Recognizing that COVID-19 remains a disruptive force in the daily lives of many business owners and their employees, the Chamber’s staff has continuously worked with public officials at the local, state, and federal levels in an effort to identify and implement solutions.
As of this printing, Congressional Leaders on Capitol Hill remain deadlocked regarding another stimulus package to address the impacts of the pandemic. Though the Chamber continues to monitor this issue – which impacts not only businesses but state and local government as well – action appears unlikely until after the November election. In an effort to keep members informed and engage the region’s federal delegation, the Chamber will host a live, digital Congressional Update on Thursday, October 8, at 12:00. Congressman McGovern and Congresswoman Trahan will join us live to provide an update on developments in Washington, DC, before taking questions from the audience. If interested in participating, please visit the Chamber’s events page to register.
As with many organizations, COVID-19 has had a signification impact on the State House’s daily operation. Facing a legislative backlog due to the pandemic and unable to complete their work before the traditional July 31deadline, state lawmakers voted to extend the session through to the end of the calendar year. This has prolonged negotiations on several important items which the Chamber continues to monitor.
Principal among these proposals is the state’s annual budget. Congress’s inability to find agreement on a new recovery package, coupled with delayed tax collections, created uncertainty regarding revenues as legislators worked to draft a final balanced budget for the fiscal year which began on July 1. To address this, Beacon Hill passed a three-month, level funded budget, with plans to reconsider the matter once tax collections and federal aid figures come into greater focus.
A number of major bills have also cleared the House and Senate, with compromise language under negotiation before submission to the Governor for final passage. Among these is an economic development bill that would fund a range of projects across the Commonwealth. The Chamber has advocated in favor of a raft of priorities within this bill that would expand support for small businesses and aide recovery. These include funding for new loans and grants to support small businesses and support for the Regional Tourism Councils. Other bills being considered by the legislature would enable bonding for transportation and infrastructure projects, expand access to telehealth services, reform police departments and map a course to statewide net-neutral carbon emissions by 2050.
In response to an effort to place a three-year moratorium on the MCAS testing system, the Chamber recently submitted testimony opposing it and reiterating the Chamber’s conviction that every student be provided access to a high-quality education. While sensitive to the challenges and uncertainties which educators and students face in the year ahead, the Chamber believes that a three-year halt to these evaluations represents a drastic and unnecessary step.
Finally, the Board of Directors approved the Chamber’s FY21 Public Policy Agenda at their September meeting. This year’s agenda includes new priorities that focus on supporting businesses as they navigate the impact of COVID-19 and reopening. The Chamber advocates for an approach that balances public safety with the needs of small businesses and their employees across the region. The agenda will guide the Chamber’s advocacy efforts through the next year as we work to ensure a smooth economic recovery for North Central Massachusetts.