Senate Looks To Give Healey More Leeway On Shelter Crisis Handling

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BOSTON (State House News Service) — House and Senate Democrats appear to be at odds over how much the Legislature should try to alter the state's response to the emergency shelter crisis.

The Senate on Monday teed up a spending bill (S 2502) that would inject $250 million into the emergency shelter system, but unlike a House-approved version, the Senate bill does not feature language setting specific requirements on how the money must be spent.

House Democrats sought in their version of the closeout supplemental budget (H 4171) to require the Healey administration to launch at least one overflow site that would support eligible families for whom shelter placement was not immediately available. If the administration failed to do so within 30 days, the House bill would order officials to lift the system-wide 7,500-family capacity limit.

That measure appears to be dropped in the Senate version of the bill, which makes no reference to any "overflow" strategy.

Senators will take up their version of the bill Tuesday, one day before the final day of formal sessions for 2023. Starting Thursday, legislative rules call for both branches to take a break of at least six weeks from major business involving roll call votes. During that span, any measure can be halted with the objection of a single lawmaker.

Rep. Paul Donato, the House's second division chair, said Monday his "anticipation" is for the two branches to negotiate a final spending bill by the end of Wednesday's sessions.

"I believe that the Senate is working on that tomorrow or Wednesday, but the deadline is, you know, generally on Wednesday, so I'm sure the Senate will do it and then we'll do it," the Medford Democrat told the News Service.

Written by Chris Lisinski, Sam Doran/SHNS

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