Lawmakers send abortion bill back to Charlie Baker, agree on health care compromise bill

Action was fast and furious on Beacon Hill Tuesday as House lawmakers agreed with a Senate version of police reform, rejected the governor’s amendments on abortion legislation, setting up a potential veto fight, and reached agreement on a health care compromise bill.
Baker has already agreed to sign the redrafted police reform bill his office said “reflects the amendments that the Governor made to the bill two weeks ago.”
“After discussing the governor’s amendments with the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus, the Administration believes this package addresses the issues identified by the Governor’s amendments and he looks forward to signing this version should it reach his desk,” said Lizzy Guyton, Baker’s communications director.
Both the House and Senate rejected Baker’s attempts to dilute a budget rider expanding abortion access in the commonwealth. They opted to retain language that would codify abortion in state law for the first time, lower the age of consent for the procedures to 16, and allow late-term abortions after 24 weeks in some instances.
The House voted 107-50 on Tuesday to re-enact legislation, followed moments later by a voice vote in the Senate to do the same.
The Republican governor must now decide whether to sign the bill or veto it, where it would face a narrow margin in the House, which edged the required threshold by just two votes. A veto override requires a two-thirds majority in both chambers. Baker said he takes issue with some of the language and late-term abortions and provisions of the abortion bill removing parental or judicial consent for 16- and 17-year-olds.
A conference committee on Tuesday evening reached an agreement on health care legislation in negotiations since July.
“This comprehensive legislation builds on vital lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has placed unprecedented demands on our health care system,” conference committee co-chairs Sen. Cindy Friedman and House Majority Leader Ron Mariano said in a joint statement.
The bill embraces telehealth — which lawmakers said  has played a key role for patients and the medical community in the response to the pandemic.
“This bill embraces the promises of telehealth, which has proven to be a vital tool during this pandemic. It requires insurance carriers to cover telehealth services and codifies behavioral telehealth services at a payment rate equal to in-person care,” Mariano and Friedman said.
Herald wire services contributed to this report.

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