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Mass. House To Debut Remote Voting On Bill To Borrow Funds To Balance State Budget

The Massachusetts State House and flag. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
The Massachusetts State House and flag. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

The Massachusetts House will venture into uncharted territory Wednesday when representatives debate and cast roll-call votes remotely on a short-term borrowing bill.

Emergency rules that Democratic and Republican leaders agreed to Monday will allow the House to resume formal lawmaking sessions, which have not taken place since before Gov. Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency two months ago over the COVID-19 outbreak.

The House will consider a Baker bill (H 4677) that allows the state Treasury to borrow an unspecified amount of money to balance the fiscal year 2020 budget — which will likely face a multi-billion dollar shortfall because of the pandemic — and pay it back in fiscal year 2021.

Part of the debt will be covered by income tax receipts. Massachusetts postponed its tax-filing deadline from April 15 to July 15, which depleted revenues.

Representatives will convene the House formal session at 11 a.m. and expect roll calls to begin at 1 p.m. Leadership encouraged as many members as possible to phone in rather than attend the session in-person.

Lawmakers plan a trial run at remote voting Wednesday before taking a recorded vote on the short-term borrowing authorization. Under the temporary rules, which saw significant partisan debate before leaders reached a compromise, members must notify division monitors if they wish to speak in favor or against a bill by 10 a.m.

No amendments were listed on the bill page as of 9:30 a.m., and the House clerk's office said lawmakers had not communicated if any amendments would be filed.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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