WORCESTER, Mass. - Massachusetts lawmakers have been back to work for nearly five months, but there haven’t been many bills crossing Gov. Maura Healey’s desk so far. Local lawmakers believe there’s no reason to be too alarmed.
What You Need To Know
- The Massachusetts Legislature has passed just 10 bills since early January
- According to the Boston Globe, it’s the slowest start to a legislative session in at least 40 years
- Local lawmakers are hopeful for more progress soon, but believe it's a case of quality over quantity
- Hybrid committee meetings, a lingering impact of the pandemic, may be part of the delays
With just 10 bills passed since early January, the Boston Globe reported it’s the slowest start to a legislative session in at least 40 years.
Sen. Michael Moore, D-Worcester, said nearly 6,000 bills are filed near the beginning of each legislative session in Massachusetts, and most end up on the cutting room floor. This year, however, the lingering effects of the pandemic have made for a long line at the chopping block.
“Since the pandemic, we’re operating in person and hybrid, so that’s put a capacity issue on the infrastructure in the legislature as far as how many hearings we can hold,” Moore said. “So that affects bills that are going to be passing through. Every bill has to have a hearing.”
The long waitlist is part of the reason only 10 bills have made it through so far, most of them being small procedural changes.
Rep. Peter Durant, R-Worcester, believes more ambitious legislation has been held up by lawmakers trying to put all those bills into one box.
“We’re seeing bills that have many more pieces to them instead of just taking individual pieces,” Durant said. “Sort of an omnibus bill that has a lot different moving parts. That can be good and bad, I think we’re finding out that in a lot of instances, for any member there are bad parts of a bill, and hopefully the good parts outweigh that.”
In the House, for instance, lawmakers had been busy passing a $1.1 billion tax relief package, but Durant said a change to chapter 62F that would give all residents the same tax rebates rather than an amount proportional to what they paid in income taxes gives the historic reforms a murky future in the Senate.
“You had a large bill with a lot of good pieces to it, and end up putting something into it that Republicans and some Democrats didn’t like,” Durant said.
Moore, meanwhile, said an unexpected revenue shortfall further complicated the legislation, which has yet to make it past the Senate.
“That took a little longer analyzing tax reform that we’re going to be doing, making sure we stay within the confines of the constitutional requirement of a balanced budget,” Moore said. “So there’s different factors, and I’m hoping once the budget is over and we get the tax bill done, we’ll start to see more bills coming out of the committee.”
While there hasn’t been much to showcase this session, both lawmakers believe progress is coming, it just takes time.
“I think we have to dispel the notion that legislators have to pass a lot of laws, right?” Durant said. “I think it’s important we can have that quality over quantity debate here.”