The Order was adopted unanimously by the House of Representatives on July 29, just two days before the traditional end date of formal sessions. The Order, which still requires Senate approval, suspends Joint Rule 12A, which has been in place since 1995 and requires formal legislative sessions to end on July 31 during even-numbered years.
“I supported the extension to give the House and Senate more time to complete their unfinished business on a variety of issues,” Crocker said in a July 29 statement. “It is my responsibility to carry the concerns of the Second Barnstable District to Beacon Hill, and that is what I will continue to do.”
Among the matters that are still outstanding is the development of a Fiscal Year 2021 state budget, which has already been significantly delayed due to the continued economic uncertainty triggered by the COVID-19 global pandemic.
But Crocker also said legislators should be properly notified when a session is scheduled and given enough time to review and respond to committee polls, which sometimes include bills that are lengthy or technical in nature. He cited a House Ways and Means poll released the same day the Order was adopted giving members just 10 minutes to respond to a poll that included four bills, including a 17-page bill on next-generation climate policy.
Prior to that order’s adoption, Crocker backed a pair of amendments to ensure greater transparency as the Legislatature continues to meet on a formal basis. One amendment would require that any formal session occurring after July 31 “must be scheduled at least 14 calendar days prior to such formal session,” while the other would require that members be given a minimum of two hours to respond to a committee poll. Both amendments were defeated, on roll call votes of 33-126 and 51-108, respectively.
Crocker said he is disappointed the amendments were not adopted, saying the requests were “not unreasonable” and would have helped members better prepare for session. He reiterated his commitment to continue advocating for the residents of the Second Barnstable District as the House moves forward with additional formal sessions in the coming months.
Economic Development bill
House Bill 4879, An Act enabling partnerships for growth, was engrossed by the House on a vote of 156-3 on July 28 following two days of debate. The bill is a redrafted version of legislation originally filed by Gov. Baker on March 4. Crocker called the legislation long overdue.
“I am particularly happy with the help it provides locally owned restaurants with grants and easing of meals tax payments, and pleased with the help it gives municipalities in creating more sustainable housing,” Crocker said.
In addition to authorizing $456 million in bond funding to support housing production, workforce training initiatives, climate resiliency, small businesses, and cultural organizations, HB 4879 puts forth legalized sports betting in Massachusetts and additional protective guidelines governing evictions during COVID-19. Baker recently extended the statewide moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, which was due to expire on Aug. 18, but will now run through Oct. 17.
The bill also contains local zoning reform language originally included in Baker’s Housing Choice legislation to help address the state’s affordable housing shortage. HB 4879 also would increase the annual cap on the Housing Development Incentive Program from $10 million to $30 million to encourage more multi-unit, market-rate housing; allow for the establishment of Tourism Destination Marketing Districts; and create a special legislative commission to make recommendations on addressing the recovery of the state’s cultural and creative sector, including the arts, humanities and sciences.
HB 4879 now moves to the Senate for its consideration.