By Bob Katzen

House Speaker Ron Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka announced they plan to create three new standing joint committees in the 2021-2022 session aimed at specific areas that they feel require “sustained attention and policy expertise.”

Those committees will focus on COVID-19 oversight and emergency management, racial equity and cybersecurity. The new committees will be in addition to the 29 existing joint committees which include Committees on Revenue, Elder Affairs, Housing, Election Laws, Transportation and Veterans Affairs. The creation of the three new committees must be approved by the House and Senate before they go into effect.

“Government must be responsive to the issues of our time, and the state Legislature is uniquely equipped to do so,” said Mariano and Spilka in a joint statement. “Over the past year, the commonwealth has confronted extraordinary challenges. Throughout, the members of the state legislature have used emergency measures to act decisively to be responsive and assist residents. Because of this effort, we have identified additional areas that require our sustained attention and policy expertise.”

The joint standing Committee on COVID-19 and Emergency Preparedness and Management will serve as an oversight and advisory committee to monitor and investigate issues related to Covid-19 emergency response and recovery; pandemic and disaster preparedness; and emergency management and communication.

The joint standing Committee on Racial Equity, Civil Rights and Inclusion will advise the Legislature, review existing laws and policy proposals, make policy recommendations and conduct impact assessments so that the Legislature can craft policy to begin to dismantle systemic racism and promote equitable opportunities and outcomes for all residents.

The joint standing Committee on Advanced Information Technology, the Internet and Cybersecurity will consider all matters relating to advanced information technology, cybersecurity and cyber threats, advanced public telecommunications networks, the internet, broadband access and fifth-generation telecommunications.

These additions will increase the number of joint committees from 29 to 32. The House and Senate chairs of each of these three committee, as is the case with other joint committees, will receive a stipend of at least $17,039 in addition to their base salary of $70,537—boosting their pay to $87,576. The vice-chairs of these committees will receive a stipend of at least $5,885—boosting their salaries to $76,422.

The total cost of the additional stipends for the chairs and vice-chairs of these three new committees is $137,544 per year.

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