All of our lives have been changed drastically by the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Massachusetts Legislature is no different.
What is usually a flurry of activity in April, May, June, and July, the legislature saw a very different pace this year.
A series of interim budgets replaced the usual days-long debate in the House and Senate in April and May. For the first time in its history, members used video conferencing software to hold hearings and were able to call into legislative sessions to vote and debate.
The State House building itself, usually bustling with legislators, staff, press, school groups, tourists, and advocates, sat dormant except for a limited number of legislators and staff.
Lobby days, including ARL’s event geared towards animal protection legislation, were first postponed then ultimately canceled, and advocates turned to phone and email to connect with legislators.
In another historic measure, last week, the Massachusetts Legislature took the unprecedented step of suspending the rule requiring formal session end on July 31 on the second year of the session. While unprecedented, it was all but inevitable as the scope and reality of economic and health impacts became clear.
The formal legislative session will now run through the end of the year.
There are several bills in conference, as small groups of legislators from the House and the Senate try and come to final agreement. The legislature still used the last few days of July to take up and pass a number of bills, but the timeline is extended through the fall.
What does this mean for ARL’s bills?
The legislature will still be able to do business and are likely to debate a full budget this fall. In the meantime, there is a focus on those issues that are directly related to COVID-19.
We are constantly monitoring the legislature, so stay tuned to our social media to learn about any updates. View ARL’s Legislative Agenda.