Legislature’s regular timetable may not be viable this year
The time needed to process legislation on Beacon Hill is running short – or is it?
The typical end date for the legislative session is July 31, a week from Friday. Normally lawmakers end the session and head home to their districts to run for reelection.
But this year may be different. Between the massive health and budgetary impacts of COVID-19 and the push for police reform prompted by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the Legislature’s regular timetable may no longer be viable.
No state budget for the current fiscal year has been filed yet, and even crafting a budget may be impossible until state tax revenue numbers for July are released and Congress decides whether or not to pass another stimulus bill that would funnel additional money to states. Only once the state and federal revenue picture becomes clearer can budget writers begin to draw up a real spending plan – and that may not happen until August.
With police reform consuming all the oxygen on Beacon Hill this week, the health care, transportation, and climate change bills – and many others, as well – are waiting for a chance to see some action.
The end of the legislative session on July 31 doesn’t mean the House and Senate stop meeting. It just means that lawmakers meet informally, where they typically handle only minor, noncontroversial pieces of legislation and any individual lawmaker can block a bill from moving forward by raising an objection. It’s not ideal for passing complicated pieces of legislation.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo in early April said he was open to meeting beyond July 31, presumably in regular formal sessions, if by that date the Legislature had not finished the budget, a climate change bill, or a transportation financing package. “I’ll put health care in that category as well,” he told the State House News Service.
DeLeo said then that nothing had been decided but he was leaning toward continuing the session. “I’d hate to change our rules, but I think this may be one of those times,” DeLeo said.
Senate President Karen Spilka has been more circumspect, telling State House News on Monday that she would make no predictions about extending the legislation session beyond July 31.
Many lawmakers eager to see their bills move forward are speculating about the options to meet longer this year. Details are scarce, but the joint rules of the House and Senate allow for special sessions to be called if they have the support of a majority of the House and Senate members.
Some lawmakers have speculated that a special session could be held in August, while others have suggested gathering after the election in early November and meeting through the end of the year. Normally, lawmakers are reluctant to meet in lame-duck sessions, but one lawmaker said it wasn’t that big of a deal, pointing out that two-thirds of incumbent state lawmakers are facing no challenge in either the primary or the general election this year.
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With police reform legislation, there is a lot of momentum but very little time to deal with House and Senate differences. Here are five key differences between the bills of the two branches.
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FROM AROUND THE WEB
The House police reform bill would allow for the shifting of responsibility for investigating cases of fatal police use of force from local district attorneys to the state attorney general. (Boston Globe)
Immigration bills pending in the state Legislature could fall victim to the end-of-session time crunch. (MassLive)
Lowell’s City Council rejects an effort to have racism declared a public health crisis in the city. (Boston Globe)
A legislative oversight committee is starting work on its investigation into the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home. (MassLive)
A backlog in processing coronavirus tests is hurting efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19. (Boston Globe)
With funding from wind energy developers, Southcoast Health has been able to relaunch free mobile testing for COVID-19 in New Bedford. (Standard-Times)
In the face of sinking poll numbers, President Trump — who yesterday suddenly declared mask-wearing “patriotic” — will resume holding daily coronavirus briefings. (Washington Post)
Trump vows to send federal agents to US cities to combat violent crime, a move critics are ripping as an election-year ploy. (New York Times)
An initiative by US Rep. Seth Moulton to designate the phone number 988 as a national suicide hotline is moving forward. (The Salem News)
Fourth Congressional District candidate Becky Walker Grossman will launch a $250,000 television advertising effort this week. (Boston Globe)
The Baker administration says it wants back $2.1 million in tax credits given several years ago to Brooks Brothers now that the company is shuttering its Haverhill manufacturing plant. (Boston Globe)
Cybersecurity is a concern for businesses now that more people are working from home. (The Salem News)
A Boston developer may be getting an old police station in Fall River for $10,000. (Herald News)
UMass Amherst needs to cut $30 million from its budget, and school officials are not ruling out layoffs. (MassLive) Officials at UMass Amherst expect 7,000 students to return to campus housing in the fall. (Daily Hampshire Gazette) The entire UMass system, facing a $264 million budget gap, is freezing tuition, laying off 6 percent of its workforce, and furloughing thousands of other employees. (State House News Service)
The pandemic is cutting into budgets at other colleges and universities, too. (Boston Globe)
WGBH’s Henry Santoro speaks with the curator of a virtual exhibit that captures how COVID-19 transformed life in Boston and its surrounding areas starting in mid-March.
Pan Am Railways, which operates a rail network in Massachusetts and across the northeast, is reportedly for sale. (Berkshire Eagle)
The final version of the supplemental state budget bill passed last week includes an amendment to help keep the Steamship Authority’s five port communities afloat should the ferry line run a deficit at the end of the year (Cape Cod Times)
Police video footage from last year obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts shows officers stopping people near the South Bay House of Correction and refusing to let them go unless they provided their name so they could be checked for warrants. ACLU officials say the stops were illegal. (WBUR)
A Globe editorial decries the costs of inmate phone calls in correctional facilities and urges the Legislature to take action.
An 82-year-old Fall River man says he was assaulted while standing on a street corner holding “Veterans for Trump” and “Blue Lives Matter” signs. (Boston Herald)
Massachusetts Probate and Family Court Judge Paul Sushchyk denies charges by the Commission on Judicial Conduct that he touched a woman’s butt without her consent during a conference. (MassLive)
Newsroom layoffs set a new record in the first half of 2020, rising to the highest level ever, according to a report by the consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.The portrayal of Portland, Oregon, in the national media as a city under siege is inaccurate, reports The Oregonian.
Fox News host Tucker Carlson says the New York Times plans to run a story this week identifying where he lives, a move that he says could endanger his family. The Times says the paper has no plans to run a story doing so. (Washington Post)