A Massachusetts lawmaker has filed a proposal to limit the longevity of a Baker administration executive order, requiring that they expire after 30 days if they don’t get legislative approval.
Sen. Ryan Fattman, a Sutton Republican, proposed the limitation as one of nearly 500 amendments to the fiscal 2021 budget plan the Senate will debate this week.
Senators had until 10 p.m. Friday to file amendments to the nearly $46 billion budget proposal. They filed 475 amendments by the deadline. The Senate plans to hold formal session Tuesday to debate the measures.
Fattman’s proposal comes after dozens of executive orders issued by Gov. Charlie Baker and additional orders issued by Department of Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel, ranging from a mask mandate to non-essential business closures to an extension of the eviction moratorium passed by the Legislature in the spring.
Many of those COVID-19 orders have been challenged in courts, including one challenging the legality of the governor issuing any pandemic-related executive orders under the Civil Defense Act. In most of the lawsuits, judges sided with the state. A Peabody man who sued the Baker administration over the mask mandate first issued in April is awaiting a decision in Boston federal court.
Fattman proposed that any executive order from the governor or by the commissioner under the Civil Defense Act “shall expire or otherwise lose all legal force thirty days after it is issued unless both houses of the legislature ratify such an order or action by statute, direction or instruction,” the amendment states.
If lawmakers fail to ratify a commissioner’s order, the commissioner cannot issue a similar executive order for at least 60 days after the ratification deadline.
If the emergency prevents either the House or Senate from meeting, the executive order would remain in effect until 30 days after both the House and Senate can meet to address whether it should expire or be extended.
Fattman did not respond to emails seeking comment Monday. Nor did the governor’s office.
Other amendments include a proposal to improve standards and resources for local public health officials across the state, filed by Sen. Jo Comerford of Northampton, and legislation to compensate the loved ones of qualifying veterans who died from complications related to the coronavirus while living at the Holyoke Soldier’s Home, filed by Sen. Walter Timilty of Milton.
Senate President Emerita Harriette Chandler filed a reproductive health rights amendment, similar to the one that was filed in the House that’s similar to the ROE Act.
Although House and Senate leaders discouraged legislators from filing policy briefs, Spilka and House Speaker DeLeo backed expanding abortion rights through the budget. The House passed its $46 billion budget with an abortion amendment attached Thursday night, despite criticisms from Republicans about the addition of an abortion amendment in the lame duck period.
When the Senate Ways and Means Committee announced its budget plan, Spilka told reporters she’d like to see a similar amendment to the proposal Judiciary Chair Clare Cronin submitted for the House to review.
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