Jan. 8, 2021—This week, Representative Ken Gordon (D-Bedford) and Senator Mike Barrett (D-Lexington) joined their colleagues in the Legislature in passing multiple pieces of legislation designed to improve the lives of Massachusetts residents, as the 2019-2020 legislative session came to an end. The bills included legislation addressing climate change, economic development, transportation, and preventing sexual violence on college campuses.
“Although this year has been deeply challenging for us all, I’m proud of the Legislature’s continued commitment to address our most pressing issues,” said Representative Gordon (D-Bedford). “These bills will make the Commonwealth a leader on climate change, bolster our economy, and improve our transportation system. There is always more work to be done and I look forward to continuing our work in the coming session”.
On Monday, January 4, the House and Senate passed An Act Creating a Next-Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy. The bill overhauls the Commonwealth’s climate laws, creates clean energy jobs, and protects environmental justice communities. The bill will set a net-zero limit on greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and mandate emissions limits every five years. In order to protect vulnerable communities from environmental burdens, the bill codifies environmental justice provisions into law. Other important provisions include:
- Requiring an additional 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind energy;
- Setting appliance energy efficiency standards for a variety of common appliances;
- Adopting several measures aimed at improved gas pipeline safety;
- Provision to ensure equitable access to the state’s solar programs by low-income communities;
- A moratorium on wood-to-energy facilities of the kind contemplated in Springfield, MA, preventing them from qualifying as “non-carbon emitting” resources for five years; and
- Directs the Department of Public Utilities to give equal weight to greenhouse gas reductions and system safety alongside attention to affordability and stability of supply.
“This bill steps up the pace of our collective drive to contain climate change,” said Senator Mike Barrett (D-Lexington), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy. “It’s the strongest effort of its kind in the country. With the tools the Legislature assembles here, we’re constructing the response we need and providing a blueprint to other states.”
To read Senator Barrett’s full statement, click here.
On Wednesday, the Legislature passed a $626.5 million economic development bond bill that provides relief to small businesses, expands housing options, and invests in local projects. The bill offers $20 million to small restaurants suffering from the impacts of the pandemic and funds loans for small businesses. In addition, it caps fees that third-party delivery services can charge restaurants with fewer than 25 locations at 15 percent. In addition, Rep. Gordon and Senator Barrett secured authorizations to support economic development projects in Bedford. The Governor may fund these projects at his discretion:
- $1,000,000 to assist the town in developing pre-permitted commercial space for the life science industry.
- $165,000 for the installation of electric vehicle charging stations in town
The bill also includes key language addressing the housing shortage by lowering the threshold for local boards to approve zoning bylaw changes to a simple majority. This provision facilitates the production of housing that would be affordable to low and moderate-income residents in the Commonwealth. For more information, access the bill text here.
The legislature passed a $16.5 billion transportation bond bill early Wednesday morning, sending it to the Governor’s desk for a signature. The bill authorizes multi-year spending transportation projects such as highway and bridge maintenance, train modernization, and major capital projects, which will provide jobs to those working in the transportation construction industry. Similar to the economic development bond bill, the bill contains authorizations for Bedford secured by Senator Barrett and Rep. Gordon.
The Governor may fund these projects at his discretion
- $2,468,000 for costs associated with roadway and sidewalk reconstruction and traffic safety improvements
- $50,000 for repairs, upgrades, and an extension of the Minuteman bikeway in Bedford;
The bill also includes provisions that
- Require the MBTA to implement a low-income fare program while lowering fines and prohibiting arrest for fare evasion
- Raise fees on ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft by increasing charges from $0.20 per ride of any type to $0.40 per shared ride, $1.20 per non-shared ride, and $2.20 per non-shared ride in a luxury vehicle
- Create a commission to study congestion pricing
For more information, access the bill text here.
Campus Sexual Assault
Legislators in the House and Senate also sent a bill to Governor Baker Wednesday morning that targets sexual violence on higher education campuses. The bill requires public and private colleges in Massachusetts to adopt policies for addressing incidents of sexual misconduct involving students or employees of the institution and make these policies publicly available. The policies must include procedures for reporting incidents, information about receiving emergency medical assistance and counseling, and a summary of how the institutions resolved such complaints.
The bill includes a data collection component, which requires that schools administer sexual misconduct climate surveys at least every four years and that a summary of the results of these surveys will be made publicly available on the institution’s website.
For more information, access the bill text here.
Each bill now goes before the Governor for his consideration.