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House Order Would Extend Formal Sessions For Rest Of 2020

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

House leadership on Wednesday put forward an order that would suspend a joint House-Senate rule and allow lawmakers to continue meeting in formal sessions past a Friday deadline, citing the need to be responsive to the continued threats and challenges posed by COVID-19.

The order will be debated in the House, Speaker Robert DeLeo said in a statement. It does not specify a new date to serve as the end of formal sessions for the two-year term, but provides that "the House and Senate may meet in formal sessions and conduct formal business subsequent to the last day of July 2020." The Senate would also need to agree.

"An insidious virus that has disrupted every aspect of our lives, it does not abide deadlines and it will require our constant vigilance well past July 31st," DeLeo said in a statement. "While the rule to end formal sessions on July 31st in an election year typically serves an important purpose, we are facing unprecedented public health and fiscal challenges that were unforeseeable as recently as last January. No one can predict what might happen over the next 5 weeks, much less the next 5 months."

DeLeo said constituents who have "risen to the demands of 2020 ... deserve for the Legislature to stay in session so that we can finish crucial work and continue to respond to challenges as they arise."

The House is meeting in a formal session Wednesday afternoon. Rep. Brad Jones, the minority leader, filed an amendment to the order that would require 14 calendar days notice for any formal sessions held after July 31.

Several major issues remain unresolved with the July 31 deadline days away, including the state budget, a jobs bill, and legislation addressing health care and police reform. DeLeo said the order would allow the House to "continue to meet in formal sessions for the remainder of the year and ensure that the pressing matters debated by July 31st are resolved."

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