Emergency procedures sticking around for now

Boston Statehouse

Normally a busy corridor that includes the Treasurer Goldberg’s offices and Auditor Bump’s offices, this hallway on the second floor of the State House now features dark doorways and deserted walkways. (Photo: Chris Van Buskirk/SHNS)

BOSTON (SHNS) – The new rules will not take effect until Oct. 1, 2021, nearly 10 months into the two-year lawmaking session. Under a separate order the House approved 130-30 on Wednesday (H 3929), emergency rules that have governed House operations since May 2020 and authorized practices such as remote voting will remain in place through the end of September.

Gov. Charlie Baker lifted the COVID-19 state of emergency on June 15, but Mariano told reporters his team wanted to keep temporary rules in place “until we were sure the pandemic was over.”

“We’re a little different than the Senate, we’re a little different than the governor’s office,” Mariano said. “We have 160 members with aides, so now you’re talking about bringing 320 people into the building. You don’t have to be a genius to see what’s going on around the building and how difficult access is into the building. We want to do this in stages, and we want to make sure we’re prepared.”

Both branches typically debate and implement rules at the start of each two-year lawmaking session. The House initially opted to extend its COVID-era emergency rules until July 15, and those will now stick around into the fall.

Joint rules governing House-Senate operations, including the joint committees that handle most legislation winding through Beacon Hill, have been mostly tied up since late March in a six-member conference committee helmed by Rep. Claire Cronin and Sen. Joan Lovely. One of the points of contention that may be holding up that group is the level of transparency in the reporting of votes on bills before joint legislative committees.

That panel has been negotiating behind closed doors since late March over differences on how to share written testimony, how to provide notice for public hearings, and how to publish joint committee votes.

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