In Newsletters, The People's Blog, Updates from Jo

Greetings,

This Thursday, I am convening a Legislative oversight hearing on the COVID-19 vaccine rollout as the Senate Chair of the newly-formed Joint Committee on COVID-19 and Emergency Preparedness and Management.

These difficult days force us all to reconcile our understanding of the complexities of this rollout with anger and frustration at the ways it’s been managed. Constituents are demanding answers, not excuses. You want to know it’s going to get better — right now — for you and your families.

I cannot change the fact that the Commonwealth is only receiving just over 100,000 vaccine doses each week from the federal government at present, far fewer than needed to meet our demand. I have joined my colleagues in pressing the Baker administration to do much better in terms of:

  1. Establishing a functional, usable website and call center to find and make vaccine appointments,
  2. Prioritizing regional equity to ensure an equitable number of vaccines are delivered to our region, coupled with an equitable number of outlets that meet our unique challenges,
  3. Articulating a predictable, measurable, transparent delivery plan that is coordinated with our local public health officials, community health centers, municipalities, and hospitals,
  4. Ensuring transparency with regard to the decision making and actions on topics such as contracts for the mass vaccine sites and tech vendors, and others, and
  5. Ensuring that the entire process demonstrates a commitment to equity across race and class.

Governor Baker wants us to make a false choice — telling us through his chaotic and ill-communicated vaccine rollout that we have to choose between speed and scale of delivery or equity of all kinds. I reject this false choice. My constituents and I can and should expect both. You have emailed me comparing this vaccine rollout to the Hunger Games and Lord of the Flies. An unconscionable survivalist approach plagued with setbacks and hardship is no way to meet the pandemic of the century.

We must restore faith in the state’s ability to respond to a crisis. And, until we do, I recognize that it’s impossible for Commonwealth residents to have patience on top of so much that’s broken.

So we press on.

Constituent vaccine guide

In addition to working regionally and state-wide, we have created a vaccine guide to help constituents get the latest news and see the public-facing vaccine outlets in our region. It’s here.

Our team’s charge is to meet this moment sharply on behalf of our people. With this in mind, please let me share two more updates.

Rules rules rules

At the beginning of every legislative session, the Senate votes on our chamber’s rules and Joint Rules, which govern interactions between the House and Senate. This year, we also had to tackle emergency rules which we put into place early in the pandemic and which allow for things like remote participation in legislative sessions.

Rules can seem arcane, but they set the stage for the ways in which bills and other core business happen. They set parameters for my action as a State Senator and they help determine how constituents like you engage with the Legislature.

Thanks to a great intern, Northampton’s Noah Friedman-Kassis, we spent the summer researching rules with two intents: Increasing transparency and accountability. Democracy demands that we shine a light through the opaque committee process which is what our team advocated for with Senate colleagues. We also pressed for much greater attention to racial equity and diversity in Senate and Joint processes. I’m pleased to share that the Senate rules package that makes important gains on these fronts. More here.

Legislation

Friday was the deadline for filing legislation. My team and I filed 67 bold, important bills to meet this high-stakes moment. I’ll be holding another town hall to share more about the bills, but if you’d like to take a look now, I invite you to scroll through a summary document, linked here, that we pulled together so you didn’t have to decipher legalese or click dozens of links.

Committee assignments

In addition to being appointed Senate Chair of the newly-created Joint Committee on COVID-19 and Emergency Preparedness and Management, I am also very pleased to be returning as Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Public Health.

I have also been re-appointed as the Vice Chair of the Higher Education Committee, and appointed as a member of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, the also new Joint Committee on Racial Equity, Civil Rights, and Inclusion, and the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery.

This committee work is in addition to the work I’ll do as part of Caucuses, Councils, Task Forces, and Commissions which I serve on. I’m particularly looking forward to chairing a special Commission on Racial Equity in Maternal Health which will look at the dismal racial disparities in maternal birth outcomes and suggest action steps to remedy this crisis. More here.

Climate justice

Other than vaccines, emails about climate justice rank at the top of the charts. After multiple vetoes from the Governor, the legislature is poised to send back a final climate bill back to the Governor’s desk. I have remained in close touch with Senate leadership about net zero building construction provisions which I championed, anti-biomass provisions, and more, and I am committed to seeing this work through even as we push forward for more gains this session.

Out and about

Last week, I posted on Facebook about all the zooming I’ve been doing. The photo above is from an absolutely inspiring three-class visit with the Center for New Americans. More CNA visits, please.

Sending our love to you,

Jo, Elena, Cameron, Brian, Sam, and Jared

P.S. My tweeting is often on the earnest side (yawn), but I couldn’t resist a little snark when it came to the colossal vaccine website crash and the truly unfortunate image that constituents received when they tried to secure an appointment. Gov. Baker was wide open and I took the shot:

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