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Could Massachusetts lawmakers upstage the much-anticipated eclipse this week on Beacon Hill?

A Solar Eclipse sign on Thursday, April 4, 2024. If clouds don't get in the way, viewers in the path of totality wearing eclipse glasses will see the moon begin to slowly cover the sun until it is completely blocked, a period of darkness called totality, during which temperatures drop and the sun's corona will be visible.
Ted Shaffrey
/
AP
A Solar Eclipse sign on Thursday, April 4, 2024. If clouds don't get in the way, viewers in the path of totality wearing eclipse glasses will see the moon begin to slowly cover the sun until it is completely blocked, a period of darkness called totality, during which temperatures drop and the sun's corona will be visible.

Today’s headline is the moon’s passage directly between the Earth and the sun. Massachusetts is not on the path for a total eclipse, but we're going to see 93% peak eclipse in the Springfield area at 3:27 p.m The Boston area will get a 92.5% viewing at peak, two minutes later. Chris Liskinski of the State House News Service says the eclipse is not really likely to affect workflow on Beacon Hill.

Chris Lisinksi, SHNS: Well, not significantly, if only because, as we know, the workflow is never really all that busy this time of year. Some folks will certainly take a pop outside and look at the eclipse. But you know, a little break is not going to slow down all the backroom deal-making and pondering about action that still has yet to occur.

Carrie Healy, NEPM: Do you have your glasses ready?

No. I have to fish them out from whenever the last eclipse was. They’re buried around here somewhere.

Now that the headline is out of the way, is there something in the shadow of the budget season (or should I say the penumbra) that we should be touching on?

Yeah, well, on budget season, we do expect this week for House Democrats to roll out their rewrite of Governor Healey's budget for fiscal year 2025. That will start to fill in a lot of the blanks about what House Democrats want to do with the spending plan, especially given all the financial concerns facing the state of the budget.

We could, at some point soon, see movement on Governor Healey's massive housing bond bill that's packed to the gills with additional policy riders that has had hearings in front of multiple legislative committees at this point. So, it is inching closer to a vote in either chamber, even if we are not quite there just yet.

Late last week, the federal government announced the allocation of $20 billion in grants to leverage private money to pay for clean energy and other things that they call climate solutions. So, as some of that funding will make its way to Massachusetts, do environmental officials and activists have any concrete plans for spending the money? What are you hearing?

Yeah, folks really see this as a golden opportunity for Massachusetts to get the ball rolling and get into action on a lot of different plans for things ranging from installing heat pumps to solar panels to cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions in environmental justice communities.

You know, a lot of this money, I want to say it's something like $14 billion out of the full $20 billion pot needs to be earmarked specifically for low income and disadvantaged communities under the grant awards from the EPA.

So, it does seem like even though there is a ton of money here on the table, the goal is for it to be really targeted into specific areas where it might have the biggest impact.

Now, switching gears here, I don't know about you, but I know it's getting more difficult to get a short notice medical appointment. It's been explained to me that that's because of a workforce shortage. That's a statewide trend at medical offices and hospitals. Physician assistants (PA’s) gathered recently at the state House, calling on lawmakers to make it easier for the PA's to prescribe medicine and treat patients without a doctor's supervision. You know, some believe that this could be a solution to the short staffing issue. Chris, what are you hearing about this reform?

Yeah, lawmakers who like this idea and have backed it say that supervising physicians are really a perfunctory role at this point, mostly limited to a title on paper, and that PA’s are fully capable of delivering care, especially when providers are in short supply, and this is creating so many challenges for patients. This gets mixed reviews from some industry leaders. The Mass Health and Hospital Association supports it, but the Massachusetts Medical Society, which represents physicians, residents, medical students, opposes it. So, as lawmakers consider whether to move forward with this, they're going to have to navigate, um, different outlooks from different segments of the industry.

And legislation to make that license change for PA’s has also cleared some hurdles already. What's its status?

I believe that it is still pending before the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing, which has something like until early July, to decide. If they wait all the way until then, obviously, there would be only a few weeks left until both branches wrap up their formal business for the term, but it could always emerge sometime before that deadline.

Carrie Healy hosts the local broadcast of "Morning Edition" at NEPM. She also hosts the station’s weekly government and politics segment “Beacon Hill In 5” for broadcast radio and podcast syndication.

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