COVID-19 Massachusetts State House Update

April 15, 2020

  • As of Tuesday night, DPH reported a total of 28,163 cases, more than double the 10,402 reported last Friday.  The state has now confirmed a total of 957 deaths from the virus.
  • The state counted 113 additional deaths linked to the virus Tuesday, the first time the one-day total surpassed 100.
  • Administration and Finance Secretary Michael Heffernan and the Joint Ways and Means Committee chairmen held a virtual hearing with a group of economists and others involved with state budgeting to get a better idea of the ramifications that the shutdown of the economy in response to COVID-19 will have on state revenues and budget planning for next year, as well as effects this fiscal year.
  • The hearing was delayed a week due to a technology failure, but went off with just a few hiccups over the course of several hours as experts predicted unemployment in Massachusetts could rise to nearly 18 percent and tax collections could fall $4 billion to $6 billion below initial estimates for fiscal 2021.
  • House Ways & Means Chairman Aaron Michlewitz reiterated that the normal budget timeline that would have the House debating a spending plan for the next fiscal year later this month is “no longer feasible,” but when they might be ready is another question.
  • Notes from the hearing are attached.
  •  The state is on track to set up two more COVID-19 field hospitals, one in Lowell and another in Dartmouth, Governor Baker announced Tuesday.
  • A hospital is being set up at the UMass Lowell Recreation Center and will feature 95 beds.
  • On the South Coast, a 140-bed field hospital is being finished up on the campus of UMass-Dartmouth.
  • The House and Senate both met on Monday and are scheduled to meet again this week.
  • The House is scheduled to be in session on Wednesday and the Senate on Thursday.
  • Senate President Karen Spilka hopes to get a housing security bill to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk this week.
  • The House and Senate last week passed different versions of an eviction moratorium bill, which will now be reconciled via a conference committee.
  • The House announced plans to take action to gauge the needs of domestic violence and sexual assault survivors during the stay-at-home advisory, according to a statement from Speaker Robert DeLeo and two committee chairs.
  • Senate Majority Leader Cynthia Creem has filed a bill that would make early voting by mail an option for registered voters ahead of the state primary and general elections later this year. Her bill appears to address one concern with vote-by-mail raised by Secretary of State William Galvin by specifying that a voter would have to submit a request for a ballot before a local clerk mailed the ballot to their home.
  • The bill is expected to be referred to the Committee on Election Laws, co-chaired by Sen. Barry Finegold and Rep. John Lawn
  • Attorney General Maura Healey urged Division of Insurance Commissioner Gary Anderson to require a universal policy to put money back in motorists’ pockets by lower auto insurance premiums.
  • The Massachusetts SJC will hear oral arguments Thursday over whether it should relax the legal requirements for candidates to get on the ballot, wading into an issue bogged down by partisan squabbling in the state Legislature.
  • The SJC is scheduled to hear arguments by telephone in the lawsuit brought by three candidates who say the state’s signature requirements present unconstitutional barriers to the ballot in the midst of a pandemic.
  • According to the BBJ, Massachusetts businesses had been approved for more than 27,000 loans through the SBA PPP worth more than $7 billion.
  • A group of gun owners, gun shop owners and a sportsmen’s club is suing the Governor and Attorney General, alleging that their rights were violated when they were forced to shut down or where prevented from buying firearms after shops were deemed nonessential businesses.
  • Lawyers representing a consortium of cannabis companies and the Baker administration clashed in court Tuesday over the administrations decision to close recreational marijuana shops during the pandemic.

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