Beacon Hill Update: Monday, April 26th, 2021April 30, 2021
Monday, April 26, 2021:
- As of Sunday night, DPH reported a total of 640,339 cases of COVID-19.
- The state reported 1,085 new confirmed cases.
- The state has now confirmed a total of 17,199 deaths from the virus.
- Governor Baker hinted last Thursday that he’ll have some kind of an announcement related to personal and economic COVID-19 restrictions to make this week.
- Massachusetts entered the fourth phase of the Baker administration’s economic reopening plan on March 22, allowing entertainment venues to reopen and pushing up the gathering limits for public settings to 100 people indoors and 150 people outdoors.
- The governors in neighboring New Hampshire, Connecticut and Rhode Island have all made announcements about the end of certain COVID-19 mitigation strategies but Governor Baker said he remains focused on the state’s vaccine rollout.
- New Hampshire last week allowed its public mask mandate to expire, Connecticut announced plans to phase out all business restrictions by May 19 and Rhode Island Gov. Daniel McKee said Thursday he will incrementally increase capacity limits for all businesses in the Ocean State until they are eliminated by Memorial Day weekend.
- The House begins debate on the FY 22 budget today.
- The House will gavel in at 10 a.m. Monday and expects to begin roll call votes at 11 a.m.
- Representatives have been told to plan for budget sessions starting at 10 a.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and to hold Thursday and Friday open for potential sessions.
- Though some lawmakers will be present in the House Chamber, Speaker Mariano’s office urged reps to participate remotely because of the persistently high number of COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts.
- There are 1,157 pending amendments on the bill that the House will consider.
- The Senate will meet in informal session Monday at 11am.
- The Holyoke Soldiers’ Home construction bill set for debate in the Senate this week now includes $200 million more in borrowing aimed at overhauling the state’s veterans services, a significant departure from the House’s approach on a time-sensitive issue.
- The Senate Ways and Means Committee’s version of the bill (S 2439), scheduled for a vote on Thursday, bulks up the bond authorization from $400 million to $600 million and strips out the project labor agreement language that generated dispute in the House bill.
- It would still approve $400 million in borrowing for the construction of a new veterans’ home to replace the existing facility in Holyoke, a project that the Baker administration believes will qualify for up to 65 percent reimbursement from the federal government.
- The Senate panel also folded in a new section not found in the unanimously approved House bill (H 3701) using another $200 million in bonds to fund studies and expansion of how Massachusetts providers care for its veterans.
- That effort would focus on geographic equity and accessibility, aiming to boost supports for those who live farther away from the state-run Holyoke and Chelsea facilities, and it could feature construction of new satellite or regional veterans’ homes and “small house” design options, according to a summary of the committee’s bill.
- The Senate Ways and Means bill does not include a project labor agreement governing the use of union labor on construction of the new Holyoke facility, which was featured in the version (H 3701) the House passed unanimously last week.
- Union leaders, trade groups, lawmakers and the Baker administration were split on whether such an agreement would help or hinder the use of minority- and women-owned firms on the project.
- If the bill clears the Senate, leaders in the two branches will need to reconcile major differences in its scope and bottom line before sending it to Governor Baker, who for months has been pressing lawmakers to act quickly.
by David Gauthier