During the ongoing Massachusetts 191st General Court’s 2019-2020 session – which has been extended through action taken by the Legislature – the House of Representatives has passed emergency legislation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as major legislation relating to education, transportation, and climate change.
Following a decisive vote in July to extend the formal legislative session, the House remains at work on bills vital to the Commonwealth including the state budget and COVID-19 related matters. This action 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 creates 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 to allow members of the House of Representatives to vote remotely during the height of the pandemic. 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.
Amid a difficult fiscal climate, the House also voted to level fund Chapter 90 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 which I helped to author, the House passed legislation to legalize sports betting, provide supports to small businesses and at-risk populations, increase funding for economic empowerment in Black and Brown communities, and make investments and zoning changes to promote more 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, which I co-chair alongside House Education Committee Chair, Rep. Alice Peisch. 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.
At the start of this session, in 2019, the House passed several pieces of landmark legislation including an historic $1.5 billion statewide investment in public schools – known as the Student Opportunity Act.
The House also passed nation-leading legislation to modernize tobacco control and ban all flavored tobacco as well as legislation to reduce distracted driving. In addition, the House passed legislation to protect college students by ensuring higher education financial stability and oversight. The House also banned conversion therapy for minors, ensured no student in-need would go hungry by requiring breakfast after the school bell, and provided supplemental funding for women’s reproductive health organizations as a result of federal cuts to the Title X program, which was included as part of a supplemental state budget.
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.
The House passed following legislation over the General Court’s two-year session between January 1, 2019 and July 31, 2020. Due to the public health emergency, the House and Senate have extended the legislative session through December 31, 2020 in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency.
- An Act to Facilitate the Delay of the Income Tax Filing Deadline (H.4677)
- An Act Providing Additional Support to Those Affected by the Novel Coronavirus Through the Unemployment Insurance System (H.4648)
- An Act Addressing COVID-19 Data Collection and Disparities in Treatment (H.4672)
- An Act Relative to Voting Options in Response to COVID-19 (H.4820)
- An Act Making $15 million in Appropriations for the Fiscal Year 2020 to Provide for Supplementing Certain Existing Appropriations Relating to the Coronavirus (H.4561)
- An Act to Further Address Challenges Faced by Municipalities, School Districts and State Authorities Resulting from COVID-19 (H.4616)
- An Act to Address Challenges Faced by Municipalities and State Authorities Resulting from COVID-19 (H.4598)
- An Act Granting Authority to Postpone 2020 Municipal Elections in the Commonwealth and Increase Voting Options in Response to the Declaration of Emergency to Respond to COVID-19 (S.2608)
- An Act Authorizing Waiver of the One Week Waiting Period for Unemployment Benefits (S.2599)
- An Act to Expand Take-Out/Delivery Options in Response to COVID-19 (H.4856)
COVID-19 Legislation Awaiting Final Passage
- An Act Relative to Long Term Care Facility and Elder Housing COVID-19 Reporting (H.4667)
- An Act Addressing Challenges Faced by Food and Beverage Establishments Resulting from the COVID-19 Pandemic (H.4774)
Other Enacted Laws
- An Act Financing the General Governmental Infrastructure of the Commonwealth (H.4932)
- An Act Relative to Collective Bargaining Dues (H.3854)
- An Act to Mitigate Arbovirus in the Commonwealth (H.4851)
- An Act Regarding Breakfast After the Bell (H.4218)
- An Act Relative to Educational Opportunity for Students (S.2412)
- An Act to Lift the Cap on Kids (H.3594)
- An Act to Support Improved Financial Stability in Higher Education (H.4099)
- An Act Requiring the Hands-Free Use of Mobile Telephones While Driving (H.4203)
- An Act Modernizing Tobacco Control (H.4196)
- An Act Relative to Abusive Practices to Change Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Minors (H.140)
- An Act Relative to Children’s Health and Wellness (H.4210)
- An Act Relative to Campaign Finance (H.4223)
- An Act Relative to Strengthening the Local and Regional Public Health System (H.4503)
- An Act to Protect Persons with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities from Abuse (S.2367)
Other Legislation Awaiting Final Passage
- An Act to Reduce Racial Inequities in Maternal Health (H.4818)
- 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 (H.4886)
- An Act Enabling Partnerships for Growth (H.4887)
- An Act Authorizing and Accelerating Transportation Investment (H.4547)
- An Act Financing Improvements to Municipal Roads and Bridges (H.4803)
- An Act Creating a 2050 Roadmap to a Clean and Thriving Commonwealth (H.4933)
- An Act Relative to Transportation Finance (H.4530)
- An Act Relative to the Host Community Agreements (H.4367)
- An Act Relative to GreenWorks (H.3997)