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Velis says ‘much more work to do’ as legislative sessions extended

State Sen. John C. Velis Feb. 25, 2020 speaks at Baystate Noble Hospital. (HOPE E. TREMBLAY/THE WESTFIELD NEWS)

BOSTON – State Sen. John C. Velis touted the extension of the legislative session this week, saying it allows elected officials to continue working for residents.

Last Thursday, the Massachusetts State Senate and the House of Representatives came to an agreement to continue formal legislative sessions through the end of the year. With the heightened needs brought forth by the COVID-19 pandemic, this extension will allow for the legislature to continue working on major legislation to bring relief to the Commonwealth.

“Over these last few months the needs of Massachusetts residents have greatly changed due to COVID-19. It is our duty as elected officials to ensure we are responding to these changes, and I believe it is crucial that we extend the session to continue our work,” said Velis. “During this unprecedented public health crisis, which has impacted every single person in Massachusetts, the typical summer break of the legislature is completely unimportant. We have accomplished a lot this session, but there is more work to do, and I’m glad we will be continuing that work to meet the needs of our constituents.”

Normally the legislature meets in informal sessions from August through December during the second year of their two-year session. The session end date of July 31, which is set through Joint Rule 12A, is meant to prevent political pressures in policy making due to an associated election season. When asked about the expansion of session during a time when legislators are typically focused on campaigning, Velis emphasized that campaigning is far less important than the circumstances that many in the Commonwealth are experiencing.

“In June, Massachusetts was reported to have the highest unemployment rate out of any other state. While we are fortunate to see a decrease in the number of COVID cases in Massachusetts, it is absolutely critical that we as a legislative body continue to be in formal sessions to help Massachusetts get back on its feet,” explained Velis. “Being on the campaign trail falls to a far second when we can be in Boston working to create needed solutions. I have said it before and I will say it again, I did not get elected to be a candidate; I got elected to be a state senator, and that is exactly what I will be doing until the end of the year.”

Velis said there are a number of bills still currently in conference committee in the legislature that will be worked on during this extension. Areas of focus include economic development, climate change, transportation investments, health care, police reforms, and the FY2021 state budget. Velis emphasized the importance of taking the time to get things right.

“The House and the Senate have each passed different versions of comprehensive legislation. It’s now the conference committee’s job to get together and work out the differences so that we can vote on final versions that reach our goals,” said Velis. “We need to have strong economic development legislation that will help our economy and small businesses respond from this pandemic, just like we need effective health care legislation that help will those struggling with costs and access in the short-term.

“I hope that we pass legislation during this extension that provides the relief and support that our communities need right now due to COVID-19, including increased support to our unemployment system to ensure that those unable to work get the payments they need, when they need it.”

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