Governor Baker signed into law legislation (Chapter 92 & 93 of the Acts of 2021) redrawing the state’s nine congressional districts and eight Governor’s Council districts, capping the months-long process of redrawing political lines based on population changes and growth reported by the U.S. Census Bureau. The new district boundaries put Fall River fully in the 4th Congressional District and keep New Bedford in the 9th District.
The Massachusetts House rolled out Phase 2A of their reopening plan. Starting December 13th, all House officers and staff will need to be “available and able to work in person at the State House as a condition of their employment.” A week earlier, the Senate had voted to extend their pandemic-era emergency rules that allow remote voting through March 31, 2022.
Acting Public Health Commissioner Margret Cooke issued an order directing hospitals and hospital systems with less than 15 percent staffed ICU and medical-surgical bed capacity to begin to scale back non-essential procedures. The order, which takes effect this week, is in response to the loss of 500 beds already across the state due to staffing shortages, according to the administration. Over the weekend, the Biden Administration restricted travel for non-US citizens traveling from eight southern African countries, including South Africa, citing the emergence of a new COVID-19 variant in this area. Director of the National Institutes of Health encouraged vaccinations as a measure to protect against this new variant. The World Health Organization has underscored the importance of vaccination and testing efforts.
Democratic leadership hopes to pass the Build Back Better bill in the Senate by Christmas. Drug pricing is among the policies held up in negotiations between leadership and moderate Senate Democrats, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned that the government will run out of funds by December 15 absent a Congressional vote to raise the debt ceiling.
While the Massachusetts Senate and House of Representatives has closed out formal sessions for the calendar year, committee hearings and informal sessions continue. On Tuesday, the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs holds a public hearing on legislation related to veteran benefits and transferability, and on Wednesday, the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security will hold a public hearing on legislation related to immigration.