The Massachusetts Legislature wrapped up its 192nd session in the early morning of August 1, and the Governor had 10 days to give final approval or veto those bills sent to his desk. In the closing days of session, the Legislature approved several MAPC's budget and policy priorities, including legislation covering transportation, climate, public health, and accessible municipal governance.
Unfortunately, many priorities were left on the table as this session came to a close. These priorities include numerous investments planned for the second round of ARPA funding and further economic development; housing production, preservation, and stability; public health standards and funding reform, and more. The MAPC Government Affairs team continues to work with legislators, advocates, and partners to advance these priorities either in informal sessions in the fall or early in the next legislative session which begins in January 2023.
Below is a brief outline of some of the bills passed this legislative session and updates on priority legislation that did not pass. If you would like to learn more about any of these bills, please contact Matt Walsh (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Georgia Barlow (email@example.com) on the Government Affairs team.
On July 18, the Massachusetts Legislature submitted their conferenced fiscal year 2023 (FY23) budget to Governor Baker. On July 28, Governor Baker returned the budget with several line-item vetoes and suggested edits. Of those line item vetoes, the Legislature overrode all but one in the closing days of session.
This $52.7 billion FY23 budget reflects an increase of $4.3 billion (9%) over FY22, supported by $39.5 billion in forecasted base tax revenue, over $2.6 billion more than projected in January. Included in the budget is a $1.5 billion deposit into the State Stabilization Fund, bringing the Fund’s balance to an historic high of $8.4 billion. The FY23 budget does not include any American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding.
Key MAPC Line Items
|FY23 MAPC Request||FY23 GAA|
|District Local Technical Assistance
within line item 1599-0026
|$4 million||$3 million|
|Senator Charles Shannon Community Safety Initiative
line item 8100-0111
|$13 million||$12.3 million|
For a full summary of budget priorities and outcomes, click here.
MAPC was closely involved with a number of important pieces of legislation that passed this session. These bills span MAPC’s varied practice areas, from climate legislation to clean energy, public health, and more.
Remote Meetings: Many municipalities have experienced unprecedented levels of participation in local public meetings since the Commonwealth allowed virtual participation during the pandemic. This increased participation, especially among residents who haven’t previously had easy access to public meetings made it clear that municipalities need permanent provisions to conduct remote meetings. At the same time, cities and towns need additional resources to easily facilitate remote and hybrid meetings. Pandemic-era remote meeting provisions have been extended through March of 2023. While permanent remote meeting provisions were proposed in the House, conversations with MAPC communities made clear that the House’s proposal would have placed an undue burden on municipalities, particularly smaller and less-resourced communities. MAPC opposed these provisions and remains eager to partner with legislators and advocates to find a solution that provides accessibility to residents while also addressing the financial and logistical hurdles faced by municipalities. Government affairs staff remain in conversation with the Coalitions advocating for permanent remote meeting access, municipalities across the Commonwealth, and other advocacy partners to reach this solution before March of 2023.
An Act Driving Offshore Wind: This large, comprehensive climate legislation package addresses an array of challenges. The final legislation paves the way to expand offshore wind in Massachusetts and New England by creating an Offshore Wind Trust Fund that sets procurement parameters, prioritizing minority and women owned bids. The bill addresses large scale electrification expansion and includes measures to address grid resiliency. The bill also includes provisions to expand electric vehicle infrastructure, make the MBTA bus fleet electric by 2040, and create a path for RTA buses to go electric.
One of the most talked-about components of the Climate Legislation is the provision that would create a pilot program to allow 10 municipalities to ban new construction and major renovations that use fossil fuels. DOER has until July 2023 to create the regulatory framework for the program, which requires that municipalities first approve it at the local level and also meet certain affordable housing thresholds. MAPC will work with DOER to help shape the program in the months ahead.
Universal Free School Meals: The Universal Free School Meals program has been extended through the 2022 – 2023 school year. While the Commonwealth was fully reimbursed for the program by the federal government throughout much of the pandemic, federal spending for the program was not reauthorized. The FY23 budget funds this one-year extension at $115 million to continue the program in the absence of continued federal support.
Health Incentives Program (HIP): The FY23 budget included funding for the Healthy Incentives Program to help SNAP recipients buy more fruits and vegetables while supporting local farmers.
Work and Family Mobility Act: This policy enables all qualified Massachusetts residents to apply for a standard driver’s license regardless of immigration status, provided they have the appropriate identifying documents. The bill passed in June, and though the Governor vetoed it, the Legislature overrode that veto, making it law. This policy is widely praised by public safety officials and municipal leaders as an opportunity to increase road and public safety and provide for greater mobility, and thus opportunity, for immigrants across the commonwealth.
SAPHE 2.0: After the session’s end, Governor Baker returned SAPHE 2.0 to the Legislature with significant changes that would make the bill’s foundational service and certification requirements optional, undermining the bill’s chief goal of ensuring equitable access to public health services for all communities. The SAPHE Coalition, led by the Mass. Public Health Association, continues to work with legislators to address the Governor’s concerns while maintaining the bill’s focus on equity and hope to pass an amended bill in informal session which can avoid a Gubernatorial veto.
Transportation Bond Bill: Transportation needs were addressed in a variety of bills this session. Transportation legislation was included in both the transportation and infrastructure bond bills, and updates to transportation electrification infrastructure were included in both the climate legislation and budget.
The transportation bond bill included $11.3 billion in bond authorizations for transportation and infrastructure projects across the commonwealth, including a $400 million authorization for the MBTA to address safety concerns raised by the FTA. The transportation bond bill also included several MAPC policy priorities including new data collection requirements for Transportation Network Companies (such as Uber and Lyft), and new tracking requirements around electric vehicle adoption which will be included in the vehicle census.
The transportation bond bill includes language to classify electric bicycles (e-bikes) in class 1 and class 2 in alignment with federal and other state regulations. Additionally, municipalities retain the right to make some regulations for ebikes.
MAPC, in partnership with advocates, supported passage of means tested fares for low-income people across the commonwealth. Unfortunately, means tested fares on the MBTA were not passed this session, although the FY23budget this year includes funding for fare-free pilots on our statewide RTAs.
Mental Health: In the final hours of the legislative session, the legislature passed a comprehensive Mental Health bill that they had been negotiating for weeks. The bill mandates that health insurance cover an annual mental health wellness exam, gives the Commonwealth more tools to enforce insurance parity between mental and physical health, and ensures that mental health providers are equitably reimbursed by insurance. In line with MAPC’s State of Equity Policy Agenda’s recommendation to end the criminalization of disruptive behavior in schools, the bill also creates stricter limits on the acceptable parameters for suspension and expulsion.
As in any legislative session, several of MAPC’s policy priorities did not pass. As the Government Affairs team plans for the upcoming legislative session, many of these will become priorities for next session.
Economic Development Bond Bill + ARPA Spending: The Economic Development Bond Bill that was expected to pass before the end of the legislative session stalled in the Legislature following Governor Baker’s invocation of Chapter 62F of the General Laws. That law, passed in 1986, requires that the Commonwealth return “excess revenue” to taxpayers if certain revenue growth provisions are met.
Governor Baker estimates that this year’s surplus will require the Commonwealth to return up to $3 billion to taxpayers through tax credits. Under the law’s provisions, individual credits would be proportionate to an individual’s tax liability, meaning wealthier taxpayers would stand to enjoy outsized benefit should Chapter 62F be triggered.1
Soon after the Administration announced these projections, concerns emerged among legislators that spending American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding through the Economic Development bill would further inflate state revenues as defined in Chapter 62F, thus triggering the Chapter. These concerns slowed negotiations in the conference committee appointed to reconcile differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill, which has still yet to submit its report.
While the House and Senate versions of the bill contained a number of significant differences, both would have spent roughly $1.5 billion in ARPA funding, leaving roughly $1.1 billion unallocated. Absent passage of the bill, $2.6 billion in state ARPA funding remains unspent, all of which must be obligated by 2024 and spent by 2026.
Government Affairs staff continue to work to understand Chapter 62F’s implications alongside legislative and advocacy partners and hope to help chart a path to the bill’s passage before the next legislative session begins in January.
House and Senate versions of the Economic Development bill also contained several critical MAPC priorities, including:
- HOMES Act (Senate – Section 46A): This language would allow tenants involved in no-fault evictions to seal their eviction record after their case concludes and gives the court discretion as to whether a hearing is necessary before sealing.
- ADUs By-Right (Senate – Section 135C): This language would allow accessory dwelling units by-right on plots of 5,000 or more square feet, in keeping with current building and environmental code.
- Housing Production (Senate - 1599-6084): This appropriation would create a $403.5 million reserve to be administered by MassHousing to support the creation of affordable for-purchase and rental housing for a spectrum of income levels ranging from 20 – 120 percent of area median income.
- Offshore Wind (House – Sections 136, 142): These sections would direct the Treasurer to transfer $100 million from the general fund to the Offshore Wind Ports Fund, administered by MassCEC.
- Clean Energy Development (Senate – 1599-6081): This appropriation would provide $125 million in funding to Mass Clean Energy Center for investments in clean energy research, and workforce and infrastructure development.
- Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) (House – 1599-6081): This appropriation would provide an additional $10 million in funding for the LIHEAP program to assist low-income families with winter heating expenses. It is hoped that additional funds for heating assistance will leave the program with sufficient funding after the winter of 2022 – 2023 to direct at least a portion of program funds to cooling assistance as extreme summer temperatures continue to increase in frequency and severity.
Community Preservation Act: A transfer of $20 million in surplus revenues to the Community Preservation Trust Fund was included in the Legislature’s final budget. This section would have allowed the Fund to maintain the current rate of state match for locally raised Community Preservation funding. However, the Governor returned this section to the Legislature with a suggested edit, adding $10 million for the Mass. Life Sciences Center. The Legislature has yet to act on this suggestion, leaving this transfer unresolved.