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Will Mass. consumers be able to bring home the bacon after humane pork laws take effect?

Pigs in gestation crates.
Courtesy of the National Pork Producers Council
Pigs in gestation crates. Pork sold in Massachusetts will need to come from pigs kept in larger more humane pens.

Massachusetts supermarket shoppers will be keeping an eye on pork prices and availability after Thursday. A new regulation aimed at selling only meat from humanely kept pigs in the commonwealth will kick in. Chris Lisinksi of the State House News Service explains what should we know about this new law.

Chris Lisinksi, SHNS: Yeah, the pork that's going to be sold in Massachusetts will all need to come from pigs that are basically given better housing conditions. All of this stems from a 2016 ballot question that Massachusetts voters approved calling for more humane conditions for farm animals, not just pigs, but also for egg laying chickens and veal.

The pig regulations have taken the longest to get into effect due to some legal challenges. What this is going to mean is that all pork sold in Massachusetts, in stores and restaurants, will need to come from pigs given enough space, even if those pigs were raised and slaughtered in other states — for example, pigs raised in Iowa, and shipped to Massachusetts to be sold here in Massachusetts. And it's still going to need to comply with these standards. Obviously, that is a pretty significant change. So, we're all going to be keeping an eye out on what the on-the-ground impact is as this starts to unfold beginning on Thursday.

Carrie Healy, NEPM: Books continue to be removed by political interference at local libraries across the country. In Massachusetts, some senators have filed legislation to block what they say is ‘politically opportunist censorship.’ Chris, it's August. In the first of a two-year Legislative session, can you lay out the likely process ahead for this bill?

It's going to take some time. This billhas been sent over to the Education Committee, which is going to be responsible for wading through it and figuring out if this should become law and if so, in what form. You know, we could see that happen first thing in the fall. We could see that wait all the way until sometime in 2024. Given that it is a two-year session, there's not exactly a clear timeline attached to this.

It's just weeks before the start of the new school year. And there's some scrambling going on as UMass Dartmouth is moving 116 students set to participate in classroom activities out of a visual and performing arts building in New Bedford. The legislature's budget negotiating committee is sort of the one responsible for this move right now. So, what should we know and what's next?

The most imminent cause for this is the Legislature's budget. For more than 20 years, the state has funded a lease for UMass Dartmouth in an historic building in New Bedford, giving it about $2.7 million per year. There have been some issues with the lease. The lease actually expired a couple of years ago, after having a one-year extension. There was a $1 purchase option that the state just never actually triggered and never got across that finish line. And what budget negotiators decided was without a formal lease in place, they weren't going to put any more money toward this. And so therefore now UMass is effectively a tenant at sufferance with no money to pay rent, no money to pay maintenance. School officials decided, well, if we have no money, no lease in place, the only option at this place is just to vacate it rather than running into bigger legal headaches down the road.

You know, it is another quiet summer week in the statehouse, I'm presuming, Chris...But both the Senate and the House have scheduled informal sessions and there are committees and commissions that are continuing to meet. So, what are you looking forward to reporting this week?

You know, most interestingly, I think is going to be an event that's actually today, on Monday Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll, is holding a press conference to talk about almost $141 million in student loan repayment awards that the state is going to be handing out mostly to behavioral and primary care health care providers. That's allotted money in the state budget. You know, this is the kind of event we don't see happen all that often, and especially coming after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a sweeping student loan repayment plan from President Joe Biden. It's a chance for state officials to flex a little bit of local muscle.

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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