A legislative conference committee named to iron out differences between House and Senate versions of a fiscal 2023 closeout supplemental budget released a compromise bill on Nov. 30.

The bill (H. 4204) has not yet crossed the finish line, however. It will need to pass during an informal session in both chambers, as the House and Senate were unable to reach a consensus on a bill before the formal legislative session came to a close for the year on Nov. 15.

The compromise bill includes $250 million to address the emergency shelter crisis, with $50 million set aside for an overflow shelter site and $75 million targeted for school funding relief related to the shelter crisis, both priorities of the House. The bill would also require the administration to report on its spending of the shelter funds every two weeks, a Senate priority.

In addition to the shelter crisis funding, the compromise bill includes $75 million to address extraordinary cost increases for special education in eligible school districts, in response to a decision made last October by the Operational Services Division that allows out-of-district special education private schools to increase tuition by 14% in fiscal 2024.

The compromise bill also includes a section to address costs associated with administering early voting and mail-in voting, providing $5 million for grants from a reserve account to be issued by the secretary of state. And the bill would schedule the state’s 2024 primary election on Sept. 3.

The bill includes $15 million for disaster relief for municipalities affected by storms and natural disasters in 2023. The bill also would authorize municipalities to amortize, over fiscal 2025 through 2027, costs incurred as a result of recent natural disasters, an important mechanism for impacted communities.

The compromise bill also includes several of the municipal finance law changes included in a supplemental budget bill filed by the governor in March. Of note, the bill would provide important clarity on the process for spending and accounting for opioid settlement funds.

The bulk of the spending in the bill, $2.12 billion, is for MassHealth fee-for-service payments.

The bill must be approved by each branch before it can be sent to the governor. Legislative action will need to be conducted during informal sessions, when objections from a single legislator can derail a bill.

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