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Mass. House Will Skip Recess To Finish Bills, React To Pandemic

The Massachusetts Legislature will set aside its self-imposed July 31st deadline for lawmaking and work into August if they can’t manage to complete crucial legislation in time.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo announced that he’s doing away with the tradition of recessing in the middle of summer in election years so both the House and Senate have more time to finalize bills they would have to abandon otherwise.

The Senate is likely to follow suit, but has not yet adopted a formal order to do so.

In a statement, DeLeo said the state is “facing unprecedented public health and fiscal challenges that were unforeseeable as recently as last January.” Senate President Karen Spilka, in her own statement, wrote that “the Senate is pleased that the House has agreed with us to extend the session to complete vital legislation and stand ready to act as required by the COVID-19 crisis.”

The July 31st end of formal law-making in election years is one of the only deadlines Legislators haven’t blown past in recent years, but with Covid 19 turning the entire 2019-2020 session upside down, DeLeo ordered the extension so bills that get passed by Friday night can still be reconciled with the Senate after the deadline.

“No one can predict what might happen over the next 5 weeks, much less the next 5 months. While we are cautiously optimistic that we will maintain the gains we have made here in the Commonwealth since the spring, we must remain prepared to address critical issues related to the health, safety and economic well-being of the Commonwealth when and if they arise over the next 5 months,” DeLeo wrote.

Spilka said that the extension should not affect work on a police reform bill the two chambers are negotiating and that she’s confident a final version can be reconciled by Friday night.

In floor remarks before the House unanimously approved the order, House Whip Joseph Wagner said the longer session will also let lawmakers react to any emergency pandemic issues.

“The need for that type of response during this period of COVID pandemic necessarily requires that we have an ability to come in and to consider matters. In particular, matters which relate to public policy in response to the COVID pandemic,” Wagner said.