Mass. Senate and House Negotiate $1.7 Billion Borrowing Bill for School, Police and Other Tech

House and Senate negotiators tasked with working out a compromise version of a $1.7 billion information technology bond bill held their first meeting Tuesday in Sen. Michael Rodrigues’ office. From left, Sen. Ryan Fattman, Rep. Aaron Michlewitz, Rep. Danielle Gregoire, Rep. David Vieira, Sen. Sal DiDomenic, and Sen. Michael Rodrigues. (Photograph by Sam Doran/State House News Service.)

Technology that could help early education providers reopen safely, ensure students’ equitable access to remote learning and body cameras for police departments are at stake as the Massachusetts Senate and House try to come to agreement on a $1.7 billion borrowing bill.

The six-member committee charged with negotiating differences met for the first time Tuesday afternoon. The committee convened in Senate Ways and Means Chairman Michael Rodrigues’ office at noon and quickly voted to close the meeting after opening remarks. The members—Reps. Aaron Michlewitz, Danielle Gregoire and David Vieira and Sens. Rodrigues, Sal DiDomenico, and Ryan Fattman—have 10 days to reach an agreement before the scheduled end of formal sessions on July 31.

“Over the course of this COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen the serious importance of IT infrastructure in our commonwealth,” Rodrigues said at the start of the meeting. “Everything from food security, to educating our students, to stabilizing our economy has become more reliant on the technological tools at our disposal more than ever before.”

The House and Senate approved differing versions of the legislation on May 20 and July 2, respectively. The Senate bill includes funds geared toward ensuring that early education providers can safely reopen, bolstering the food supply chain, updating cyber-security infrastructure and ensuring equitable access to remote learning opportunities. It also includes $20 million for a body camera grant program for police departments and $10 million for data system upgrades to help better track racial and ethnic disparities across the judicial and public safety systems.

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