The Massachusetts House of Representatives passed several bills on July 7, including legislation to extend temporary COVID-19 provisions and to support veterans. H.4989 will extend temporary COVID-19 era provisions related to remote open meeting law, eviction proceedings, notary publics, and other official business. H.4978 includes provisions that will make it easier for military family members to move to new states, expands access to higher education, and honors service members who experience PTSD, burn pit injuries, or other combat-related diseases.

“I am proud that we have extended provisions that give municipalities the ability to conduct business remotely should COVID-19 cases surge in the fall,” said Representative Tommy Vitolo (D-Brookline). “I look forward to continuing these conversations next session and finding ways to ensure that all public meetings, including representative town meeting sessions, are safe and accessible to all.”

Under H.4989, temporary COVID-19 era provisions allowing for fully remote representative town meetings and public meetings will be extended until March 31, 2023. Representative Vitolo supported an amendment that would have allowed for a hybrid representative town meeting. That amendment, filed by Representative Matt Muratore (R-Plymouth), was later withdrawn.

“Like Brookline, my community would also like its Representative Town Meeting to meet in a hybrid fashion,” said Representative Muratore. “Unfortunately, we don’t yet have the votes in the legislature to pass this reform.”

The legislature also passed, H.4978, which classifies spouses and children of service members serving in the Commonwealth as Massachusetts residents for the purposes of admission and tuition to higher education institutions. This classification is protected in the event of the death or relocation of the serving family member. The bill would also expedite occupational and public health certification processes for military spouses already certified in another state.

“We must make sure that veterans and their families are able to access the services to which they are entitled. I am grateful that we passed this legislation to honor those who have served,” continued Representative Vitolo.

The bill requires that information regarding the health effects of open burn pits and other airborne hazards be compiled and made accessible to veterans, active duty members, and military families. The legislation requires that service members and veterans who may be eligible for the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, be reached out to directly.
“With this bill the Commonwealth loudly and clearly states: Thank you for your service!” exclaimed Bill McGroarty, Director of Veterans Services for the Town of Brookline. “Our veteran and military members’ service to our community, country, and the world is both extraordinary and second to none. With the passage of this bill, Rep. Vitolo and our legislature have once again recognized military service and sacrifice with a series of initiatives that will enhance the lives of our military members, veterans, and their families.”

Both bills will now go to a conference committee before reaching the Governor’s desk to be signed into law.