Toward a People's Bailout — Rep. Connolly's Working Agenda in response to COVID-19

The coronavirus outbreak has been described as "the single most threatening pandemic to arise in the last century" by the Dean of Harvard Medical School. Our fractured social safety net combined with persistent inequities in our society leaves us all in an incredibly vulnerable position, with people who are part of historically marginalized groups now facing even greater threats to their health and wellbeing. This situation calls for a rapid and unprecedented response from leaders in state and federal government.

Prior to the declaration of a State of Emergency in Massachusetts, Rep. Connolly was calling on Gov. Baker to be more proactive in addressing the situation. And since a State of Emergency was declared on March 10, Rep. Connolly has focused primarily on four areas — 1) housing stability, 2) suppression of the virus via shutdowns of non-essential activity, 3) supporting the programs and policies that will allow people to Stay At Home, and 4) working with staff to respond to numerous constituent requests and concerns.

Meanwhile, Rep. Connolly is also actively supporting legislative colleagues, activists, and organizers who are focusing on their own areas of concern and expertise. The following is a shortlist of Rep. Connolly's legislative efforts since March 10, 2020. This page will continue to be updated and additional items will be added soon. If you have a question or a suggestion for this list, please contact us. See for more information.

Rep. Connolly's lead-sponsored legislation in response to COVID-19:

HD4935 - An Act providing for a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures during the COVID19 emergency (signed into Law April 20 as changed, see bellow)

Co-filed with Representative Honan, our bill prohibits any court with competent jurisdiction over cases related to summary process or other forms of eviction, from entering any order allowing possession of a residential dwelling until the rescission of the Governor’s emergency declaration, further prohibits courts from accepting any filing seeking such possession, requires courts to grant applications for a stay of execution or continuance of any current summary process case, suspends deadlines in any such cases, and prohibits enforcement of any execution for possession in such cases. Additionally would prohibits any creditor, mortgagee, or other person having an estate in mortgaged land, or a person authorized to conduct a foreclosure sale from publishing notice of a foreclosure sale, exercising a foreclosure sale, or otherwise exercising a right of entry or summary process action after a foreclosure sale, until the rescission of the Governor’s emergency declaration.

Cosponsored Legislative Priorities:

HD4950An Act providing emergency access to equity and justice for all in response to COVID-19 filed by Representative Miranda

Eestablishes an online equity and justice (EAJ) portal, where Massachusetts residents can register for COVID-19 EAJ assistance; details information to be collected during registration, including validating their residency since January 1, 2020; requires the portal to be available in various languages; additionally directs DOR to send a check of $1,000 to each registrant, plus $750 per dependent; directs DOR to send additional checks every 30 days to registrants facing financial hardship with the various income levels relative to the 2020 federal poverty levels; requires continuation of such assistance until all state and federal emergency statuses are lifted; prohibits use of EAJ income to determine eligibility for other forms of public assistance; qualifies those without affordable health care for MassHealth.

HD4945 - An Act providing for emergency cash assistance in response to COVID-19 filed by Representative Gouveia

Directs the department of revenue to send all qualifying households a check for $1,000 within 30 days of passage; defines qualifying households as those with 1 to 2 person households earning up to $84,000 annually or; 3 person households earning up to $105,000 annually or; 4 or more person households earning up to $131,000 annually; limits qualified households to those with Massachusetts residents who filed 2018 Massachusetts income tax returns; entitles households that did not file 2018 income tax returns to the stimulus payment if they can demonstrate household income and size; provides for an additional $500 payment per dependent.

HD4951 - An Act to provide short-term relief for families in deep poverty filed by Representative Decker

Appropriates $17 million for a one-time benefit for those currently receiving Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children; appropriates $6 million for a one-time benefit for those currently receiving Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled and Children.

HD4958 - An Act relative to COVID-19 emergency unemployment insurance expansion filed by Representatives Mark and Sabadosa

Expands eligibility for unemployment benefits for independent contractors, sole proprietors, partners in a partnership, freelance, and tipped employees, as long as they are directly impacted by the COVID-19 state of emergency; clarifies that receipt of any cash assistance stemming from the state or federal response to COVID-19 does not affect eligibility for unemployment benefits; protects against any potential penalties for receiving unemployment benefits and bars any attempts to force repayment of benefits.

HD4963 - An Act regarding decarceration and COVID-19 filed by Representative Sabadosa

This bill would facilitate the release of  individuals that are incarcerated who: are charged with or serving time for simple possession of controlled substances, are detained because they cannot afford bail under $10,000, are over the age of 50 All persons who are medically vulnerable, as classified by the Center for Disease Control, are incarcerated as the result of technical parole or probation violations, all persons who qualify for medical parole, all persons incarcerated due to warrants for failure to pay fines and fees, all persons who are within six months of their release date, all persons who are within six months of their parole eligibility date. If a person falls into one of those categories, they may still be held under the following conditions: for pre-trial detainees, the District Attorney may request a dangerousness hearing in qualifying cases, for persons in the custody of County Sheriffs, they may be held if there is clear and convincing evidence that the person would pose an immediate risk to public safety if released , and for persons in state prisons and those who are parole eligible, they may be held if there is clear and convincing evidence that the person would pose an immediate physical threat to the community if released.

HD5039 - An Act relative to emergency paid sick time filed by Representative Donato

Entitles all employees in the commonwealth that work 40 hours a week to up to 80 hours of emergency paid sick time if they are not otherwise entitled to leave under the Federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act, H.R. 6201, P.L. No. 116-127; entitles employees that work under 40 hours a week to their average hourly schedule in a 14 day period or the amount of hours they are otherwise scheduled to work; allows employees to carry over such emergency paid sick time to the next year; requires the emergency paid sick time to remain available until the end of the end of the state of emergency or disaster.

Conditions use of such time on an employee’s need to comply with the listed circumstances related to self-isolating, including caring for oneself or a family member due to any diagnosis, display of symptoms or treatment related to a communicable public health emergency, or determination by a public health official or authority that the employees presence on the job poses a risk to the health of others due to their or a family member’s exposure to a contagious disease, or display of symptoms; limits benefits to those unable to work and who are unable to telework; requires payment of an employees regular hourly rate; establishes a maximum weekly payment of $850; adjusts the maximum weekly payment to be 64 percent of the state average weekly wage rate by October 1 of each year.

Entitles employers who pay their employees for emergency paid sick time to reimbursement from the commonwealth, unless they are receiving a federal payroll tax credit for an employee’s use of paid sick time under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act; requires use of the Commonwealth stabilization fund for reimbursement costs.

Requires employers to provide emergency paid sick time in addition to any existing job protected time off, paid and unpaid, the employer must provide to employees, resulting from employer policy, negotiated collective bargaining agreements, or state or federal law, including the Massachusetts Family and Medical Leave Act (GL Chapter 175M); allows employees to use emergency paid sick time on an intermittent basis and in smaller hourly increments; regulates employee notice of a need to use such time and recordkeeping by employers; makes it illegal to restrain or deny exercise of the right to such sick time, and to take adverse actions against employee for exercising such rights; directs the attorney general to enforce compliance and to establish regulations related to such emergency paid sick time.

HD5031 - An Act providing hazard pay for essential workers in the COVID-19 emergency filed by Representative Robinson

Requires employers to provide hazard pay for any employees performing COVID-19 essential services as defined in the Governor’s executive order; defines hazard pay as 1.5 times the employee’s earnings for any day they work outside their home for an employer providing essential services; bars employers from dismissing or penalizing employees for refusing to perform COVID-19 essential services; provides for this law to take effect retroactively on March 23, 2020.

Additional Cosponsored Legislation, in Order of Filing Date:

HD4926 - An Act establishing the COVID-19 Quarantine Assistance Fund filed by Representative Pignatelli

Establishes and regulates the funding and use of the COVID-19 Quarantine Assistance Fund, to be administered by the secretary of health and human services; requires use of the fund for grants to residents of the commonwealth who become unable to earn wages due to a COVID-19 infection, quarantine or isolation period.

HD4970 - An Act relative to state employees performing core functions filed by Representative Chan

Requires time and a half compensation for public employees who are directed to report to work outside their homes during the COVID-19 state of emergency; allows eligible employees to opt to receive compensatory leave instead of additional pay.

HD4957 - An Act relative to the 2020 state primary and general election filed by Representatives Mark and Sabadosa

Allows any person who applies for an absentee ballot before noon on the last business day preceding the state primaries on Tuesday, September 1, 2020 and the state election Tuesday, November 3, 2020, and has their application certified, to vote by absentee ballot.

HD4952 - An Act establishing emergency funding for homeless services filed by Representatives Sabadosa and Mark

Appropriates $10 million to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency in order to expand shelter capacity, enhance access to behavioral health services and medication assisted treatment, coordinate with local food systems, and ensure student access to necessary technology and materials in the event of school closures.

HD4956 - An Act providing for a rent increase freeze in response to COVID-19 filed by Representative Sabadosa

Temporarily suspends portions of the Rent Control Prohibition Act (GL 40P) and directs the Department of Housing and Community Development to enforce a rent freeze for the duration of the COVID-19 state of emergency, and an additional 30 days; additionally authorizes municipalities to enforce this rent freeze.

HD4955 - An Act providing for a MassHealth expansion in response to COVID-19 filed by Representative Sabadosa

Expands access to MassHealth for all those who qualify for unemployment benefits, and all who are directly impacted by the COVID-19 state of emergency.

HD4934 - An Act providing certain state employees sick leave for COVID-19 related absences filed by Representative O'Day

Entitles any state employee who is absent from work due to COVID-19 infection, quarantine or isolation, and who does not have sufficient earned sick leave time for the absence, to paid leave for the duration of their COVID-19 related absence. 

HD4971 - An Act to expand options for local restaurants during the COVID-19 emergency filed by Representative Gordon

Authorizes all holders of licenses for the sale of alcoholic beverages to be drunk on the premises (restaurants, bars, etc.) to begin selling alcohol via delivery or curbside pickup; places various restrictions on the delivery of alcoholic beverages in order to ensure that the alcoholic beverages cannot be readily accessed while driving or sold to someone under the age of 21; limits sales to 1.5 liters of wine, 72 ounces of malt beverages, and 10 ounces of spirits per customer per day, in addition to other standard restrictions.

SD2888 - An Act concerning business interruption insurance filed by Senator Eldridge

Requires all insurance policies insuring against loss or damage to property, the loss of use and occupancy and business interruption in force in the commonwealth, to cover any losses resulting from business interruption directly or indirectly due to the global pandemic known as COVID-19; prohibits denial of a claim due to the fact that COVID-19 is a virus and/or there is no physical property damage; requires coverage to continue until executive order 591 is rescinded by the Governor. Authorizes and regulates reimbursement of insurers for such business loss payments to insureds; directs the commissioner of insurance to impose and collect assessments against licensed insurers that provide business interruption coverage, for the purpose of funding insurance reimbursement during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

HD4999 - An Act relative to remote notarization during COVID-19 state of emergency filed by Representative Frank Moran

Authorizes attorney and paralegal notaries to perform an acknowledgement, affirmation, or other notarial act using real time video conferencing for the duration of the COVID-19 state of emergency; sets out the procedures and various restrictions for remote notarization, including steps to ensure proper identification of parties involved and their presence in Massachusetts.

HD5005 - An Act establishing a COVID-19 homeowner protection act filed by Representative LeBoeuf (companion to SD2889 filed by Senator Moore)

Adds several protections for homeowners during the ongoing COVID-19 emergency; bars lenders from initiating foreclosure proceedings for the duration of the state of emergency, plus an additional 90 days; allows homeowners experiencing financial hardship to forbear mortgage payments for 180 days; bars lenders from reporting this forbearance as a late payment to credit rating agencies, or otherwise penalizing homeowners who take advantage of this provision; requires lenders to work with homeowners to resume payments; provides for these provisions to expire 180 days after the end of the state of emergency.

HD5015An Act relative to showing residential property filed by Representative Vitolo

Would prevent owners and real estate agents from entering the premises of a residential unit currently under lease for the purpose of showing the property to a prospective tenant, purchaser, or mortgagee for the duration of the Governor's state of emergency declaration. Instead, owners and landlords can utilize floor plans and digital photos they already have, photos that they ask the current occupant to take, or utilize unoccupied apartments to show prospective tenants and purchasers, while maintaining proper social distancing. This legislation has no impact on residential units not currently leased nor on commercial or industrial leases.'

HD5018An Act for unemployment rules for gig economy filed by Representative Livingstone

Classifies a commercial entity that substantially relies on independent contractors to provide its goods, services or products as the employer of such individuals unless another organization pays for their workers compensation contributions; prohibits imposing liability for workers compensation on said independent contractors.

HD5019An Act relative to employee definition harmonization filed by Representative Livingstone

Repeals language exempting services provided for an employer outside all the places of business of the enterprise from classification as employment.

HD5036 An Act to provide equal stimulus checks to immigrant taxpayers filed by Representative Barber

Establishes a process whereby individuals who filed a Massachusetts income tax return for 2019 using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, but who are ineligible for the recovery rebate portion of the Federal CARES Act, can receive an equivalent benefit from the Commonwealth in the form of a refundable tax credit; allows individuals to receive $1,200, joint filers to receive $2,400, and those with dependent children to receive an additional $500 per child; allows for the credit to be reduced for those with higher incomes, including more than $75,000 for individuals, $112,500 for heads of households, and $150,000 for joint filers; directs the commissioner of revenue to disburse these payments, and promulgate regulations as needed to implement these provisions.

HD5038 - An Act to provide liability protections for contractors, sub-contractors and unions during the COVID-19 pandemic filed by Representative Mark

Grants construction contractors or sub-contractors immunity from suit and civil liability for any damages related to construction delays caused by workforce shortages, schedule changes and other impacts resulting from compliance with federal, state or local government orders, caused by or related to the COVID-19 pandemic; extends immunity for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and for six months thereafter; prohibits bringing a civil action for damages against any employee organization or union for advising their bargaining unit members of their right to refuse to work because of abnormally dangerous employment conditions; provides for immediate implementation, and applies all protections effective the start of the COVID-19 emergency, as declared on March 10, 2020.

HD5040 - An Act relative to providing relief for micro businesses for the duration of executive order filed by Representative González

Establishes the COVID-19 Micro Business Economic Stimulus Fund in order to provide grants to qualifying micro businesses; directs the comptroller to transfer $50 million to the fund; requires eligible businesses to be located in Massachusetts, have fewer than 5 employees, and have reported 2018 gross receipts or sales of under $200,000 and a verifiable loss of revenue due to COVID-19; provides for eligible businesses to receive a grant of $15,000, with a requirement that $11,250 be spent on payroll, and $3,750 be spent to mitigate the business’s losses; directs the executive office of housing and economic development to promulgate regulations to implement this act, including grant application and disbursement procedures.

HD5042 - An Act assisting non-profits to provide for COVID-19 unemployment benefits filed by Representatives McMurtry and Elugardo 

Establishes the Non-Profit Unemployment Benefit Fund, to be administered by the secretary of administration and finance for the purpose of providing matching grants to non-profits due to COVID-19; requires the Fund to match federal payments made to non-profits in the Commonwealth as part of the unemployment component of the federal CARES Act; directs the comptroller to transfer an unspecified amount to the Fund.

HD5043 - An Act requiring the collection, disclosure and reporting of COVID-19 data in state and county correctional facilities filed by Representative Domb

Requires the commissioner of the department of corrections, and the administrators of county correctional facilities or jails, to make daily reports to the department of public health regarding the status of the COVID-19 outbreak in jails and correctional facilities; requires these reports to include the number of positive cases, deaths, tests administered, and individuals under monitoring or quarantine; further requires the reports to include demographic data, and the number of positive cases for pre-trial detainees, or those who are eligible for parole; directs DPH to publish this data in weekly reports on its website.

HD5041 - An Act relative to internet speed during the COVID-19 outbreak filed by Representative Gonzalez

Requires internet service providers in Massachusetts to provide the highest possible bandwidth for residential customers during the COVID-19 state of emergency; clarifies that internet service providers will not be required to implement new technology or infrastructure in order to comply with this provision.

HD5054 - An Act relative to restaurant delivery commissions during the COVID-19 state of emergency filed by Representative Day

Caps fees that third-party delivery services can charge to restaurants for online orders at 10% of the purchase price; requires violators to pay a $100 fine and reimburse the restaurant; provides for this act to expire 45 days after the end of the state of emergency.

HD5071 - An Act relative to manufacturing and factory worker protection from COVID-19 filed by Representative Capano

Establishes several procedures and requirements for workers and businesses in the manufacturing sector in order to limit the spread of COVID-19; requires employees to self certify before the start of a shift that they are not experiencing potential COVID-19 symptoms, that they have not been in close contact with COVID-19 positive individuals, and that they have not been asked to self-isolate by their doctor or a public health official; requires employees that are unable to self-certify to leave the location, seek medical attention, and not return to work until cleared by a medical professional; requires employers to provide at least 14 days of paid sick leave to any such employees, regardless of the availability of testing or delays in receiving results.

Requires employers to take several steps in order to ensure workplace safety in response to COVID-19; requires employers to facilitate appropriate social distancing between employees, provide personal protective equipment when necessary, stagger shifts, breaks and lunches to reduce congregation, construct physical barriers, increase ventilation, and regularly disinfect workspaces, surfaces and common areas; directs the department of public health to promulgate regulations regarding workplace safety guidance, facility cleaning and disinfecting requirements; requires local health departments to designate a local COVID-19 contact to facilitate an employer’s response if an employee is exposed to COVID-19, including identification and isolation, and proper cleaning of the facility; authorizes the COVID-19 contact to recommend closure of a facility to the state government if the workplace is unsuitable for employees to return.

HD5077 - An Act to Establish Safe, Accessible, and Fair Elections (SAFE bill) filed by Representative Gouveia

Creates a new GL 51:34A establishing a process for election day voter registration; allows a qualified individual to register to vote by appearing at their polling place, filling out an application, providing proof of residence and ID, and making a written oath; removes several provisions of Chapter 51 which had allowed those who recently moved to continue voting at their old address; allows those unable to successfully complete the application to submit a provisional ballot; expands registration sessions held on the last day of voter registration in the standard registration process; establishes an advisory committee to assist in the implementation of election day registration; directs the committee to evaluate necessary resources and recommended procedures, and file a final report with the legislature by June 30, 2021; provides for the election day registration policy to take effect on July 1, 2020.

Amends several provisions of GL 54:25B to substantially expand the early voting process; establishes an early voting period beginning 21 days before the election date, rather than 11 currently; requires city or town clerks to conduct early voting for at least 9 evening hours after 5PM, and 12 weekend hours during the weekend preceding the election; requires early voting locations to be chosen to ensure equitable access regardless of geographical location, race, or income; provides for expanded early voting to take effect on July 1, 2020.

Amends GL 51:33A to allow the online voter registration process to be completed entirely online, allowing voters to upload a digital image of their signature if their signature isn’t already available from RMV records.

Establishes a new GL 54:24A outlining various procedures to ensure that the 2020 elections are conducted with adequate precautions regarding COVID-19; directs the Secretary of the Commonwealth to issue guidance to municipalities on Safe, Accessible, and Fair In-Person Voting by July 31, 2020, after a period of public comment; requires this guidance to include recommendations regarding the layout and enlargement of polling places to allow for social distancing, access to personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies for poll workers, recruitment of additional poll workers, voter access to hand washing facilities, curbside voting for vulnerable populations, and expanded public awareness of early and absentee voting; directs municipalities to post their own local plans 30 days before the primary and general elections.

HD5075 - An Act ensuring safe and participatory 2020 state elections in response to COVID-19 filed by Representative Lawn

Takes several steps to ensure wide participation in the 2020 primary and general elections while safeguarding against COVID-19; authorizes any voter who wishes to avoid polling places as a precaution against COVID-19 to vote absentee by reason of physical disability; directs the Secretary of the Commonwealth to send an absentee ballot to every registered voter, without application, at least 19 days before the 2020 general election; directs town or city clerks to provide a secure, locked dropbox outside the building in which their office is located, for voters who wish to drop off, rather than mail, their absentee ballots; requires the Secretary of the Commonwealth to establish a statewide internet portal through which voters can apply for absentee ballots, and track the progress of the application and receipt of the ballot; allows for the counting of absentee ballots for the 2020 general election that are received after November 3, as long as they are postmarked by November 3 and received by November 13; authorizes town or city clerks to scan absentee ballots in the clerk’s office at any time, rather than transmit those ballots to polling places, provided that no results are determined or announced prematurely.

Further requires the Secretary of the Commonwealth to adopt regulations regarding public health safeguards at early voting sites and polling places; establishes early voting periods beginning 11 business days before the 2020 primary election, and 16 business days before the 2020 general election; allows for election officers to be appointed regardless of residency in the city or town, voter status, or enrollment in a political party; authorizes town or city clerks to deliver only 1 voting list to ballot clerks, and suspends a requirement for a voter’s name to be checked against a second list before depositing their ballot; allows individuals to register to vote in the 2020 primary and general elections up to 10 days before those election dates; authorizes the Secretary of the Commonwealth to promulgate regulations to carry out this act.

SD2931 - An Act relative to protecting our public higher education system during the COVID-19 pandemic filed by Senator Gobi

Amends various provisions relative to the operation of the public higher education system during the COVID-19 public health crisis; establishes a new GL 6A:16AA, which entitles any resident of the commonwealth who is either a current student or a former student of an institution of higher education, including undergraduate degree programs, graduate degree programs, and certificate programs, to a deferment on payment of their qualified education loans for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency, and for thirty days after; defines qualified education loans as those issued by MEFA to pay tuition or other direct programs; defines individuals who sustained loans but did not finish their program as former students.

Additionally amends various provisions related to the employment rights of faculty members at public institutions of higher education; amends GL 32:1 (public employee retirement systems and pensions – definitions) by defining the full salary and wages received for teaching credit courses at one or more of the public institutions of higher education, including a division of continuing education, regardless of funding source, as regular compensation, for the purpose of determining contributions paid to the annuity savings fund.

Amends GL 32A:2 (contributory insurance for public employees – definitions) by defining faculty members who teach the equivalent of at least two three or more- credit courses per semester, or four three or more- credit courses per calendar year at one or more of the public institutions of higher education in the state, as working a regular work week, and making them eligible for insurance benefits; allows any faculty member eligible for group insurance commission health coverage to elect to enroll immediately; provides for termination of such enrollment rights 120 days after passage or 45 days after the termination of the COVID-19 public health emergency; authorizes the Governor to postpone the extermination in 90 day increments.

HD5104An Act relative to protections for vulnerable employees during a public health or safety emergency filed by Representative Rogers

Vulnerable Employees, and their family members, would have the ability to request a reasonable accommodation by their employer during a public health or public safety emergency and up to six months thereafter. This bill will make it unlawful for all employers to: take adverse action against a Vulnerable Employee who requests or uses a reasonable accommodation, deny an employment opportunity, or require the employee to accept an accommodation that is unnecessary. With the uncertainty surrounding the state’s reopening, this bill can provide safety for those who believe that the workplace does not meet their health and safety needs. Many of us have received calls over the last two months from family members, friends and constituents who have health concerns as they return to work. We should act to provide reasonable protections for them.

Vulnerable Employees include all people:

(i) with serious underlying health conditions, including high blood pressure, chronic lung disease, diabetes, pregnancy, obesity, asthma, organ transplant, or any other medical condition generally believed to put an individual at high-risk during a public health emergency;

(ii) whose immune system is compromised, including people undergoing chemotherapy for cancer and people with other immune system conditions requiring such therapy; and

(iii) who are members of high risk populations as defined by the Center for Disease Control; or

(iv) people who live in the same household as a person with the medical conditions stated above.

Legislative policy changes taken to date (for updates on changes taken via the Governor's emergency powers, please see the blog):

H4561 - An Act making appropriations for the fiscal year 2020 to provide for supplementing certain existing appropriations and for certain other activities and projects

Appropriates $15 million to support the Commonwealth’s efforts against COVID-19, including for monitoring, treatment, containment, public awareness and prevention efforts by the department of public health, regional and local boards of health, and any other public entities.

S2599 - An Act authorizing waiver of the one week waiting period for unemployment benefits

Instructs the director of unemployment assistance to waive the one-week waiting period for unemployment benefits claims by individuals separated from work due or related to COVID-19.

S2608 - An Act granting authority to postpone 2020 municipal elections in the commonwealth and increase voting options in response to the declaration of emergency to respond to COVID-19

Authorizes municipalities with an election scheduled to take place before May 30, 2020 to postpone the election to a date on or before June 30, 2020; allows elected officials whose term was set to expire to continue to serve until the new election; requires public notification of the election postponement; sets the voter registration deadline at 10 days before the new election date; allows previously submitted absentee ballots to be counted for the new election; expands absentee ballot eligibility to all those who are taking precautions related to COVID-19; expands early voting by mail for municipal elections held on or before June 30, 2020 to all eligible voters.

H4598 - An Act to address challenges faced by municipalities and state authorities resulting from COVID-19

Grants municipalities greater flexibility to conduct business during the ongoing public health emergency; allows for town meetings to be postponed for 30 days, including past a statutory cut-off of June 30th; additionally allows the calling of a recess and continuation of a town meeting during any weather-related, public safety or public health emergency, and for up to 5 days after its termination; authorizes use of at least half of the monthly appropriation from the most recent budget for each month in which an emergency prevents adoption of a subsequent annual budget; additionally authorizes use of a municipality’s “free cash” during the COVID-19 state of emergency; authorizes and regulates amortization of deficit amounts incurred due to the COVID-19 state of emergency.

Amends various provisions related to the billing and collection of local taxes, including real estate taxes during the COVID-19 state of emergency; extends the deadline for filing of income tax returns and submission of payments until July 15, 2020. Authorizes entities otherwise licensed to sell alcoholic beverages to be drunk on the premises to sell them for off premise consumption, in their original, sealed containers, with existing transactions for the sale of food. Additionally, establishes a framework for modifications to local permitting regulations. Allows permit granting authorities to hold meetings and hearings remotely during the COVID-19 state of emergency; and grants those bodies greater flexibility.

H4647 - An Act providing for a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures during the COVID-19 Emergency

Establishes temporary protections for renters and homeowners during the COVID-19 public health emergency; allows use of mortgagor – third party counseling via synchronous, real-time video conference instead of in-person counseling to satisfy counseling requirements prior to issuance of a reverse mortgage; requires third parties providing counseling to be approved by the executive office of elder affairs.

Prohibits landlords or property owners from terminating a tenancy or sending notice, including a notice to quit or vacate a property in cases of non-essential eviction; defines a non-essential eviction as one that does not involve criminal activity that can impact health or safety, or allegations of lease violations that may impact the health or safety of other residents; prohibits courts from accepting filings, issuing default judgments, issuing an execution for possession, denying requests for stay of execution, or scheduling court events for any non-essential evictions during the course of the COVID-19 public health emergency; tolls all deadlines and periods for action in such cases; prohibits law enforcement from enforcing or executing non-essential evictions; prohibits landlords from imposing late fees for non-payment of rent; directs the executive office of housing and economic development to develop necessary forms and documentation.

Allows lessors who received rent in advance of the last month of tenancy to access and use funds from such advance; limits use of such funds to expenses, including mortgage payments, utilities, repairs and required upkeep; prohibits lessors from deducting amounts due for nonpayment of rent from amounts deposited for the last month of tenancy; requires and regulates the content of notice to a tenant when using amounts paid in advance; conditions use of such advance on application of the deposit towards the rent due for the last month of tenancy and payment of interest on such amount that would have accrued without its withdrawal; directs the executive office of housing and economic development to develop relevant emergency guidelines.

S2640 - An Act to provide liability protections for health care workers and facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic

Exempts health care providers and health care facilities from suit and civil liability for damages allegedly resulting from the providing of health care services during the COVID-19 health emergency; defines health care professionals as those licensed by the Board of Registration in Medicine, the Board of Registration in Nursing, the Board of Respiratory Care, the Board of Registration of Nursing Home Administrators, the Board of Registration in Pharmacy, the Board of Registration of Physician Assistants, the Board of Registration of Allied Health Professionals, the Board of Allied Mental Health and Human Services Professions, the Board of Registration of Social Workers and the Board of Registration of Psychologists, as well as students or trainees, nursing attendants and nursing aides, emergency services professionals, and professionals otherwise covered by COVID-19 emergency regulations.

Conditions immunity on treatment provided in accordance with COVID-19 emergency rules, existing laws and in good faith; excludes acts or omissions classified as gross negligence, recklessness or conduct with an intent to harm from such immunity, or those that discriminate based on race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity; additionally provides immunity for non-profit organizations providing use of facilities during the COVID-19 health emergency from damages resulting from their use; extends immunity from liability from March 10, 2020 until the repeal or rescission of the COVID-19 health emergency.

H4616 - An Act to further address challenges faced by municipalities, school districts and state authorities resulting from COVID-19

Amends various provisions related to the management of state and municipal operations in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency; extends the deadline for submission of the MBTA preliminary itemized budget from March to May.

Allows greater flexibility in the use of funds appropriated to aid the homeless; directs the department of housing and community development to relax various documentation or verification requirements that involve in-person contact or mail delivery in the administration of various rent or housing assistance programs.

Authorizes municipalities to waive any penalties for late payment of various taxes and fees; bars the termination of essential services water, trash collection, etc. by municipalities if failure to pay is due to economic hardship resulting from COVID-19.

Additionally, authorizes the board of elementary and secondary education to modify or waive competency determination requirements for high school graduation; requires any twelfth grader otherwise unable to take the competency determination to take it at a later sitting; further allows waiver of competency determination requirements for students in grades 3-8; limits use of any assessments administered in Spring 2020 for informational purposes only. Authorizes suspension of the normal school district budgeting process if the school district fails to approve a budget by June 30th due to COVID-19; allows the commissioner of DESE to approve monthly funding for the district consistent with the previous year’s spending levels.

H4503 - An Act relative to strengthening the local and regional public health system

Establishes a new GL 111:27D (Public Health) directing the department of public health to establish a State Action for Public Health Excellence program, and a related competitive grant program, to encourage boards of health and regional health districts to adopt practices improving the efficiency and effectiveness of local public health services; authorizes the programs to promote and provide resources for the following: elevated standards for local boards of health, increased cross-jurisdictional sharing of public health services, improved planning and system accountability, establishment of workforce standards, and expanded access to professional development; requires DPH to file an annual report with the legislature detailing the program’s impact; directs DPH to offer public health educational and training opportunities for board of health officials and staff.

Requires DPH to develop a set of minimum standards for foundational public health in consultation with the special commission on local and regional public health, and file a report with the legislature with an analysis of necessary steps for the implementation of foundational public health services; revives and continues the special commission on local and regional public health.