Gov. Maura Healey signed the first major bill of her new administration on March 29 – a supplemental budget bill that also extends remote and hybrid meeting options for public bodies through March 2025. (Photo courtesy of Governor’s Press Office)

Gov. Maura Healey this afternoon signed a fiscal 2023 spending package that includes more than $740 million in bonding authorizations, $389 million in supplemental spending, and a number of policy provisions, including extensions of pandemic-related authorizations related to public meetings and outdoor dining.

The new law extends pandemic-related authorizations that were set to expire on March 31 and April 1, thereby:
• Allowing remote and hybrid meeting options for public bodies through March 31, 2025
• Allowing remote and hybrid participation options for representative town meetings through March 31, 2025
• Permitting reduced quorums for open town meetings through March 31, 2025
• Extending the expedited outdoor dining permit process and allowing restaurants to offer to-go cocktails through April 1, 2024

Regarding representative town meetings, the law includes language to clarify the definition of remote participation to specifically include hybrid participation.

The final compromise bill, enacted by the House and Senate on March 23, combines items from three separate bills filed by the governor in her first few months in office.

The Legislature included a majority of the governor’s proposed “immediate needs” bond bill, including $400 million for the popular MassWorks Infrastructure Program, and $104 million for the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust to finance local efforts to improve water infrastructure and water quality. There is an additional $34 million for grant and loan assistance for the rehabilitation and redevelopment of blighted, vacant and underutilized properties, as well as a bond mechanism for this purpose.

In supplemental spending, the law allocates nearly $92 million to address the migrant housing crisis: nearly $45 million for the emergency assistance family shelters program, $40 million focused on communities with a large influx of school-aged children due to shelter placement, and $7 million to support refugee resettlement agencies.

The law includes Healey’s requested $65 million to extend the universal school meals pilot program, and $130 million for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Last month, the federal government announced an end to Extra COVID SNAP benefits, known as SNAP Emergency Allotments.

The law also allocates $68 million to continue Commonwealth Cares for Children grants to stabilize the state’s child care providers through the end of the fiscal year.

Finally, the law extends three Public Health Orders issued in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic, including one to extend staffing flexibilities for advanced life support ambulances.

MMA Executive Director Geoff Beckwith said cities and towns across the state applaud the governor and the Legislature for enacting an “outstanding bill.”

“This measure invests $400 million into local economies through the MassWorks grant program, injects $104 million in the Clean Water Trust to improve local water systems throughout the state, and extends the extremely effective option to conduct public meetings virtually, making it easier for the public to access and see local government in action.”

The law has an emergency preamble that enables it to take effect immediately upon being signed.

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