Update from Beacon Hill from Mass Access – March 25, 2020March 25, 2020
On Tuesday the Governor filed HD4974, An Act to Further Address Challenges Faced by Municipalities and School Districts Resulting from COVID-19, text is attached.
Full details on proposed changes in the legislation include:
Suspending the cap on hours and compensation for retired employees collecting a pension for hours worked during the state of emergency, allowing municipalities to tap qualified workers when their workforces might be disrupted.
Permitting establishments licensed to sell alcohol for on-premises consumption to sell wine and beer by take-out and delivery, provided that the wine or beer is sold in the original sealed container, is sold in the same transaction as a purchase of food and is not over certain volume limitations.
Modifying the local permitting process during the state of emergency by:
Providing that no permit is automatically granted, approved, or denied because a local permitting authority is unable to act within a time period required by law.
Providing that any permit that is currently valid will not lapse or expire during the state of emergency and suspends any time limitation on such permits during the emergency.
Allowing applications for permits to be filed electronically, to eliminate the need for in-person filing.
Suspending any requirement that a hearing on a permit application be held within a certain period until 45 days after the end of the state of emergency.
Extending municipal tax deadlines by allowing municipalities to waive late-payment penalties for 4th quarter tax bills, which are due May 1. In addition, municipalities could change their tax bill due date from April 1 to June 1.
Allowing municipalities to extend the deadline for property tax exemptions and deferrals. The current statutory deadline is April 1, and this would allow municipalities to extend it to June 1.
Permitting Regional School Districts to suspend the statutorily-required vote on the approval of their fiscal year 2021 budget and allowing the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to certify an amount sufficient for the operation of the district, until a budget can be adopted.
Modifying the MCAS by permitting the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education upon recommendation of the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education to modify or waive the required competency determination for high school graduation. The Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education would also be allowed to modify or waive the MCAS testing requirement.
Extending a Student Opportunity Act deadline by permitting the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education to extend the April 1, 2020 deadline for each district to submit its first 3-year plan to address “persistent disparities in achievement among student subgroups.”
Permitting electronic signatures for search warrants and criminal complaints. Allowing electronic signatures in these situations would result in less traffic in courthouses and reduce in-person encounters, while still allowing the criminal process to continue.
Extending the dates by which the MBTA must approve a preliminary budget and submit a final budget to better align with the Commonwealth’s budget process.
Grocery stores are among the essential businesses that remain open in Massachusetts, and Gov. Charlie Baker is working with Attorney General Maura Healey’s office and the state Coronavirus Command Center to draft guidance for food shops and their customers.
Governor Baker said Tuesday that his administration is finalizing guidance “to establish standards around safe practices for construction work in Massachusetts” during the outbreak of COVID-19. In Boston, Mayor Martin Walsh ordered construction sites to shut down for two weeks, but the state has not followed suit.
Marijuana businesses are asking Governor Baker to reconsider his ruling that only patients registered in the state’s medical marijuana program will be able to legally buy marijuana for two weeks beginning today at noon. Medical marijuana has been deemed an essential service, but unlike California and Illinois, legal marijuana sales for people not registered as patients must cease as of noon today in Massachusetts.
The Tufts Health Plan Foundation will direct $1M toward community and nonprofit efforts to support older Americans impacted by the coronavirus outbreak in four states. Funding will go to organizations in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Connecticut that work with older Americans.
A coalition of health insurers and business groups sent a letter Tuesday to the state’s Congressional delegation asking them to fight for targeted premium assistance for small and mid-sized employers to be included in the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package being negotiated on Capitol Hill.
Geoffrey Snyder will take over Monday as head of MA Department of Revenue. Snyder previously worked at DOR from October 2016 until April 2019 as the deputy commissioner of administrative affairs and acting chief financial officer.
The House and Senate are scheduled to meet again in informal session on Thursday at 11am.
The Senate is expected to take action on nurse staffing legislation which was released on Tuesday.
The bill authorizes “independent practice authority” for nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and psychiatric mental health clinical nurse specialists that are board certified and have completed at least two years of supervised practice. The legislation also permits the Board of Registration in Nursing to reduce the two-year supervised practice requirement if the board deems that it is necessary to ensure adequate access to the professionals affected by the legislation.
The legislation will likely emerge for a Senate vote later this Thursday.
Sessions will be live streamed.
As of Monday night the state had 11 COVID-19 related deaths, 94 people are hospitalized, there were 1159 confirmed cases and 13,749 have been tested.