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Massachusetts Legislature Negotiating Extending the 2019-2020 Session Beyond July 31st

With the COVID-19 pandemic causing unprecedented hurdles for the Legislature, the House and Senate are discussing the extension of the 2019-2020 legislative session beyond the statutorily mandated deadline of July 31, 2020.  On Wednesday, the House unanimously voted to pass HB4910 – Order Suspending Joint Rule 12A, to extend the session beyond the July 31 deadline.  At this time, the Senate has not made a formal action in agreement or disagreement with the House’s proposal.  While the House’s legislation permits the extension of the session beyond the statutory deadline of July 31, language does not explicitly identify and end date.  The extension will allow the Legislature to continue to meet in formal sessions to debate and advance significant pieces of legislation left on the table, including bills relative to: economic development, climate change, transportation investments, health care, police reforms, and the FY2021 state budget.

1.  Economic Development

On Tuesday, July 28, the House passed HB4887 – An Act enabling partnerships for growth (156 Y/3 N).  In the presumed final week of the formal session, House leadership advanced the economic development bill to the floor for debate, which became a “catch all” piece of legislation for House members eager to secure support for their sectors and communities.  The final bill included provisions relative to the authorization and regulation of sports betting in the Commonwealth, and several items directly supporting the service industry, which has been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Such provisions include expanded outdoor table service, outdoor alcohol service, and capping third party delivery service fees to 15%.  The Senate is schedule to take up HB4887 in a formal session on Thursday, July 30.

2.  Climate Change

In January of 2020, the Senate passed three energy-related pieces of legislation aimed at addressing next-generation climate policy, energy savings, and electric vehicles.  On Wednesday, July 29, the House filed its own energy legislation in response to the Senate’s next-generation climate policy bill (SB2500), HB4912 – An Act creating a 2050 roadmap to a clean and thriving commonwealth, which includes, but is not limited to, provisions related to an emissions roadmap to meet 2050 targets, net metering, and grid modernization.  The House is expected to debate HB4912 in a formal session on Thursday, July 30. 

3.  Transportation Bond Bill

In March, the House passed HB4547 – An Act authorizing and accelerating transportation investment, an $18 billion investment built in part from projected revenues of a House fee and tax bill passed in the House in May.  This bill raises the gas tax by five cents, increases the corporate minimum excise tax, increases fees on ride hailing services, and closes the rental car sales tax exemption.  With HB4530 – An Act relative to transportation finance projected to bring in approximately $130 to $145 million annually, House leadership increased the bottom line of HB4547 to support additional projects such as improving roadways approaching two Cape Cod bridges and federal highway projects.  HB4547 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Ways and Means and is awaiting further action.

4.  Health Care

While the Legislature failed to produce a successful piece of health care legislation last session, members are now working toward results.  On June 25, the Legislature resumed health care discussions and the Senate unanimously passing SB2796 – An Act putting patients first.  The Senate legislation includes provisions related to telehealth, scope of practice and out-of-network billing measures.  On Wednesday, July 29, the House also unanimously passed their version of the legislation, HB4916.  Both bills address issues relative to telehealth reimbursement, expanding the scope of practice and protections against surprise billing.  Within these provisions, the House and Senate differ on several details, which will likely lead to the creation of a Conference Committee to iron out the differences and ensure a single piece of health care legislation reaches the Governor’s desk this session.

 5.  Police Reforms

After a tumultuous procedural debate, the Senate passed SB2820 – An Act to reform police standards and shift resources to build a more equitable, fair and just commonwealth that values Black lives and communities of color (30 Y/7 N).  SB2820 includes the establishment of a Police Officers Standards and Accreditation Committee, amends qualified immunity to make police officers more open to civil lawsuits, restrictions on the use of force including choke holds, strengthens reporting and data collection, and prohibits no-knock warrants unless deemed necessary to protect law enforcement.  While the House’s journey to a final bill was not as rocky, the vote to engross the bill, HB4886, was even closer (93 Y/66 N).  The House bill alternatively sets up a Committee on Police Training and Certification, amends qualified immunity to make officers who have been decertified by this new commission eligible for civil lawsuits, restricts use of force including choke holds, and limits no-knock warrants to situations where an officers life is in danger and the officer attests no children or elders are present. The two pieces of legislation are now in a Conference Committee, which is made up of Representatives Cronin, Gonzalez and Whelan and Senators Brownsberger, Chang-Diaz and Tarr.

 6.  FY2021 State Budget

Early in the pandemic, expert economists testified before the House and Senate Committees on Ways and Means and the Secretary of the Executive Office of Administration and Finance to share their revised revenue numbers for fiscal year 2021 (FY21) in light of the growing public health crisis.  At that time, economists projected annual revenues to drop $6 billion from January estimates, a major hit to the state’s available balances for FY21.  While the Legislature has this information, they are still awaiting further guidance from the federal government on potential assistance, which has delayed progressed in FY21 budget drafting.  The Legislature and the Governor, however, worked together to pass a “1/12th” budget for July ($5.25 billion).  In addition, the Legislature has proposed an interim budget of $16.53 billion, allocating funding to cover spending from August through October.  The Legislature hope this spending will provide ample time for a clearer understanding of the state’s financial picture to produce a final budget for the remaining eight months of FY21.

©1994-2020 Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C. All Rights Reserved.National Law Review, Volume X, Number 212


About this Author

Steven A. Baddour, Vice President of Government Relations, ML Strategies, Mintz Levin, Law Firm
Senior Vice President of Government Relations – ML Strategies / Special Counsel

Steve’s government relations practice focuses on advising clients ranging from start-ups to Fortune 100 companies on a wide range of issues at the state and federal levels. As part of Mintz's Litigation Practice, Steve represents public and private sector clients in complex civil litigation matters. In both these roles, he uses his knowledge of government and the law to benefit clients in Massachusetts, New England, and beyond.

A former Massachusetts State Senator and former Assistant Attorney General, Steve has strong bipartisan relationships...

Dan Connelly ML Strategies
ML Strategies - Senior Vice President and Compliance Officer

Dan is Vice President of Government Relations for ML Strategies. He has been directing policy in Massachusetts and the New England region for more than a decade. Dan represents trade associations and businesses across industries with interests before the executive, legislative, regulatory and municipal areas of government throughout New England.

Most recently, Dan served as Legislative Counsel in the Boston office of a large, international law firm. He previously served as the chief legal counsel to the Massachusetts Senate Committee on Ways and Means, where he was responsible for drafting the state’s multi-billion dollar budget, as well as reviewing all legislation referred to the committee.  He has participated in the formulation of several substantial legislative proposals, including the Global Warming Solutions Act, Health Care Reform and the consolidation of Massachusetts’ transportation agencies. Upon returning to the private sector, Dan lobbied on behalf companies and trade associations in the New England region and held the position of executive director of the Product Management Alliance, a national organization of product manufacturers and organizations.  

Kaitlyn C. Sprague Government & Legislative Strategies Attorney Mintz Law Firm
Director of Government Relations

Kaitlyn is a Director of Government Relations at ML Strategies. With eleven years of experience in legislative affairs and Massachusetts state government, Kaitlyn brings a deep understanding of legislative proceedings, especially regarding the Massachusetts House of Representatives and Governor’s Office. 

Prior to joining Mintz, Kaitlyn was the Legislative Director in Governor Baker’s Office of Legislative Affairs. There, she drove the Governor’s legislative agenda from filing to passage, through bipartisan coalition building, legislative strategy sessions, and consistent...

Taylor C. Shepherd Government Relations Attorney Mintz Law Firm
Manager of Government Relations

Prior to joining ML Strategies, Taylor worked as a Budget Analyst at the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health.  At the Department, she worked closely with the Chief Financial Officer and Budget Director to develop reporting mechanisms to project payroll, monitor operational spending and facilitate Western, Central and Northeastern Massachusetts regional areas in their spending and personnel ventures. 

Previously, Taylor worked as a Legislative Aide and then as a Fiscal Policy Analyst for the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee at the Massachusetts State House.  Under...