To hear House Speaker Ron Mariano tell it, the denizens of the State House are as sturdy as puff pastry.
For though the state gave the all-clear for businesses to reopen on May 29, with the encouragement to follow CDC guidelines for cleaning and hygiene protocols, the State House remains closed.
Other state buildings have reopened, the people’s business is back in business, even if not at pre-pandemic levels. Last month, approximately .6 miles from the State House, Michelle Wu was sworn in as mayor — and not in a Zoom call.
As the Herald reported, ours is the only state capitol in the nation to remain closed to the public for the entirety of the coronavirus pandemic.
Mariano has no problem with that.
“The building is still closed because we’re concerned about the safety of about 600 folks who work there,” Mariano said during a Sunday appearance on WCVB’s “On the Record.”
“My concern is public safety,” Mariano said.
That was his concern five months ago.
“I’m very concerned as we talk about reopening the State House. We have a lot of folks in here who have been vaccinated, but once you open the State House it becomes … it is not only a place of work, it’s a museum,” Mariano told Bloomberg Baystate Business in July.
Speaking of museums, the Museum of Fine Arts is open, as is the Museum of Science, Children’s Museum and other popular sites.
Mariano said managing visits from tourists is one of the reopening holdups.
“We’ll be welcoming visitors from all over the world. How are we going to deal with their vaccinations? How are we going to determine who comes in and who doesn’t come in? Those are things we’re moving through,” he said.
The State House sees over 100,000 visitors a year. The MFA hosts about 1.2 million annually. The Museum of Science, about 1.4 million. Think capacity, timing, masks. It can be done.
Senate President Karen Spilka said 100% of state senators and staff have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
Legislative leaders have said for months they’re working on a plan to safely reopen the building that closed in March 2020. But their timeline remains unclear.
On Monday, the State House moves to Phase 2 of that plan, which will require all officers and employees “to be available and able to work in person at the State House as a condition of their employment,” including being in compliance with a COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
But most staff and members are likely to continue working from home.
Because they can.
The idea that the state lifted COVID restrictions, industries reopened, but we’ll just hang back is in keeping with the mindset of the State House Club — we’re in a world unto ourselves.
The timeline of the return-to-work plan may be vague, but many folks had yet to take down their Christmas trees last January when the state’s 200 senators and representatives held out their hands for a $4,280 bump in their base salaries — their third raise in as many legislative sessions. The House speaker and Senate president pull down $178,000-plus.
Lawmakers also got to cash in on a separate 4.89% hike to their office expense accounts and leadership got another boost in their already lucrative stipends. At a time of record unemployment. A handful refused the raises.
And here we are again — constituents taking the T or driving to work, if not every day then enough to justify office rent — while their representatives, who got raises while everyone else worried how to make ends meet, keep hitting the snooze button on opening the State House.
Must be nice.