity to push for policy changes, including Governor Baker. The Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight will accept written testimony today on the Governor’s bill to establish the state’s Supplier Diversity Office as an independent agency within the Executive Office of Administration and Finance. The November interim budget expires tonight and it’s unclear if Governor Baker will file another for December as conference committee negotiations remain ongoing for the much delayed, FY21 budget. Negotiations between conference committees on police reform, climate change, transportation, economic development and health care remain ongoing as well.

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