Senate President Karen Spilka and Speaker of the House Ronald Mariano

The new two-year legislative session that started on Jan. 6 will take a little while to really get rolling, but there are a few items that could be taken up even before legislative rules have been adopted and committee chairs and members have been named.

The governor filed his fiscal 2022 state budget recommendation on Jan. 27, and work will start on that immediately, including public hearings that could begin later this month.

The governor also filed a bond bill needed to finance Chapter 90 authorizations for local road projects in fiscal 2022. March 1 is the deadline for notifying cities and towns of their local allocations, and the MMA will be asking for expedited consideration of the measure.

The House and Senate moved quickly to approve a climate bill on Jan. 28 to replace the bill they sent to the governor at the end of the last session, which he vetoed.

And the MMA is advocating for early passage of legislation to maintain flexibility regarding town meetings and local elections, extending rules that were enacted last spring in the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sen. Karen Spilka returns to lead the Senate, and the House welcomed a new speaker, Rep. Ronald Mariano, following the retirement of Speaker Bob DeLeo on Dec. 29 after serving six terms as the leader of the House. The Senate president and House speaker both have roots in local government, having served on school committees in Ashland and Quincy, respectively.

In remarks to the Senate, Spilka reflected on accomplishments of the last two-year session, including the 2019 Student Opportunity Act and the sweeping policing reform bill enacted last year. Looking toward the new year, she said that emergency paid leave legislation would be an early priority for the Senate.

In comments to the House, Mariano said that monitoring the distribution of vaccines and helping people and businesses with ongoing economic and health care challenges caused by the pandemic will be early priorities in the House.

For most bills, the pace is usually slower in the first year of a new session, when hundreds of bills — both new and refiled — are assigned to committees for hearings.

Legislators and advocates are still working on draft bills, with a filing deadline that has been pushed back to Feb. 19 because the last session ran late due to the COVID state of emergency. In November, the MMA Board of Directors approved a 17-bill MMA legislative package that covers a range of municipal issues.

The legislative schedule for 2021 anticipates formal working sessions through mid-November and a restart in January for the second half of the two-year session.

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