During the ongoing Massachusetts 191st General Court’s 2019-2020 session – which has been extended through legislative action – the House 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. 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 also included one of the strongest moratoriums in the country protecting tenants and homeowners from eviction and foreclosure and creating opportunities for restaurants to serve alcohol, beer and wine for carry out service.
“As the global COVID-19 pandemic continues to threaten public health and challenge our economy, I’m proud of all we have accomplished in the House so far this session to address the effects of the pandemic as well as to pass meaningful legislation relating to climate change, transportation and education,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “I’m grateful to my colleagues for working so diligently to help solve the Commonwealth’s most pressing issues during this this unprecedented time, and, thanks to the extension of our legislative session, our work continues.”
“The 2019-2020 legislative session has been unlike any in recent memory, and the 191st General Court will always hold a special place in my life personally and professionally because it has become my final session as the State Representative for the Sixteenth Suffolk District,” said Representative RoseLee Vincent (D-Revere). “I am proud that under the leadership of Speaker DeLeo, we have been able to make significant strides this session on issues like climate change, environmental justice and education – just to name a few significant issues we have tackled, and in the face of COVID-19, the Massachusetts House of Representatives continues to rise to the challenges we face to enact emergency legislation to help the Commonwealth’s residents and businesses in the age of this pandemic.”
For the first time in the history of the Commonwealth, the House voted on emergency rules to establish procedures for remote voting. 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 keep Chapter 90 level-funded 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, the House passed legislation to legalize sports betting, provide supports to small businesses and at-risk populations and make investments in 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 itsEarly Education and Care (EEC) Recovery Advisory Group. 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. Given the long-term importance of the transportation infrastructure to the region, the House also passed the $600 million investment in new transportation funding – known as the An Act Relative to Transportation Finance.
The House also passed nation-leading legislation to modernize tobacco control and ban all flavored tobacco and 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 healthorganizations as a result of federal cuts 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 from on January 1, 2019 through 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 Providing for a Moratorium on Evictions and Foreclosures During the COVID-19 Emergency (H. 4647)
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
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)