Following a decisive vote in July to extend the formal legislative session, the House remains at work on bills vital to the Commonwealth this month.
During the ongoing Massachusetts 191st General Court’s 2019-2020 session the House has passed emergency legislation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as major legislation relating to education, transportation, and climate change.
This action to extend the session followed the passage of major legislation relating to the COVID-19 State of Emergency that included provisions to extend unemployment benefits, protect public health, and institute landmark provisions for remote voting in the House and mail-in voting for local, state and federal elections held in 2020. The emergency legislation also included one of the strongest moratoriums in the country protecting tenants and homeowners from eviction and foreclosure and creating opportunities for restaurants to serve alcohol, beer and wine for carry out service.
For the first time in the history of the Commonwealth, the House voted on emergency rules to establish procedures for remote voting. These temporary changes enabled the House to vote on items requiring formal votes (such as a measure facilitating the postponement of the tax deadline) while reinforcing public health and safety.
“I’m proud to be a member of a body dedicated to moving forward in times of crisis,” said State Representative Dan Ryan. “Working together with our Senate colleagues and a Republican Governor, we have continuously been able reach consensus to deliver for the people in Massachusetts when they need it most. There are a few more important pieces still in conference,
but, I have faith we will get done what needs to be done.”
Amid a difficult fiscal climate, the House also voted to keep Chapter 90 level-funded at $200 million for key repairs for the maintenance and upkeep of municipal roads and bridges in Massachusetts. As part of a sweeping economic development bill, the House passed legislation to legalize sports betting, provide supports to small businesses and at-risk populations and make investments in affordable housing. In recognition of the House’s commitment to a safe, accessible, and reliable transportation system, the House also approved an $18 billion investment in the Commonwealth’s transportation infrastructure.
In keeping with the House’s ongoing commitment to protecting public health and safety, the House passed health care legislation to facilitate the use of telemedicine as well as strengthen community hospitals. The House also passed legislation aimed at eliminating racial inequities in maternal health that have resulted in women of color dying of pregnancy-related causes at more than double the rate of white women. Under a policing reform bill, the House voted to establish a certification process for police, creating an independent and empowered oversight board, and codifying restrictions on use of force measures. The House also voted to protect public sector employee rights and to approve campaign finance reform.
In building on the House’s history of leadership in climate change policy, the House passed legislation setting a statewide 2050 net zero greenhouse gas emissions limit, establishing environmental justice population criteria, increasing statewide renewable energy requirements, and bolstering green programs for underserved populations.
In keeping with the House’s commitment to the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable and at-risk children and families, in May, the House announced the formation of its Early Education and Care (EEC) Recovery Advisory Group. The group is tasked with helping address the challenges facing childcare in this new and changing landscape, and established the EEC Public-Private Trust Fund, creating an infrastructure to foster public-private and philanthropic efforts for childcare providers, including providing $500,000 for technical and small business support during the recovery process. In July, in response to growing concerns about the significant drop in reports of child abuse and neglect during the COVID-19 crisis, the House also passed legislation to strengthen oversight policies and operations at the Department of Children and Families.
Helping to protect the most vulnerable children and families in the Commonwealth prior to the onset of the COVID-19 public health emergency, the House voted to lift a decades-old family welfare cap to extend cash benefits to the 8,700 Massachusetts children and their families who had previously been excluded. The House also passed legislation creating a care registry to protect persons with intellectual or developmental disability from abuse. To address the complex health and wellness needs of the Commonwealth’s 1.4 million children, the House led efforts this session passing comprehensive legislation to ensure increased access to services and a more holistic approach to children’s health and wellness supports.
The House acted to address climate resiliency by advancing a $1 billion investment – known as GreenWorks – over the next 10 years to help communities across Massachusetts adopt technologies that cut greenhouse gas emissions, fortify infrastructure, and reduce municipal costs.