We catch up with Rep. Ron Mariano, the new Massachusetts Speaker of the House, to talk about a number of issues. We'll discuss the state's handling of the pandemic, including the bumpy vaccine rollout, ongoing negotiations over a wide-ranging climate change bill, the Speaker's leadership choices, and more.
On what issues need to be prioritized for the state:
Mariano: "Well, obviously, the very first thing that we have to deal with is COVID and the resuscitation of our economy and our school system. You know, getting things back to the whatever the new normal is going to be.
"Obviously, the the issues around the vaccine are of primary importance right now, and it's focusing a lot of our time. You know, the legislature and in recognition of the potential problems that are going to come have created a COVID committee — both the House and Senate joining together — to deal with some of the issues so that we're better prepared for this if it were ever to reoccur and also to suggest improvements in the way that we've been handling things. So we think it's a good start to resolving some of our issues around the new challenges in public health."
On how well Massachusetts has handled the pandemic so far:
Mariano: "Well, I think you have to divide that into two separate categories. At the beginning, when we were faced with the pandemic, the closures and some of the decisions that the governor made were right on. When you now proceed to the vaccine — a vaccine with some limited availability — I think we've we've had a number of missteps and a number of things that probably could have been done differently."
On vaccine distribution and availability:
Mariano: "I think [we could have had] more open communication on the amount of vaccines and how best to to access those vaccines. I think the the communications from [the Department of Public Health] has been has been poor. I applaud the governor's press conferences, but there needs to be follow up information, putting it getting into the hands of our constituents.
"We [the legislature] were hands off because the governor used executive powers at the beginning and that pretty much takes us out of the equation at the very beginning. And now, as we open up and begin to discuss how we're going to handle the vaccine, there's more of a role for us in getting access to the things that are going to get us out of this."
On getting teachers and school employees vaccinated:
Mariano: "I have been an advocate for getting teachers vaccinated as a former teacher. You know, if we really do want to have the goal of having elementary students and staff getting in first and learning, we need an effective plan to reopen the school buildings, and we need to know that the kids are entering into an environment that we can assure parents is safe and risk free. So it made obvious sense to me that we needed to get teachers and people are going to be working in our schools vaccinated."
This segment aired on March 4, 2021.