The Senate today passed its version of a redrafted supplemental 2023 budget bill filed by Gov. Maura Healey in January, which now includes a majority of the governor’s “immediate needs” bond bill and extensions of pandemic-related authorizations related to public meetings and outdoor dining.

The Senate bill is substantially similar to a version passed by the House on March 1 (H. 58), but several key differences mean that legislators will need to reconcile the two bills in the coming weeks.

Both bills include a top MMA priority — extensions to pandemic-related authorizations that were set to expire within weeks. The bills would:
• Allow remote and hybrid meeting options for public bodies through March 31, 2025
• Allow remote participation options for representative town meetings through March 31, 2025
• Permit reduced quorums for open town meetings through March 31, 2025

The House and Senate bills would extend the expedited outdoor dining permit process through April 1, 2024, but only the House bill would extend the authorization for takeout cocktails.

Both versions of the supplemental budget contain millions in bonding authorizations, including $400 million for the MassWorks Infrastructure Program and $104 million for the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust.

Each bill would provide authorizations for technology and innovation grants, though at different funding levels. The Senate bill includes a bonding measure for a program to revitalize underutilized properties across the Commonwealth to promote economic development and boost housing production.

Both bills include nearly $86 million to address the migrant housing crisis, a slight boost over Healey’s request, and include $41 million focused on communities with a large influx of school-aged children due to shelter placement.

Also included is 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. Last week’s SNAP payment was the last to reflect the boosted benefit, and SNAP beneficiaries will see a reduction in April unless there is action by the Legislature.

With the extra SNAP payments and pandemic-related authorizations ending this month, legislators are expected to work quickly to reconcile the bills.

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