On Sunday night, President Trump signed the $900 billion COVID-19 relief package finalized by congressional leaders the week prior. The package includes: $600 direct payments to Americans; $300 in enhanced unemployment benefits for the next 10 weeks; $25 billion in direct rental assistance and an extension of the eviction moratorium until January 31; $82 billion for education funding; $45 billion for public transit systems; $13 billion for increased food stamps and child nutrition benefits; and $12 billion for minority-owned or very small businesses. Also included in the package $30 billion for the procurement and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine, as well as $22 billion for testing and tracing.
On Tuesday, Massachusetts’ longest serving Speaker of the House, Representative Robert DeLeo, announced his resignation after a 12-year run as Speaker and 30 years as a member of the Legislature. With only one-week left in the 2019-2020 Formal Legislative Session, the House membership elected Ronald Mariano, 28-year veteran Democrat from Quincy, as their Speaker. The House will need to elect a Speaker again when the 2020-2021 Formal Session begins with 17 new members on January 6.
On New Year’s Day, Governor Baker signed into law Senate Bill 2984, an act promoting a resilient health care system that puts patients first, released by the Health Care Conference Committee. Of interest to the life sciences industry is Section 26 of the bill which includes language relative to access to cancer clinical trials and the establishment of a Rare Disease Advisory Council.
Summary: Access to Cancer Clinical Trials
Travel and accommodation costs can pose a barrier to participation in cancer clinical trials, especially for low-income cancer patients. This bill eliminates that barrier by allowing reimbursement for a cancer patient’s reasonable travel and accommodation expenses associated with participating in a cancer clinical trial.
Summary: Rare Disease Advisory Council
There are approximately 7,000 known rare diseases including, for example, more than 500 types of rare cancers as well as all forms of pediatric cancer. This Act establishes a Rare Disease Advisory Council to advise the Governor, the Legislature and the Department of Public Health on the incidence of rare disease in the Commonwealth and the status of the rare disease community. The council will also be tasked with creating a rare disease plan for the state and developing methods to publicize the profile of the social and economic burden of rare diseases to ensure health care providers are more informed about the unique challenges of those living with rare diseases.
And, effective Saturday, December 26th, occupancy for office space in Massachusetts decreased to 25% capacity per a December 22nd order from the Baker Administration to further stop the spread of COVID-19. However, the 25% capacity limits do not apply to labs and manufacturing environments (i.e. no change in capacity restrictions for those areas).
Representative Jake Auchincloss was sworn into Congress on Sunday, officially replacing four-term Congressman Joe Kennedy III in the House. Auchincloss, 32, who won the seat after a crowded Democratic primary, is the youngest member of the Massachusetts congressional delegation.
The current Legislative Session in Massachusetts officially ends Tuesday at midnight. Agreements on all bills were due Monday at 8 pm, according to fair notice rules, to give members time to review bills before voting on Tuesday. On Wednesday, 199 Legislators will be sworn in, marking the official start to the 2021-2022 Formal Legislative Session.