The House and Senate both passed a compromise supplemental 2023 budget bill today that includes a majority of the governor’s proposed “immediate needs” bond bill as well as extensions of pandemic-related authorizations related to public meetings and outdoor dining.

The bill was originally filed by Gov. Maura Healey in January, and both chambers had passed slightly different versions earlier this month.

The final bill (H. 3458) includes extensions to pandemic-related authorizations that were set to expire next week.

The bill would:
• Allow remote and hybrid meeting options for public bodies through March 31, 2025
• Allow remote and hybrid participation options for representative town meetings through March 31, 2025
• Permit reduced quorums for open town meetings through March 31, 2025
• Extend the expedited outdoor dining permit process through April 1, 2024

The House and Senate reached a compromise on takeout cocktails, with the final bill adopting House language extending the ability of restaurants to offer to-go cocktails through April 1, 2024.

The bill contains millions in bonding authorizations, including $400 million for the MassWorks Infrastructure Program and $104 million for the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust. 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.

The bill contains nearly $92 million to address the migrant housing crisis, including 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 an additional $7 million to support refugee resettlement agencies.

The bill 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.

Finally, the bill includes language to ease ambulance staffing requirements, a provision that was also introduced in another supplemental budget bill filed on March 17.

The bill now goes to the governor for her consideration. It has an emergency preamble to enable it to take effect immediately after being signed.

Written by