State Rep. Dan Ryan reported that the first remote voting session in history for the state House of Representatives was flawless and would likely continue through the pandemic.
On Wednesday, May 6, the House organized its first remote full session with 160 state representative members after having met in informal session for the last seven weeks to pass key legislation to address the pandemic. However, as things have continued, Speaker Bob DeLeo moved to organize a larger, full session meeting to vote on matters that included the income tax extension and some Constitutional borrowing approvals for the State Treasurer.
“Last Wednesday’s historic remote vote was a necessary fiscal housekeeping measure that gives our Treasury the flexibility needed to get through these tough economic times,” said Ryan. “Speaker DeLeo, Chairman Michlewitz and the COVID working group have done an incredible job in a relative short amount of time to ensure our democracy remains intact. The vote was conducted with the minimum amount of human interaction. This was critical so that we, the legislature, did not put others at risk by bringing hundreds of people from around the state into one setting.”
Said DeLeo, “During this time of uncertainty, the House is focused on not only public health but ensuring the financial health of our Commonwealth. I am grateful to Chair Michlewitz for his work to move this legislation forward and to the House COVID-19 Working Group that made this vote possible today.”
Ryan said since he lives only two miles from the State House, he decided to walk to work and take the historic vote remotely in his State House office. The process worked with a call-in number to five division leaders who registered Rep. Ryan and others’ votes in the Chambers.
“I walked to work to get out of the house a figured it would be easier to take the vote at my desk and figure this new system out there rather than staying at home and trying to find a quiet corner for three hours,” he said. “I did walk up to the Chambers at one point. It was interesting to see and it was surreal. That was my third time to the Chambers it was definitely different to see people spread out and wearing masks.”
The legislation, An Act to Facilitate the Delay of the Income Tax Filing Deadline, authorizes the State Treasurer to borrow in anticipation of tax receipts by the end of Fiscal Year 2020 and to repay those sums by June 30, 2021. This action is necessary due to the delay in tax revenue as a result of the extended deadlines of income tax filings and payments to July 15, 2020, which were extended because of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
Rep. Ryan said the system worked really well, but he said when they begin to have real debate, it will be quite different and likely take more coordination.
“Under the traditional rules, you can just stand up and speak,” he said. “This way it’s a little bit more orchestrated. You have to know who is going to speak ahead of time.”
He also said he has been impressed with how everyone has come together during this time.
“You have to have a great trust in leadership to make this work,” he said. “I’m encouraged by how well the House, Senate, Republicans, Democrats, the Attorney General, Mayor Walsh and the governor have come together. There will be a time when we need to hash things out, but right now we’re all coming together. There is a lot of partisan bickering around the country, but it’s not happening here.”