Beacon Hill Update Nov. 10, 2020 provided by MassAccessNovember 10, 2020
Tuesday, November 10, 2020
• As of Monday night, DPH reported a total of 167,929 cases of COVID-19.
• The state has now confirmed a total of 9,936 deaths from the virus.
• The week began Monday with the state tracking 22,023 active cases of COVID-19 after public health officials reported 4,009 new cases of the coronavirus over the weekend and 43 new confirmed deaths from the disease.
• The Department of Public Health reported on Sunday that 568 people were in the hospital for confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 144 patients who were in intensive care units.
• That was an increase of 55 patients hospitalized with the virus since Friday and 26 patients newly being treated in ICUs around the state.
• The state reported a combined 172,858 new molecular tests on Saturday and Sunday, which put the state’s seven-day average positivity rate at 2.27 percent.
• When removing repeat higher education testing from the equation, the positivity rate over the past week was 3.92 percent.
• This past weekend was the first since Governor Baker put in place a new mandatory mask policy in public, and began imposing curfews on some businesses, forcing them to close by 9:30 p.m. so that people have time to return home and comply with the new statewide advisory that people remain in their homes from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m.
• The new guidelines were put in place to slow what Governor Baker has newly described as a second surge of COVID-19, with the seven-day average of new confirmed cases up 717 percent from a low of 157 a day and the average number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 over the past week up 222 percent from a low of 155.
• In a sign that the branches appear to be working together to quickly wrap up the fiscal 2021 budget, the Senate’s top budget writer said Monday his committee plans to release a Senate version of the budget Thursday in anticipation of a debate on the annual spending plan to begin next Tuesday.
• Senate Ways and Means Chairman Michael Rodrigues said the committee was “in the final stages of finalizing a responsible budget for the remainder of FY 2021 that it would release on Thursday.
• The Senate put the budget (S 4) on its schedule as the only item of business for Nov. 17.
• The Senate also voted on Monday to set a deadline for senators to file amendments to the still-unreleased bill for 10 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 13.
• The timeline laid out by Senate leaders means the branch will almost certainly begin its budget process, releasing its own bill and accepting amendments, before the House concludes its own debate, which is scheduled to begin this Tuesday and resume Thursday after the Veterans’ Day holiday.
• Should two days of debate not be sufficient, House leaders also told members to be prepared to continue debate on the $46 billion budget plan Friday and Saturday, if necessary.
• Any budgets that pass the House and Senate by the end of next week will have to be negotiated and reconciled between the branches before a bill goes to Governor Baker for his review and signature.
• House Ways and Means Chairman Aaron Michlewitz said last week that a “framework” for the budget had already been discussed with the Senate prior to the release of the House version, and Speaker DeLeo has discouraged members from pursuing major policy initiatives in the budget.
• Also Monday, the upper chamber passed a bill updating public accountancy laws in Massachusetts (S 2941), approved a resolve to create a commission on the 250th Anniversary of the American Revolution (S 2941), and agreed to authorize a new liquor license for a development at the old Charles River Speedway on Soldiers Field Road (H 4549).
• The Senate meets next on Thursday without a calendar.
• Despite Speaker Robert DeLeo warning House lawmakers off trying to use the annual budget to advance major policy changes, the top Democrat blessed a vote this week on an amendment that would codify abortion rights into state law and make abortions legal after 24 weeks if a doctor has diagnosed a fatal fetal abnormality.
• The amendment to the annual budget bill was filed by Rep. Claire Cronin, a Easton Democrat and the co-chair of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, which faces its own deadline of Thursday to make a recommendation on a bill known as the “ROE Act.”
• Rep. Cronin filed a version of the ROE Act as amendment 759.
• It would strengthen abortion access laws in Massachusetts by making abortion explicitly legal in state law, and allowing for abortions after 24 weeks in more than just cases where the life of the mother is in jeopardy.
• The amendment also spells out a legal process for young women under the age of 16 who can’t or do not want to get the consent of a parent or guardian to petition a judge for an abortion.
• The legislation has been under consideration since the session started in 2019, but gained momentum following the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court last month to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
• DeLeo and Senate President Karen Spilka promised after Barrett’s confirmation that the Legislature would debate abortion rights before the end of the session in early January, but last week DeLeo said the fiscal year 2021 budget, which is already four months late, is “not an appropriate place for major policy reform.”
• If the Legislature were to include a version of the ROE Act in the budget, it’s unclear if Democratic leaders would need to muster a veto-proof majority.
• One hundred fourteen legislators co-sponsored the original bill, including 22 in the Senate and 92 in the House.
• Governor Baker has said he supports a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion, but doesn’t necessarily see a need to change the current abortion laws in Massachusetts.
• He has expressed concern about eliminating parental notification laws and also said he opposes “late-term abortion,” but hasn’t been clear on whether he would apply such a label to an abortion after 24 weeks in cases when a doctor determines the fetus will not survive.