Senate President Karen Spilka wants the Legislature to put a mental health care parity bill on Gov. Charlie Baker's desk by Thanksgiving, adding a tricky piece of policy to Beacon Hill's fall agenda that's already crowded with legislation on federal spending, absentee voting and redrawing political districts.

The Senate President says the need for mental health care to be equivalent to physical health care — in schools and elsewhere — has only become greater during the pandemic.

"It was there before COVID, it'll be there long after COVID, especially if we don't do anything about it. So I am hoping that we finally get a mental health reform bill to the governor that's signed this session," Spilka told GBH News in an interview this week.

Spilka said Sens. Cindy Friedman and Julian Cyr are working to update a mental health bill the Senate passed just before the beginning of the pandemic to reflect how lockdowns, remote learning and other events have affected mental health.

"The pandemic has showed us and has shone an even brighter light, it's had a laser focus, on the need for mental health and behavioral health access and reform for all ages, particularly students," Spilka said.

Passed in February 2020, the bill would expand the number of practitioners able to provide mental health support, pay mental health clinicians rates similar to primary care providers and grant the state stronger enforcement methods for guaranteeing that mental health is on par with care for the physical body.

The Senate's 2020 bill was not taken up by the House last year and there's little indication that Speaker Ron Mariano will join Spilka's pursuit of a major mental health bill.

Most of the autumn's legislative action will center around the hearings, debate and eventual compromises over how to spend $5 billion in federal aid sent to the state through the American Rescue Plan Act. Lawmakers have already held several lengthy hearings on the ARPA funds to consider both Baker's plans for urgent spending and testimony from local leaders and stakeholders. Spilka said she expects lawmakers to decide on how to spend some, not all, of the funds later this year.

Taking action on the ARPA funding, she said, is a top priority, and she wants to focus the spending on a system of care for all residents, including childcare for working parents and care for seniors.

"How we can better care for residents of all generations?" Spilka said. "There is also adult care, senior care, and we need better resources for all of our residents to be able to access."

Spilka called intergenerational care "part of our infrastructure, just like our taking care of our roads and bridges that help us get to work."

Spilka also wants to make remote access to the polls permanent. Early voting and universal absentee voting laws were put in place early in the pandemic and later extended to cover 2021 municipal elections, but the law will need to be altered again for mail-in ballots to become a permanent feature in Bay State elections.

"We know that vote-by-mail and early voting has been very successful and very popular across the Commonwealth and I definitely want to see that become permanent," Spilka said, adding that she expects a voting bill to come to the Senate floor in the early fall.

The other "must do" task on the Legislature's agenda this fall will be to approve new political districts based on the 2020 census so congressional and legislative district boundaries align with the state's current population. Spilka said "we do have to have it done pretty much by the end of October."

"We expect to have something finalized this fall. Every person's voice deserves to be heard so that every person is counted," Spilka said.