End of the Legislative Session – How MAPC’s Priorities Fared

As Massachusetts’ legislative session drew to a close early Wednesday morning, many of MAPC’s legislative priorities were up for consideration. We wanted to give you a sense of how they fared.

Short Term Rentals: The legislature’s bill regulating short term rentals would tax short term rentals at the hotel rate of 5.7 percent. City and towns have the option to add an additional six percent tax. The legislation includes many local control options for municipalities and requires that hosts register their unit with the Department of Revenue. Data collected through the registry will be kept private and stripped of identifying information, but will be shared with municipalities and regional planning agencies, who can help cities and towns to understand the impact short term rentals are having on their housing market. The Governor filed an amendment on this bill after the formal sessions ended, so it might change slightly during informal session.

Energy: The legislature passed a clean energy bill that increases the renewable portfolio standard by two percent each year for the next 10 years, establishes an energy storage target, authorizes the procurement of additional wind energy, and expands funds available through the MassSave program. Importantly for MAPC’s priorities, the legislation also defines lost and unaccounted for gas and places a reporting requirement on utilities.

Environmental Bond Bill: This bill authorizes significant funding for environmental priorities, including $55M for Complete Streets, $75M for the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Program, and $100M for the implementation of the state hazard mitigation and climate adaptation plans. MAPC worked closely with the legislature to establish a new $30M Transfer of Development Rights revolving loan fund so that communities will have the opportunity to enhance development while preserving open space.

Economic Development Bond Bill: This bill authorizes $250M for the MassWorks program, $75M for workforce skills training, and $50M for the Mass Cultural Facilities fund. The Regional Ballot Initiatives bill was originally included as an amendment to the Senate version of this bill, but it was unfortunately not included in the compromise bill that passed in both branches.

Opioid Legislation: A bill long supported by Governor Baker and a major priority of both branches, the final opioid bill expands access to the overdose-reversal drug naloxone (Narcan) without a prescription and helps sheriffs to purchase the drug through the state’s bulk purchasing program. It also expands access to medication-assisted addiction treatment, and phases out paper pharmaceutical prescriptions for certain opioids.

FY19 Budget (In case you missed it): The budget approved by the Governor included funding for several of MAPC’s priorities. Some highlights: an increase of $2 million for the Shannon Grant program, level funding for District Local Technical Assistance and the Community Compact Program, and increases for Regional Transit Authorities, the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program, and the Department of Environmental Protection.

There were several bills that did not make it across the finish line. Legislative conferees negotiating the differences between the branches’ bills on education funding and health care reform  were not able to come to a compromise last night. MAPC was deeply disappointed that this left funding for the Prevention and Wellness Trust, which had been included in the health care bill, without any money for the coming year.

We were also disappointed that the legislature did not pass our zoning and housing priorities. Neither Governor Baker’s Housing Choice bill, nor the various other zoning and housing recommendations that MAPC supported, made it to a vote on the House floor. Despite this significant setback, we will not be deterred from continuing our advocacy for meaningful legislation to address the state’s housing crisis and to give cities and towns more and better tools to plan for and manage growth.

In the coming weeks, the Government Affairs team will be putting together a comprehensive summary of all of these bills and the many others that passed this legislative session. We will make you aware of new tools that are available in your communities, and we will start to look ahead towards our priorities for next legislative session. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us with any questions.