Late last night, the Legislature sent a compromise bill to the governor to extend certain special allowances that were tied to the COVID-19 state of emergency, which had expired nearly 24 hours earlier.

The Senate passed its version of the bill last Thursday, and the House approved its version yesterday afternoon. A six-member conference committee worked out differences between the two bills into the evening.

In the end, the 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, which ended at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday.

The bill sent to the governor (S. 2475) would:
• 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
• For towns with representative town meetings, extend their ability 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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