Legislature passes bills to help local government, restaurants

Rep. Ryan commends leaders for getting bills passed quickly

The State Legislature passed several pieces of legislation over the past few days that focus on helping local businesses like restaurants by allowing liquor license holders to sell beer and wine with food to go – along with a municipal package focusing on taxes.

State Rep. Dan Ryan praised the efforts of both houses of the State Legislature in working well together to get necessary changes passed quickly that will help local businesses and local governments survive the COVID-19 response.

“I want to commend the House and Senate leadership for getting these bills to the Governor’s desk,” he said. “Legislative bodies, by design, are accustomed to deliberation, not immediacy. In Massachusetts our work is bi-cameral, and bi-partisan. We are working collectively to get relief to our local communities as quickly as possible while respecting the confines of our Constitution. We are not out of the woods by a long shot. But I feel good about our local and state governments‘ ability to respond and adapt. Mistakes will be made but the will to work and work collectively is heartening.”

State Sen. Sal DiDomenico said the bill came to the Senate on Monday after being passed in the House on Friday, March 27, and it included key provisions like the ability of restaurants with liquor licenses to be able to serve beer and wine with food to-go or delivered.

DiDomenico said despite the shut-down at the State House, the legislature continues to meet regularly via online meetings.

On Tuesday, they had a caucus and last week they had an online meeting with 40 of the state’s top legislative leaders. They plan to have more as well in the coming weeks, likely about two a week.

“We’re still in business and passing bills and I’m co-sponsoring bills,” he said.

The legislation would extend the individual state tax filing and payment deadline from April 15 to July 15.

The legislation also includes the following provisions:

•Permits establishments licensed to sell alcohol for on-premises consumption to sell wine and beer via delivery and take-out provided the wine or beer is sold in the same transaction as a purchase of food and in a sealed container. 

•Modifies local permitting processes, extending municipal tax deadlines, and allowing municipalities to extend property tax exemptions and deferrals.

•Allows municipalities to activate qualified workers by suspending the cap on hours and compensation for certain retired employees for hours worked during the state of emergency.

“As the COVID-19 public health crisis continues to evolve, the House responded again today to the growing needs of our communities, our businesses, and our residents by easing burdens related to local permitting, extending the state’s tax deadline and giving restaurants more business opportunities,” said Speaker Bob DeLeo. “Thank you to Chair Michlewitz and Chair O’Day for their leadership on these important issues.”

Said neighboring State Rep. Aaron Michlewitz, chair of the Ways & Means Committee, “This relief package will give administrative and economic relief to our restaurants, our cities and towns, and to the taxpayers of the Commonwealth. As we continue to face the day to day effects of COVID-19, it is vital that we do all that we can to offer assistance to those in need.”

The bill was expected to be signed quickly by Gov. Charlie Baker, who proposed many of the measures two weeks ago.

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