The nomination of Dr. Robert Califf for FDA Commissioner was given a favorable recommendation out of the Senate HELP Committee, in a vote of 13-8 mixed across party lines. He will now advance to the full Senate for consideration.
Gov. Baker and Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders testified before the Joint Committee on COVID-19 and Emergency Preparedness and Management last week. Through testimony and questioning from legislators, Secretary Sudders underscored that the Administration would not be issuing a statewide indoor mask mandate, and Gov. Baker announced the Administration’s plans to purchase and distribute 26 million rapid COVID-19 tests to schools and childcare facilities.
The Baker Administration launched a website that creates a digital record for those who have been vaccinated in Massachusetts. Governor Baker stated that the availability of the QR code does not mean that the Administration will issue new vaccine mandates. Massachusetts House Speaker Ron Mariano suggested the State House would require proof of vaccination when it reopens to the public. State leaders still have not set a clear timeline of when this will happen.
The Massachusetts Senate held their first formal session of the year on Thursday. The Senate passed legislation to make identification cards more accessible to individuals experiencing homelessness, and passed a bill allowing adoption by close relatives.
In Washington, lawmakers are considering election reform. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) plans for the Chamber to take up the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which both recently passed in the U.S. House of Representatives.
In a recent nationwide POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, a majority of voters support policies to expand ballot access; including automatic voter registration, early voting, voting by mail, same-day voter registration, and making Election Day a federal holiday.
The Massachusetts Senate is back to 40 members this week. Lydia Edwards will be sworn-in represent the First Suffolk and Middlesex district. Edwards did not face any opponents in the general election last Tuesday. She will be the first woman and person of color to represent the district, which includes Edwards’ neighborhood of East Boston, other sections of Boston, Winthrop, Revere, and sections of Cambridge, including Cambridgeport and Kendall Square. Edwards will step down as Boston City Councilor, where she has served since 2017, triggering a race in District 1.
The Massachusetts Legislature holds a number of public hearings this week. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Joint Transportation Committee will hold public hearings on legislation ranging from autonomous vehicles, congestion, and distracted driving to school transportation and electric vehicles.