Beacon Hill Scrambles To Agree On Pandemic Policy Extensions

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BOSTON (State House News Service) — Ahead of a vote expected Tuesday, a House committee began polling its members Monday morning on an amended version of a Senate bill extending certain pandemic-policies that are set to lapse with Tuesday's end of the COVID-19 state of emergency.

Similar to the bill the Senate passed last week (S 2472), the House Ways and Means Committee version would extend eviction protections, provisions around expanded outdoor dining, and authorization for remote public meetings in place until April 2022.

The House bill proposes a longer extension of the authority for restaurants to sell alcoholic drinks to go. It does not include Senate language extending the length of time that certain in-network telehealth services be reimbursed at the same rate as in-person care, or extensions for mail-in voting opportunities in this fall's elections.

The House last week passed a spending bill that would make mail-in voting a permanent feature of the state's elections.

The Senate-approved bill extended the cocktails to-go allowance until March 1, 2022, and in the House Ways and Means version, that authorization would run until July 31, 2022, with the price for the takeout and delivery drinks required to be the same as for on-site beverages.

Gov. Charlie Baker's COVID-19 state of emergency ends Tuesday, with many of the pandemic adaptations put in place through order, regulation and law set to expire as well on or after that day. House lawmakers were advised Friday that they should be prepared to vote on a new version of the Senate's bill in a Tuesday session.

How soon any of the extension can become law will depend on how long it takes the branches to agree on a compromise, and how quickly Gov. Charlie Baker agrees to it. Baker and legislative leaders are slated to have a conference call Monday.

Written by Katie Lannan

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