The Massachusetts Legislature concluded formal sessions in the early hours of August 1, 2018. The Legislature will continue to meet in informal sessions for the remainder of the year but only “non-controversial” items can be taken up. The next two year session will begin in January 2019.
Here are highlights of this session that may be of interest to MALSCE members:
Senate President Spilka
The Massachusetts Senate elected Senator Spilka (D-Ashland) as Senate President on July 26.Spilka is the 95th Senate president and the third woman to hold the position. Senate President Spilka succeeds Senator President Harriette Chandler (D-Worcester) who resigned the presidency on July 26 and was appointed to the new position of ‘Senate president emerita’. Senate President Spilka will remain as her post as Senate Ways and Means chairwoman; she does not plan to appoint her own leadership team until the new session begins in January 2019.
This change comes after Former President Stan Rosenberg resigned in controversy in December, and the Senate elected then Senate Majority Leader Chandler as a temporary replacement. In March, Senator Spilka announced she had the votes to be elected the next Senate President. Senator Spilka will also remain in her post as Senate Ways and Means Chair and does not plan to appoint her own leadership team until the new session begins.
During the week of August 6, 2018, House Speaker Robert DeLeo became the longest continuously serving Speaker in the Commonwealth’s history. Speaker DeLeo has held the position since 2009 and has stated that he intends to seek re-election as Speaker when the next session convenes in January, 2019.
Environmental Bond Bill
On July 27, the legislature passed an environmental bond bill. The bill was passed in both chambers after a conference committee negotiated a final version of the bill. The bill included pieces of a Climate Adaptation Management Plan (CAMP) that many organization had been advocating for as part of the larger MA Climate Change Adaptation Coalition (MCCA). The following is an overview of the final bill:
- Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) and Climate Adaptation
- Management Plan (Plan) codified;
- Authorizations – MVP $75M and Plan $110M and Coastal Buy Back $30M;
- Consistency and advisory board NOT included (as related to CAMP);
- Definition of nature-based solutions included
Governor Baker signed the bill in part (Chapter 209 of the Acts of 2018) and sent some vetoes back to the Legislature.
In July 2018, Governor Charlie Baker filed a $583 million supplemental spending plan to close the 2018 fiscal year. The supplemental budget included:
HB4758 is expected to have a hearing in September 2018.
Short Term Rental legislation
The legislature sent the Governor a compromise short term rental bill. The legislation proposes taxing short-term rentals and accommodations rented through hosting platforms like AirBnb at the same uniform tax rate imposed on stays at hotels/motels/bed & breakfast establishments. The compromised bill proposed the scope of the state's room occupancy excise (5.7%), the local option excise (6%) and convention center financing fee (2.75%) to include short term rentals and accommodations rented through an intermediary/hosting platform. There is also a 2.75% percent tax specific to Cape Cod and the Islands that would go into a water protection fund.
Instead of signing the bill or waiting 10 days for the bill to become law, Governor Baker sent the bill back to the legislature with an amendment. The amendment would exempt homeowners who rent out their units for fewer than 14 days a year from the legislation and would limit the amount of information that will be made available through the new public registry of short-term rental housing units. Finally the amendment would change the definition of a short-term rental in order not to violate the terms used to finance the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center's construction.
Since the legislature is finished with formal sessions for the year, the amendment will have to be dealt with during informal sessions. Any legislator can block the bill during an informal session, making this bill unlikely to become law.
On July 26, Governor Charlie Baker signed the $41.7 billion Fiscal Year 2019 budget. The spending bill increases spending by 3 percent, and makes investments in education, substance abuse treatment and economic development. The signed budget makes a $368 million dollar deposit into the state’s “rainy day’ fund, which will increase the state reserves to their highest level since 2007.
The Governor vetoed $48.9 million dollars, including spending from 48 line-items, a decrease from his first three years as Governor. Additionally, Baker signed 91 of the 110 outside policy sections in the budget, and returned 19 sections with proposed amendments. The Legislature will consider all of Baker’s vetoes and amendments and can override the Governor’s spending cuts with a two-thirds vote in each branch.
Below is the funding for items included in the budget that ACEC was monitoring:
The Governor can send vetoes back in the budget to the legislature. With formal sessions over for the year, the vetoes will almost certainly stand because there is a two-thirds roll call vote required to override any vetoes.
Housing Bond Bill
This session, Governor Baker signed Chapter 99 of the Acts of 2018 An Act Financing the Production and Preservation of Housing for Low and Moderate Income Residents. The $1.8 billion housing bond bill features a variety of tax credit expansions, extensions intended to assist with low-income housing, community development and historic preservation efforts and $650 million to be spent on public housing in the Commonwealth.
The legislation extends the community investment tax credit until the year 2025, the tax credit was set to run out at the end of next year. The bill reauthorizes capital funding for upgrades at early education and care facilities that serve low-income children.
DCAMM Bond Bill
Earlier this summer, the legislature passed a compromised version of a $3.87 billion bond bill for capital facility repairs and improvements for the Commonwealth (also known as a DCAMM bond bill). The bill included earmarks for certain water and infrastructure projects in cities and towns.
IMPORTANT LEGISLATIVE CHANGE: Chapter 113 of the Acts of 2018, An Act Providing for Capital Facility Repairs and Improvements for the Commonwealth, in part updated the thresholds for when the designer selection process is to be implemented.
With these changes, effective immediately, a contract for design services is exempt from the selection procedure required if the design fee under the contract is less than $30,000 or the estimated construction cost of the project for which the design services are required is less than $300,000. The changes, which apply to all public agencies, authorities and municipalities in Massachusetts, were made to reflect the loss of purchasing power since the last time they were raised in 1990.
Economic Development Bill - Chapter 228 of the Acts of 2018 - signed in part by Governor Baker on August 3, 2018
posted by Abbie Goodman, 8/20. 2018
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