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Mass. Senate eyes keeping pandemic-era remote voting rules after colleagues in House votes to do away with them

The Massachusetts Senate chamber in the Massachusetts State House.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

There may be some grumbling on the House side of Beacon Hill this month.

In a break from that chamber, state Senate leaders want to keep a pandemic-era measure that allows members to keep voting and debating bills from their homes, offices, or wherever else they chose during formal sessions — even though the state’s COVID-19 emergency officially ended more than a year ago.

The House voted Wednesday to do just the opposite, opting unanimously to do away with the emergency rule that allowed its members to vote remotely, forcing lawmakers back to Beacon Hill for debates and votes.

The Senate’s idea to keep the policy came in the form of a 28-page rules package, which was put forward Thursday. The Senate is expected to vote on the package next week.


In a statement, state Senator Joan B. Lovely, who leads the Senate rules committee, said the proposal reflects the Senate’s “commitment to transparency, accessibility, diversity, and inclusion” and takes into account “the societal shift towards hybrid operations.”

“This rules package maintains the Senate’s ability to hold hybrid proceedings, both on the floor and in committee hearings,” the Salem Democrat said.

Speaker Ronald J. Mariano said he felt in-person voting was “important for the exchange of ideas and discussion.”

“As ideas germinate, and you start to hear different opinions and different sides of issues,” he told reporters Wednesday. “You can change your mind, opinions can evolve. I think it’s part of the legislative process.”

Despite the rift in remote voting policies, the House’s rules and the Senate proposal agree that committee hearings will operate with a permanent hybrid structure for lawmakers and members of the public to attend both in-person and virtually.

When asked Thursday if he felt the Senate’s conflicting rules on remote voting would affect how the chambers do business, Mariano demurred.


“The House looks forward to returning to in-person legislative sessions, and to working together with the Senate to deliver results for the people of Massachusetts,” he wrote in a statement.

The changes to the rules come over a year after the state terminated its COVID-19 state of emergency and rescinded most of its pandemic-related restrictions.

Samantha J. Gross can be reached at Follow her @samanthajgross.