THE MASSACHUSETTS SENATE on Thursday officially voted to extend the legislative session.
In a unanimous vote on the Senate floor, senators went along with a decision made by the House on Wednesday to continue meeting past July 31.
However, because of differences in language between the orders passed by the House and the Senate, there must still be another vote before the extension becomes official in order for both bodies to agree on common language.
The Senate order reads that due to the coronavirus pandemic, “it is critical for the senate and house of representatives to continue convening in formal session to respond to, and mitigate the spread of, COVID-19 to protect the health, security, safety, economic well-being and convenience of the people of the commonwealth.”
While the House and Senate orders effectively do the same thing, the House included extra language about the risks and dangers of COVID-19 and the constitutional authority that the Legislature has to determine its rules.
Legislative rules require lawmakers to finish their work by the end of July in the second year of the legislative session to give lawmakers time to campaign for reelection and avoid lame-duck legislating. The extension order will let the Legislature continue to meet in formal sessions through the end of the year.
Lawmakers have said the extension is necessary to continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, monitor state finances, and possibly address other issues that got deferred as lawmakers focused on the pandemic.
It remains to be seen what matters lawmakers agree to take up during the extension. While they must return to vote on an annual budget – a temporary budget funding government through Oct. 31 is on Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk – a glut of other matters are also awaiting action.
The bodies have passed or are considering major bills on police reform, health care, climate change, transportation funding, and economic development. With one day left before July 31, the House and Senate continue to work on reconciling major differences on all these bills.