Gov. Charlie Baker today signed a bill to extend certain special allowances that were tied to the COVID-19 state of emergency, which ended at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday.

The Senate passed its version of a bill on the matter last Thursday, and the House approved its version yesterday afternoon. A six-member conference committee worked out differences between the two bills into yesterday evening and arrived at a final compromise bill (S. 2475).

The conference committee decided to leave some items on the table for further discussion in order to fast-track the more time-sensitive provisions, like extending the allowance for public bodies to hold remote meetings.

The bill signed the governor will:
• Allow for remote meetings and hearings by public bodies through April 1, 2022
• Ratify any remote meetings held between the expiration of the state of emergency and the signing of the law
• Extend the ability to reduce the quorum at any town meeting through Dec. 15, 2021
• Extend the ability, in towns with representative town meetings, to hold those meetings using remote participation through Dec. 15, 2021
• Extend local authorization for outdoor table service through April 1, 2022
• Allow for the continued sale of wine, beer and mixed drinks for off-premises consumption through May 1, 2022

The MMA supports the temporary extensions in S. 2475, but is continuing to advocate for lawmakers to consider making the following permanent:
• The option for public bodies to conduct remote or virtual meetings
• Allowance for remote town meetings that is also extended to open town meeting communities
• Election provisions such as the option to vote by mail and to move municipal election and caucus dates during emergencies
• Expedited permitting for outdoor table service and take-out alcoholic beverages

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