Who is a member?
Our members are the local governments of Massachusetts and their elected and appointed leadership.
Gov. Charlie Baker announced that he is filing legislation today to extend certain emergency measures currently in place by executive order that are set to expire on June 15, when the state of emergency will be rescinded.
The governor’s legislation would extend measures providing for a temporary suspension of certain open meeting law requirements, special permits for expanded outside dining at restaurants, and billing protections for COVID-19 patients. Temporarily extending these measures, the governor said, would give communities and businesses time to transition, but extending them requires legislation.
“The abrupt end of the state of emergency on June 15 will create a number of major transition challenges for government and businesses, which is why swift passage of this extension legislation is essential,” said MMA Executive Director Geoff Beckwith. “There are many innovations and operational improvements that we want to keep in place, and this bill would give municipal and state leaders adequate time to enact permanent provisions.”
The MMA sent a letter to legislative leadership yesterday requesting that they act quickly on a number of permanent changes to ensure a seamless transition after the state of emergency is lifted on June 15.
To allow public bodies to safely meet during the pandemic and ensure public access to meetings, Gov. Baker issued an executive order in March 2020 allowing these bodies to meet quorum requirements even if meetings were held remotely through electronic means, as long as measures were taken to ensure the public with electronic access to the proceedings. The bill filed by the governor today would extend these provisions through Sept. 1 of this year. The governor said the extension would allow additional time to consider possible permanent changes to the open meeting law to provide for greater flexibility in conducting open meetings using electronic streaming and similar measures.
The governor’s bill would also give municipalities the authority to extend special permits for restaurants offering outdoor dining, issued under the state of emergency, through Nov. 29 of this year. Under an executive order issued in 2020, municipalities were permitted to use an expedited process to approve temporary permits for new or expanded outdoor dining and alcohol service. Without a legislative extension, special permits granted under the order will expire 60 days after the end of the state of emergency.
The legislation would also extend a protection adopted in an executive order that prohibits medical providers from billing patients who have received COVID-related emergency and inpatient services for charges in excess of costs paid by their insurers. The protection would extend until Jan. 1, 2022, at which time recently passed federal legislation that included protections for both emergency and non-emergency cases will become effective. Earlier this year, Gov. Baker signed legislation establishing surprise billing protections for patients for non-emergency services.
“Massachusetts is leading the nation in the vaccination effort and that progress is enabling the Commonwealth to return to normal,” Gov. Baker said. “These temporary measures will help businesses and residents in this transition period, and I look forward to working on these and other issues in the week ahead with our partners in the Legislature.”
Before June 15, the administration says it plans to take additional steps that will permit the continuation of targeted public health measures beyond the end of the state of emergency, including the mask requirements announced on May 17.