Update from Massachusetts State House via MassAccess July 27, 2022July 29, 2022
Wednesday, July 27, 2022:
• As of Thursday, 7/21, DPH reported a total of 1,793,437 cases of COVID-19.
• The state reported 10,250 new confirmed cases and 42 new deaths in the past 7 days
• The state now has 19,860 deaths from the virus.
• The Senate sent a pair of major bills to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk Tuesday, enacting compromise versions of a reproductive health access bill (H 5090) and a nearly $5.2 billion general government bond bill (H 5065).
• The bill that creates new legal protections for reproductive health and gender-affirming care providers, expands access to emergency contraceptives, and requires insurers to cover abortions without shifting costs to patients.
• State lawmakers drafted the legislation as a response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision overturning the decades-old right to an abortion enshrined in Roe v. Wade.
• The Senate voted unanimously on a multibillion-dollar borrowing bill to fund improvements in public buildings, which also features a five-year moratorium on new prison and jail construction or expansion, a measure that Baker’s deputies have previously criticized.
• Other bills the Senate sent to Baker in the end-of-term flurry deal with Chicopee voting precincts, research animals, illegal hunting, superannuation for teachers, and land in Dunstable, West Brookfield and Brewster.
• With eight other major topics bottled up in conference committees as the July 31 deadline approaches, the Senate agreed to take Wednesday off and gaveled out with plans to reconvene in a formal session on Thursday.
• The major action of the House session Tuesday was passage of the significant expansion of abortion rights and protection that’s been a major focus of public policy in Massachusetts since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on June 24.
• House and Senate conferees announced a compromise bill yesterday, and that conference committee report was adopted 137-16 at mid-afternoon after a short-winded and quiet session that contrasted with the tumult attending the issue.
• Other than reproductive rights, the House session was unremarkable, a surprise perhaps given the late hour in the legislative calendar.
• The House chose to adjourn until Thursday at 11 a.m., an acknowledgement perhaps that the real action of the session now is occurring in the conversations between leaders wrangling over differences in a near-record number of conference committees.
• Republican voters are beginning to choose between gubernatorial candidates Geoff Diehl and Chris Doughty ahead of the Sept. 6 primary election, but don’t expect Gov. Charlie Baker to be among those picking sides or jumping to the immediate support of whichever candidate wins the primary.
• Diehl, a former state representative running for governor with the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, has been leading Doughty, a Wrentham businessman, in public polling on the GOP primary race.
• In a debate with Democrat Jay Gonzalez, Baker was asked specifically whether he would vote for Diehl for Senate. “I haven’t made a decision,” he said.
• After the debate, Baker told reporters that he got caught up in the back-and-forth and had misspoken. “I said I was going to support the ticket, I’m going to vote for the ticket,” which included Diehl, he said.
• The Senate is making a late-session push to allow cities and towns to individually bring back happy hour, which has been banned here for nearly 40 years, but Gov. Charlie Baker remains skeptical of the provision that could soon reach his desk.
• “I’ve said before that I have reservations about getting rid of [the prohibition on] happy hour, mostly because I’m old enough to remember what it’s like when we had it, and there was a lot of carnage on the roads,” Baker told reporters Tuesday afternoon.
• A Senate amendment to the economic development bill would allow municipal governments to vote to allow the sale of discounted alcohol beverages at bars and restaurants during specific hours as long as certain rules are followed. Happy hour specials are common in most other states but have been prohibited in Massachusetts since 1984.
• Though the economic development bill is not yet on his desk, the $52.7 billion annual budget for fiscal year 2023 is and Baker did not shed much light on his plans when asked Tuesday about his review period winding down.
• Massachusetts would allow speech-language pathologists to apply for provisional licenses and examine the prospect of a civil rights museum in Springfield under bills the House added onto its late-term to-do list Tuesday morning.
• The House Ways and Means Committee began polling members Tuesday morning on a trio of bills including the measure creating a provisional licensure system for speech-language pathologists (H 4245), which would add to existing certification options for that field.
• Representatives were asked to weigh in on legislation allowing use of open land in Framingham alongside Edgell Road to create a right-turn lane onto Central Street (H 4660) and on a bill seeking a study of an Underground Railroad, Civil Rights and Black Heritage Museum and Cultural Center in Springfield (H 4830).
• The study would examine the history of slavery, the Underground Railroad and the fight for civil rights in western Massachusetts. Members would be selected by lawmakers, the governor, Springfield’s mayor, the head of the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the Museum of African American History and the Black Advisory Commission.
• With five days remaining for Gov. Charlie Baker to act on a major climate and energy bill that hit his desk late last week, advocates lobbied for the governor’s signature on the front steps of the State House on Tuesday morning, and some speakers tied their pitch to the heatwave that hit the Bay State in recent days.
• The advocates lauded aspects of the bill (H 5060), like provisions that would require reporting of energy usage by buildings larger than 20,000 square feet and require that all new vehicles sold in Massachusetts be zero-emissions models by 2035.
• The governor can act on the bill up until 11:59 p.m. Sunday, the final day of the Legislature’s formal sessions for this term.
• If Baker sends it back with an amendment or veto toward the end of that window, it would leave lawmakers with a razor-thin timeline to respond to his action.
• Omitting college contests from a sports wagering framework would cut into the tax revenue Massachusetts could collect, but the cost might be worth it to fulfill the “pleas” of Bay State higher education leaders, Senate President Karen Spilka said Tuesday.
• College sports – and the $25 million to $35 million in annual revenue representatives estimate it could add – remains one of the most significant pressure points between the House and Senate, who each approved divergent sports betting bills that are tied up in private negotiations during the final week of formal sessions.
• House Speaker Ron Mariano has said on several occasions he views including college sports as integral to the final legislation, while senators so far have made clear they prefer only to allow wagers on professional sports.
• “We didn’t do an all-or-nothing approach. We ended up resolving that conference committee and we now have permanent early voting, mail-in balloting,” Spilka said. “That would not have happened if we took an all-or-nothing approach. We need to take a look at the whole bill, and we could have sports betting sooner rather than later.
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