More than 6,500 bills were filed by the 40 state Senators and 160 state Representatives for consideration by the bill filing deadline last Friday. With the benchmark behind them, the work of the Legislature’s Joint Committees can truly begin. Chairs can now organize their members, vote on internal rules, and arrange a hearing schedule to begin the process of seeking input from experts and the public. It’s worth noting that some of the most impactful bills are late filed, often by members of leadership, and could become the focus of the legislative session.
Wasting no time, the Joint Committee on Ways & Means will hold its first FY22 hearing on Gov. Charlie Baker’s $45.6 billion budget proposal on March 2. The Committee plans to hear virtual testimony from the Secretary of Administration and Finance Mike Heffernan, constitutional officers, the state inspector general, and the Executive Office of Technology Services and Security. The tumultuous vaccine rollout and abismal state website are the impetus for organizing the first hearing on technology.
Senate President Karen Spilka and Speaker Ron Mariano aren’t waiting any longer for answers from the Baker Administration. They’ve empowered the newly formed Joint Committee on COVID-19 and Emergency Preparedness and Management to hold an oversight hearing this Thursday on the administration’s failed vaccination rollout. Committee Chairs state Sen. Jo Comerford (D-Northampton) and state Rep. Bill Driscoll (D-Milton) will ask Baker administration officials about the mismanaged rollout and why the Governor elected to stop sending does to local vaccination sites.
In Washington, the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote this week on a $1.9 trillion COVID relief and stimulus package. The economic lifeline would deliver $3.3 billion in emergency funding to Massachusetts with $2 billion for state K-12 schools, $525 million for emergency childcare funding and $825 million for higher education campuses along with unemployment assistance, housing aid and the continuation of the pandemic EBT program for nutrition assistance. While the bill is expected to pass the House, its fate is not as certain in the Senate. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and Arizona Senator Krysten Sinema have previously voiced opposition to raising the minimum wage. With a 50/50 split in the chamber, Democrats can’t afford to lose a single vote on this bill with united opposition expected from the Republican caucus.
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