House Session Summary - Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020
Plans Friday Session to Finish Work on $423 Mil Closeout Budget
11/5/20 5:58 PM
The House unanimously passed a $423 million spending bill Thursday to close out the books on fiscal 2020 more than four months after the new fiscal year began. House Ways and Means Chair Aaron Michlewitz touted the fact that the legislation wraps up fiscal 2020 without tapping into the stabilization fund. Michlewitz said the closeout will also grant the University of Massachusetts a short-term line of credit for operating expenses, implement technical changes to unemployment insurance, and allow the MBTA to use capital funds for employee salaries. Michlewitz said the MBTA measure was included in both the House and Senate versions of the transportation bond bill, but with that legislation tied up in conference negotiations since July 23, it was sewn into the closeout budget to get it done in a timely manner. Over the course of about two hours, House legislators withdrew nearly all of the 39 amendments to the bill --- only three were adopted. Among the withdrawals was an amendment from Rep. Mike Connolly that would have extended an eviction and foreclosure moratorium until the end of the year. The Cambridge Democrat previously attempted to force an emergency extension of the ban during a House informal session in mid-October. Amendments adopted Thursday include one from Rep. Hannah Kane that extends the time for the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism to access funds related to the women's rights history trail and another from Rep. Kimberly Ferguson extending a deadline for the Brain Injury Commission to make recommendations on improving services. The House meets next on Friday in an informal session. Speaker Pro Tempore Patricia Haddad told the News Service that the goal for Friday's session is to finish dealing with the closeout budget and ideally get it to Gov. Charlie Baker's desk. - Chris Van Buskirk
To track a bill's legislative history or view its text, click here and enter the bill number. The News Service features gavel-to-gavel summaries of all sessions and audio of formal sessions on our web page: http://www.statehousenews.com.
Session Audio: 2:50 p.m.-2:56 p.m. | 3:45 p.m.-4:25 p.m.
CONVENES: The House convened at 11:05 a.m. with Rep. Haddad of Somerset presiding. Reps. Wong of Saugus and Barrows of Mansfield were also present.
PLEDGE: Members, staff, and guests pledged allegiance to the U.S. Flag.
RESOLUTIONS: The House adopted a congratulatory resolution.
TAUNTON FIRE DEPARTMENT: The House enacted S 2624 relative to the retirement group of Taunton Fire Department Mechanic Michael Perry.
WOBURN MEMORIAL BRIDGE: The House enacted H 4206 designating a certain bridge in the city of Woburn as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge.
SICK LEAVE BANK: The House on a 3-0 standing vote adopted an emergency preamble to H 4999 establishing a sick leave bank for Joseph Gatto, an employee of the Suffolk County Sheriff's Department.
SICK LEAVE BANK: The House concurred with the Senate's referral to the Committee on Public Service SD 3002 establishing a sick leave bank for George Monfreda, an employee of the Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital.
RECESS: The House recessed at 11:09 a.m. intending to return at 1:30 p.m.
RETURNS: The House returned at 1:50 p.m. and opened a roll call to establish a quorum.
Sen. Michael Rodrigues entered the chamber and spoke with House members.
QUORUM ROLL CALL: Rep. Haddad declared a quorum at 2:12 p.m. with 157 members indicating their presence.
UMASS LAND: Question came on enacting H 4927 authorizing the University of Massachusetts to convey a certain parcel of land and buildings to the city of Waltham.
Rep. Lawn said I rise today in support of H 4927 an act authorizing the University of Massachusetts to convey a certain parcel of land and buildings to the city of Waltham. This bill would allow the city to purchase the UMass Field Station. Today, it is the home of dozen of nonprofits and educational groups. This has been many years in the making, this transfer from UMass to the city of Waltham. I'd like to thank UMass for negotiating with the city. I'd like to thank the mayor of Waltham, who was committed to purchasing this land and the city council. I'd like to thank House Counsel. I think it is a great addition that this land will be protected as open space, recreation, and agriculture for the city of Waltham. I ask for a roll call vote.
Sen. Rodrigues spoke with Rep. Haddad on the rostrum during the roll call vote.
By a ROLL CALL vote of 157-0, bill ENACTED at 2:32 p.m.
Sen. Rodrigues exited the chamber.
LITTLETON LAND: By a ROLL CALL VOTE of 157-0 at 2:48 p.m. the House ENACTED H 4866 authorizing the town of Littleton to use certain land for construction of a water treatment facility without Article 97 restrictions on such use.
SICK LEAVE: The House enacted H 4999 establishing a sick leave bank for Joseph Gatto, an employee of the Suffolk County Sheriff's Department.
BAKER REORG PLAN - SUPPLIER DIVERSITY OFFICE: The House concurred in referring to the Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight a message from Gov. Baker submitting Reorganization Plan Number 1 of 2020 relative to transferring the Supplier Diversity Office ("SDO") from the Operational Services Division and establishing an SDO as an independent agency within the Executive Office for Administration and Finance.
ORDERS OF THE DAY: There was no objection to proceeding with matters contained in the orders of the day.
FISCAL 2020 CLOSEOUT: Question came on engrossment of H 5102 making appropriations for fiscal year 2020 to provide for supplementing certain existing appropriations and for certain other activities and projects.
Rep. Haddad said Rep. Michlewitz has remarks.
Rep. Michlewitz said despite the traumatic effects of COVID-19 on this state, we will close the books today on FY20 without having to go into the stabilization fund to balance the budget. Given where we were a few short months ago, this is a major accomplishment we should be proud of. In order to accomplish this, we will be diverting the automatic transfer of capital gains tax to the stabilization fund to ensure the balance. This equals out to around 400 million dollars we are using. The total fiscal note is a little over 423 million dollars. Other than the excessive capital gains revenue being pushed into FY21, the rest of the spending pieces are either shoring up deficiencies or reauthorizing items from FY20 to FY21. There are a few minor policy pieces today. We are allowing UMass to get a short-term line of credit for operating expenses for one year capped at 8 percent of their total operating costs, or for FY21 we're expecting 250 million dollars to be capped at. There are also technical changes to unemployment insurance to ensure people on pandemic unemployment benefits are eligible for the same extended benefits people on regular UI receive. People on UI have been receiving an extra seven weeks of benefits. We're tackling an issue with the MBTA giving them more flexibility with its capital budget. This will allow MBTA to use some capital funds for employee salaries. While it was in both branches' transportation bond bills that are currently in conference, it has become a more timely issue as the T is facing budget issues in weeks and months ahead. This supplemental budget allows us to move on from FY20 to FY21.
Rep. Michlewitz requested a roll call vote on engrossment. He received sufficient support.
RECESS: The House entered a recess.
RETURNS: The House returned at 3:45 p.m.
GARLICK AMENDMENT 39 - Medfield Road Improvement Extension - ADOPTED
CONNOLLY AMENDMENT 38 - Eviction and Foreclosure Moratorium through at least January 1, 2021
The chair recognized Rep. Connolly.
Rep. Connolly said I rise in support of amendment 38 which would reinstate our recent eviction and foreclosure moratorium through at least Jan. 1 of the new year. Gov. Charlie Baker allowed it to expire on Oct. 17. He offered another plan, while this contained several welcomed pieces, it falls far short of the necessary financial assistance. Key components of this plan will not be fully operational for several weeks such as the community mediation program. Another key part of the governor's plan, the RAFT program, is not ready to deal with the coming wave of evictions. On a call with Secretary Sudders and Secretary Kennealy a couple of weeks ago, legislators were told that the administration was hoping to approve the process by the end of November. Let me pause for emphasis, we have allowed the eviction and foreclosure moratorium to expire and we are in the middle of an alarming spike of COVID-19 cases, and yet many components of the governor's plans are not operations or already broken. These are just some of the reasons the Metropolitan Area Planning Council and others have been calling on us this fall to take action to extend the eviction moratorium. Of course, I want to recognize the efforts of the speaker, the House Ways and Means chair, and the housing chair. We can all appreciate that the House is adding more funding for the MRVP, RAFT, and legal assistance programs. As it stands, even if a tenant is qualified for the RAFT program, a landlord may not choose to participate in the program. Delays in the process can lead to evictions. I am pleased that additional steps have been announced and yet so much more needs to be done. As I speak with others, some say it is ok that we let the eviction moratorium expire. These pre-covid eviction cases are essentially first in line. It has been reported that the governor hired additional judges to get through the eviction backlog. It has also been suggested that some judges will approach this matter with sensitivity but it is naive to think of that as policy. If a tenant is facing eviction and winds up before a judge then at least they do have a fighting chance. But my concern has to do with all the notices to tenants to quit right now and don't have the opportunity to access resources. Without stronger protections, we know our most vulnerable residents may end up in situations that are conducive to the spread of COVID-19. Another point, when eviction cases are filed against tenants, that creates a permanent record that can impact others in the household. Finally, the governor and others have pointed to the presence of the federal CDC eviction moratorium order. This only offers a thin layer of protection. And while the governor has been touting the CDC order, it has been reported that Donald Trump's Department of Justice is trying to undermine the CDC order. I find this hard to believe that our housing stability policy in Massachusetts turns our residents to Trump's Department of Justice. Other states like Connecticut, New Jersey, Montana, Kansas, and California all have stronger COVID-19 eviction protections in place. And most of these states have their state level protections in place through Jan. 1, 2021 or until the end of their emergency declarations. I hope we advance a conversation that can continue as we consider the provisions of the FY21 budget. I ask to withdraw my amendment as we look to build support for further action.
KANE AMENDMENT 1 - Women's Rights History Trail Funding Extension - ADOPTED
FERGUSON AMENDMENT 36 - Brain Injury Commission Reporting Deadline - ADOPTED
Rep. Haddad said we do not anticipate any further roll calls for today.
By a ROLL CALL VOTE of 157-0, bill ENGROSSED at 4:12 p.m.
FISCAL 2021 BUDGET - HOUSE WAYS & MEANS: Question came on ordering to a third reading H 5150 making appropriations for the fiscal year 2021 for the maintenance of the departments, boards, commissions, institutions and certain activities of the commonwealth, for interest, sinking fund and serial bond requirements and for certain permanent improvements. Rep. Michlewitz moved to postpone the matter until Tuesday at 10 a.m.
MEMORIAL ADJOURNMENT: The House adjourned at 4:25 p.m. in memory of former Rep. and Sen. Joseph DiCarlo of Revere, to meet next on Friday at 1:30 p.m. in an informal session.
DISCLAIMER: Bill texts and histories are available at http://www.malegislature.gov/. All votes are voice votes, unless otherwise noted. Bills ordered to third reading have been given initial approval. To engross a bill is to pass it and send it to the other branch. The last of three votes taken on bills that reach the governor's desk is the vote on enactment. So, it's third reading (initial approval), engrossment (passage) and enactment. The News Service coverage of legislative debate is an accurate summary of remarks, not a verbatim transcript.
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