When they passed a law extending some pandemic-era emergency protections for renters, restaurants and government bodies, the House and Senate compromised by not compromising: They only approved issues both branches already agreed on.
In the rush to renew the emergency policies that expired Tuesday, the Legislature left several pandemic-era health care proposals passed by the Senate on the table, including issues around expanded duties for physician assistants, parity for behavioral telehealth and cost protections for COVID-19 treatment.
The House plans to handle health care issues outside of the emergency bill with joint committee hearings scheduled for this fall and potential legislative action later. The Senate would prefer to resolve them now while they're still technically at the bargaining table with the House.
The Senate has the backing of Gov. Baker on a measure to stop medical providers from billing patients beyond their health insurance coverage for COVID-19 treatment.
Another issue lawmakers allowed to expire after the state of emergency ended was a 15 percent price cap on the fee third party delivery services can charge restaurants for delivering their food. The House had included the price cap in its version of the bill, while the Senate left it out. The cap did not appear in the final language signed by Baker Wednesday morning, irking Senate sponsor Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen,) who said struggling restaurants were being exploited and subjected to 30 or 40 percent surcharges for deliveries before the cap was put in place.
"That is price gouging. That is taking advantage of a struggling small business owner that we should be helping during this time," DiZoglio said.
Since State House negotiations are secret, neither side will say if they plan to move forward on further policy extensions now, later or at all.