Massachusetts Among 17 State Legislatures Meeting Through Pandemic

BOSTON (State House News Service) — Of the 35 state Legislatures that were in session when the global coronavirus pandemic became the focus of most government activity and daily life, just less than half continue to conduct business in some capacity through the outbreak.

Massachusetts is among the 17 states to press on in the face of the rapid spread of COVID-19, according to the Council of State Governments, and the legislative agenda has shifted nearly exclusively to prioritize coronavirus response efforts.

Bay State legislators are the only ones in New England still working, according to CSG. The other five New England states -- and 13 others around the country -- temporarily closed or adjourned early due to COVID-19, according to the council's coronavirus resource page.

Lawmakers have held informal sessions each day this week to work through a suite of legislation Gov. Charlie Baker filed to blunt the economic impacts of the pandemic. The lightly-attended sessions are now being streamed live on the Legislature's website, something the House and Senate typically do only for formal sessions.

Democratic leaders of each branch have said they are uncertain about how the rest of the session will unfold, including debate and finalization of a fiscal 2021 state budget, which is due by July 1. House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Ways and Means Chair Rep. Aaron Michlewitz have said it's unlikely that the House, which usually debates and approves the annual budget in April, will stick to that pattern this year.

"We're not ready to make a determination, but it would seem highly unlikely that we would have a budget in April at this point in time," Michlewitz told the News Service this week.

On Monday, DeLeo said, "Right now we're really pretty much just focused on this issue," referring to coronavirus.

The other states that continue to hold legislative sessions in some capacity are: Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, according to CSG.

by Colin A. Young, State House News Service

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