Legislative Update – July 25, 2022

Jul 25, 2022

Last week:

President Joe Biden was in Massachusetts on Wednesday to deliver remarks on the climate crisis. The visit took place at the former Brayton Point power plant in Somerset, which was the largest and most-polluting coal-fired electricity plant in New England during its more than 50 years of operation.

On Thursday, the House and Senate passed and sent to the Governor’s desk for his approval,  An Act Driving Clean Energy and Offshore Wind (H.5060). This legislation includes language that would create a Department of Energy Resources (DOER) demonstration project for 10 municipalities allowing them to implement fossil fuel bans for all new construction or major renovations. The municipalities with pending home rule petitions would be first in line. MassBio’s advocacy efforts resulted in the inclusion of a carve out for labs in the final version sent to the Governor.

During the Joint Transportation Committee’s oversight hearing of the MBTA, General Manager Steve Poftak shared that it would cost $300 million to meet the safety measures mandated by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The FTA probe into MBTA safety is expected to wrap up in mid-August, by which point the cost of improvements could increase. Just three days after the hearing, an Orange Line train caught on fire forcing an evacuation on a bridge over the Mystic River in Somerville.

The MBTA will continue to offer reduced service through Labor Day on the Red, Orange, and Blue lines, as reported during a meeting of the MBTA Board of Directors last Tuesday.

The city of Lynn has received a Platinum rating through MassBio’s BioReady rating system, which is used to determine a municipality’s readiness to host biotechnology facilities based on the community’s zoning practices and infrastructure capacity. The City Council passed an ordinance in the spring to encourage biotechnology companies to operate in Lynn.

Former state representative Maria Robinson (D-Framingham) has joined the Biden Administration as the first Director of the newly created Grid Deployment Office. The purpose of the office is to expand on the U.S. Department of Energy’s Building a Better Grid initiative to modernize and upgrade electric infrastructure.

A Worcester City Council subcommittee moved forward a proposal to create an inclusionary zoning policy in the city. The Economic Development subcommittee voted to move forward to the entire Council for a vote an inclusionary zoning policy that would require any new development with 12 or more units to have at least 15 percent of square footage for households earning less than 80 percent of the area median income (AMI) or 10 percent of square footage for households earning less than 60 percent AMI.

This week:

Formal sessions for the Massachusetts Legislature end Sunday, July 31. Legislators have just one week to hold formal sessions on legislation filed in the two-year session, which began in January 2021. A number of bills passed by the House and Senate are tied up in Conference Committee negotiations, including, according to State House News Service:

  • Governance reforms at state-run soldiers’ homes (led by Rep. Joseph Wagner and Sen. Michael Rush),
  • Legalized sports betting (chief conferees Rep. Jerald Parisella and Sen. Michael Rodrigues),
  • Cannabis industry regulatory changes (Rep. Daniel Donahue and Rodrigues),
  • Mental health access improvements (Rep. Adrian Madaro and Sen. Julian Cyr),
  • Open space preservation (Rep. Ruth Balser and Sen. Sal DiDomenico),
  • Military family licensure and veterans benefits (Rep. Paul McMurtry and Sen. John Velis),
  • Reproductive rights after the overturn of Roe v. Wade (Rep. Aaron Michlewitz and Sen. Cindy Friedman), and
  • A roughly $10 billion infrastructure bond bill (Rep. William Straus and Sen. Brendan Crighton).

The economic development bond bill could also be in Conference Committee this week, which includes sports betting, tax relief policies, and a local option for happy hours.

Governor Charlie Baker has until Friday, July 29 to sign the fiscal year 2023 (FY23) budget into law or return it to the Legislature with vetoes. The FY23 budget includes an extension to the copay assistance sunset, a critical cost-saving program which allows Massachusetts residents to use prescription drug coupons. The current law is due to sunset on January 1, 2023.

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