Showing posts with label MA Senate. Show all posts
Showing posts with label MA Senate. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Senate Ways and Means Releases Fiscal Year 2023 Budget Recommendations

The Senate Committee on Ways and Means on Tuesday announced a $49.68 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23). A fiscally responsible and forward-looking plan, the Committee’s budget seeks to ensure the long-term economic health of the Commonwealth through increased investments in areas such as education, health care and housing so that Massachusetts residents can continue to move forward together. Above all, the proposal is intentional and targeted in its approach to providing support to those who continue to face challenges brought on by the global pandemic and ongoing financial uncertainty.

 

“The Massachusetts State Senate has always believed in partnering with the people of the Commonwealth to move us all forward. This approach is evident in our Fiscal Year 2023 budget, which seeks to provide the support individuals, families, businesses, and communities need to navigate these uncertain times,” stated Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “This budget makes meaningful investments in early education and childcare, K-12 schools, public higher education, mental health and substance use disorder treatment, housing, and individuals and families living in deep poverty. We will only succeed as a Commonwealth if we all rise together, and this budget ensures that no one gets left behind. I’d like to thank Chair Rodrigues, Vice Chair Friedman and Assistant Vice Chair Lewis, as well as their staffs, the members of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, all of my Senate colleagues who contributed ideas and energy as this budget came together, and every advocate and member of the public who made sure we knew what was important to them.”

 

“Striving to meet the everyday needs of our communities and our Commonwealth, the Senate Committee on Ways and Means Fiscal Year 2023 budget is a forward-looking blueprint that aims to support our long-term economic health and expand access to opportunities as we move forward together to build an inclusive post-pandemic future that equitably benefits all,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Focusing on shared priorities and upholding fiscal responsibility, I am very proud of the Committee’s budget and the targeted investments we are making collectively in education, local aid, health care, housing, family supports, workforce development, and much more to strengthen the Commonwealth’s economic foundation, while positioning us to respond nimbly to challenges and weather future uncertainty. Thank you to my colleagues in the Senate, especially my colleagues on the Committee, whose advocacy, collaboration, and dedication helped to inform and shape this comprehensive budget plan and thank you to Senate President Spilka for her steadfast leadership as we work together to build anew and bolster our state’s long-term economic health.”

 

“The FY23 budget introduced today by the Senate continues our dedication to investing in the people of the Commonwealth,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Extraordinary events have occurred during the past few years that have upended the lives of too many. This budget continues to prioritize essential government services and programs, including early childhood and education programming and healthcare services, as Massachusetts continues to recover from the pandemic.”

 

“I'm excited that this budget will help move the Commonwealth forward and continue a strong and equitable recovery from the pandemic,” said Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester), Assistant Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means and Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education. “I'm particularly pleased that we are continuing to fully fund the Student Opportunity Act as well as beginning to implement the recommendations of the Early Education and Care Economic Review Commission in order to expand access to high quality, affordable early education and care. Thank you to President Spilka and Chair Rodrigues for your leadership in crafting this budget proposal, and I look forward to engaging further with our Senate colleagues.”

 

The Committee’s budget recommends a total of $49.68 billion in spending, a $2.07 billion increase over the Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) General Appropriations Act. This spending recommendation is based on a tax revenue estimate of $36.915 billion for FY 2023, representing 2.7 per cent growth, as previously agreed upon during the consensus revenue process in January. With tax revenue collections exceeding expectations, the Committee’s FY 2023 budget avoids the use of one-time resources, helping to ensure that the Commonwealth continues to responsibly grow healthy reserves, address immediate needs and weather future uncertainty. The Senate FY23 budget also funds Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA) at $1.231 billion. Other budget highlights are detailed below.

 

Education

Drawing on its belief that the state’s recovery is made stronger by a commitment to invest in early education and care, the Senate’s budget makes a $1.13 billion investment into this sector of the care economy, including $300 million in new resources to begin implementation of recommendations made by the Early Education and Care Economy Review Commission. These investments will help to stabilize providers, support the early educator workforce, and provide access to affordable care for children and families. Funding includes:

 

  • $250 million for the Commonwealth Cares for Children (C3) Stabilization Grants, stabilizing the early education and care sector by supporting critical operational and workforce needs.
  • $25 million for a new infrastructure and policy reform reserve to bolster the statewide system of care and assist families in navigating the early education landscape.
  • $25 million for the center-based childcare rate reserve for reimbursement rates for subsidized care.
  • $16.5 million for grants to the Head Start program to maintain access to early education services for low-income families.
  • $15 million for the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative to expand access to pre-kindergarten and preschool opportunities in underserved areas.
  • $5 million for the Early Childhood Educators Scholarship.

 

In K-12 education, the Senate commits once again to fully funding and implementing the Student Opportunity Act (SOA) by FY 2027, investing $6 billion in Chapter 70 funding, an increase of $495 million over FY 2022, as well as doubling minimum Chapter 70 aid from $30 to $60 per pupil. This investment ensures the state remains on schedule to fully implement the law by FY2027, provides school districts with resources to provide high quality educational opportunities, and addresses rising costs and administrative challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

In addition to the record levels of investment in early education and K-12, the Committee’s budget confronts head on the issue of higher education student costs by providing $175 million for the scholarship reserve, including an additional $37.5 million for the MassGrant and MassGrant Plus programs.

 

The Committee’s budget also expands access to inclusive education opportunities for young adults with disabilities through the removal of existing barriers and codifying the Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment grant program. The budget dedicates $4 million in flexible resources for the public higher education system to implement and support inclusive learning options for this diverse student population. Other education investments include:

 

  • $435 million for the special education circuit breaker.
  • $243.8 million for charter school reimbursements.
  • $82.2 million to reimburse school districts for regional school transportation costs, representing a 85% reimbursement rate.
  • $10 million for Early College programs and $9 million for the state’s Dual Enrollment initiative, both of which provide high school students with increased opportunities for post-graduate success.
  • $2.5 million for grants offered through the Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment initiative to help high school students with intellectual disabilities ages 18–22 access higher education opportunities; and $1.5 million for the newly created Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Trust Fund.
  • $1.5 million for the Genocide Education Trust Fund, fulfilling our commitment to educate middle and high school students on the history of genocide and support implementation efforts in accordance with Chapter 98 of the Acts of 2021, An Act Concerning Genocide Education, passed by the Legislature in 2021.

 

Health, Mental Health & Family Care

For too many—especially children—the post-pandemic world continues to be wrought with uncertainty. To address these concerns, the Senate’s budget focuses on funding a range of services, including social emotional learning (SEL) support for students, domestic violence prevention, substance use disorder treatment, and strengthening our regional boards of health. The budget also supports the expansion of Family Resource Centers (FRCS), which offer resources to families seeking health, safety, educational, and employment services.

 

The Senate budget funds MassHealth at a total of $18.56 billion, providing more than 2.1 million people with access to affordable and accessible health care services. Other health investments include:

 

  • $514.3 million for Department of Mental Health adult support services, including assisted outpatient programming and comprehensive care coordination among health care providers.
  • $209.3 million for a complete range of substance use disorder treatment and intervention services to support these individuals and their families.
  • $112 million for children’s mental health services.
  • $56 million for domestic violence prevention services.
  • $40.4 million for Early Intervention services, ensuring supports remain accessible and available to infants and young toddlers with developmental delays and disabilities.
  • $28.3 million for Family Resource Centers to grow and improve the mental health resources and programming available to families.
  • $20 million to recapitalize the Behavioral Health, Access, Outreach and Support Trust Fund to support targeted behavioral health initiatives.
  • $18 million for family and adolescent health, including $7.8 million for comprehensive family planning services and $6.7 million to enhance federal Title X family planning funding.
  • $15 million for grants to support local and regional boards of health, continuing our efforts to build upon the successful State Action for Public Health Excellence (SAPHE) Program.
  • $15 million for emergency department diversion initiatives for children, adolescents, and adults.
  • $8 million to support student behavioral health services at the University of Massachusetts, state universities and community colleges.
  • $6 million for Social Emotional Learning Grants to help K-12 schools bolster social emotional learning supports for students, and $1 million to provide mental health screenings for K-12 students.
  • $4.4 million for the Office of the Child Advocate.
  • $3.5 million for the Massachusetts Center on Child Wellbeing & Trauma.
  • $3 million for Children Advocacy Centers to improve the critical supports available to children that have been neglected or sexually abused.
  • $2 million for grants for improvements in reproductive health access, infrastructure, and safety.

 

Expanding & Protecting Opportunities

The Senate remains committed to continuing an equitable recovery, expanding opportunity, and supporting the state’s long-term economic health. To that end, the Committee’s budget includes a record investment in the annual child’s clothing allowance, providing $400 per child for eligible families to buy clothes for the upcoming school year. The budget also includes a 10 per cent increase to Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) and Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled and Children (EAEDC) benefit levels compared to June 2022 to help families move out of deep poverty.

 

With skilled workers in high demand and job openings plentiful, the Senate’s budget invests more than $100 million to bolster job training programs, help connect unemployed and under-employed people with higher paying jobs and support career services that help students gain access and skills to apply for future jobs. Economic opportunity investments include:

 

  • $356.6 million for Transitional Assistance to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) and $140.7 million for Emergency Aid to Elderly, Disabled and Children (EAEDC) to provide the necessary support as caseloads increase, and lift families and individuals out of so-called ‘deep poverty.’
  • $55 million for adult basic education services to improve access to skills necessary to join the workforce.
  • $30.5 million for the Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program.
  • $24 million for summer jobs and work-readiness training for at-risk youth.
  • $20 million in Healthy Incentives Programs to maintain access to healthy food options for households in need.
  • $20 million for a Community Empowerment and Reinvestment Grant Program to provide economic support to communities disproportionately impacted by the criminal justice system.
  • $17 million for the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund to connect unemployed and under-employed workers with higher paying jobs.
  • $15.4 million for Career Technical Institutes to increase our skilled worker population and provide residents access to career technical training opportunities.
  • $7.5 million for community foundations to provide emergency economic relief to historically underserved populations.
  • $5 million for the Secure Jobs Connect Progam, providing job placement resources and assistance for homeless individuals.
  • $4.8 million for the Innovation Pathways program to continue to connect students to trainings and post-secondary opportunities in the industry sector with a focus on STEM fields.
  • $2.5 million for the Massachusetts Cybersecurity Innovation Fund, including $1.5 million to continue partnerships with community colleges and state universities to provide cybersecurity workforce training to students and cybersecurity services to municipalities, non-profits, and small businesses.

 

Housing

Based on the Senate’s understanding of the strong link housing security has to positive health and economic outcomes, the Senate FY23 budget invests over $900 million in increased funding for housing stability and homelessness assistance to work towards keeping people in their homes and helping individuals and families find permanent housing solutions.

 

The budget prioritizes relief for families and individuals who continue to face challenges brought on by both the pandemic and financial insecurity, including $213.2 million for Emergency Assistance Family Shelters and $210 million for Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT), including $60 million carried over from the March supplemental budget. The budget also upholds the emergency-level maximum amount of rental assistance that a household can receive at $10,000. Eligible households facing a housing crisis would also be given access to apply for RAFT and HomeBASE. Other housing investments include:

 

  • $175 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP), including $20.7 million in unspent funds carried forward from FY 2022; the budget also recommends structural program changes that, starting January 1, 2023, will allow households to pay no more than 30% of their income for rent to receive rental vouchers for up to 110% of fair market value. 
  • $92 million for assistance to local housing authorities.
  • $83.3 million for assistance for homeless individuals.
  • $56.9 million for the HomeBASE diversion and rapid re-housing programs, bolstering assistance under this program to two years with a per household maximum benefit of $20,000.
  • $19.3 million for the Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP), which provides rental assistance to people with disabilities, including $5.6 million in unspent funds carried forward from FY 2022 and $2.5 million for grants to improve or create accessible affordable housing units.
  • $5 million for sponsored-based supportive permanent housing.
  • $3.9 million for the Home and Healthy for Good re-housing and supportive services program, including $250,000 for homeless LGBTQ+ youth.

 

Community Support

The Committee’s budget reflects the Senate’s unwavering support for cities and towns and provides a significant amount of local and regional aid to ensure communities can provide essential services to the public while addressing local impacts caused by the pandemic. This includes $1.231 billion in funding for Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA), an increase of $63 million over FY 2022, to support additional resources for cities and towns. In addition to traditional sources of local aid, the Committee’s budget increases payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) for state-owned land to $45 million, an increase of $10 million over FY 2022. PILOT funding is a vital source of supplemental local aid for cities and towns working to protect and improve access to essential services and programs during recovery from the pandemic. Other local investments include:

 

  • $96.5 million for Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs) to support regional public transportation systems, including $2.5 million for the implementation of pilot programs for fare innovation and reduction across the state.
  • $40.8 million for libraries, including $14.5 million for regional library local aid$16 million for municipal libraries and $4.7 million for technology and automated resource networks.
  • $22 million for the Massachusetts Cultural Council to support local arts, culture and creative economy initiatives.

 

Senators can file amendments to the Senate Ways and Means recommendations through Friday, May 10, 2022 at 1 p.m. The Senate will then debate the FY23 budget proposal in formal session beginning Tuesday, May 24, 2022. 

 


The FY23 Senate Ways and Means Budget Recommendations are available on the Massachusetts legislature’s website: https://malegislature.gov/Budget/SenateWaysMeansBudget.


Senate Ways and Means Releases Fiscal Year 2023 Budget Recommendations
Senate Ways and Means Releases Fiscal Year 2023 Budget Recommendations

Inside the MA Senate budget: a focuses on early education, mental health, local aid

Via CommonWealth Magazine 

"THE STATE budget proposal released by the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday largely hews to the same ideology as the plan adopted by House budget writers: Avoid tax cuts, while putting excess money toward investments in areas such as early education, mental health care, and housing. 

“Despite two-plus years of uncertainty because of the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing and widespread financial instability, we’re happy to say that the Commonwealth remains in a strong fiscal position for now,” Senate President Karen Spilka said at a budget briefing with reporters. “We will only succeed as a Commonwealth if we all rise together, and this budget ensures that no one gets left behind.”

Continue reading the article online

Via Mass Municipal Association (MMA)
"The Senate Committee on Ways and Means today released a state budget proposal for fiscal 2023 that would double the increase in unrestricted local aid over what was proposed by the governor in January and approved by the House last month.

The $49.6 billion Senate Ways and Means proposal, which is scheduled to be taken up by the full Senate later this month, would increase Unrestricted General Government Aid by 5.4%, or $63 million, to $1.23 billion.

Senate leaders are also proposing significant increases for Chapter 70 education aid, charter school reimbursements, the Special Education Circuit Breaker account, and payments in lieu of taxes for state-owned land."
Continue reading the article online

The FY23 Senate Ways and Means Budget Recommendations are available on the Massachusetts legislature’s website: https://malegislature.gov/Budget/SenateWaysMeansBudget.

Friday, May 6, 2022

MA Senate Passes Work and Family Mobility Act

The Massachusetts State Senate on Thursday passed An Act Relative to Work and Family Mobility. The Work and Family Mobility Act would allow Massachusetts residents who lack federal immigration status to apply for a Massachusetts standard driver’s license, which does not include a REAL ID. The bill passed with a veto proof majority.

 

“We are a nation of immigrants, and our Commonwealth continues to be profoundly and positively shaped by immigrants from all over the world,” stated Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “They deserve to be able to safely get to work and school, care for their families and participate in the lives of their communities. I am thrilled that the Senate has moved forward with this proposal which will support families, improve public safety and be good for our economy. I’d like to thank Senators Crighton, Gomez and Lovely, as well as their staffs, for their work on this bill in the Senate. and the many members of the coalition who joined forces to make this a reality. I am grateful to the many members of the coalition for their advocacy and the immigrant community for sharing your stories with the Senate.”

 

“I am proud to work with my Senate colleagues to favorably move the Work and Family Mobility Act out of the Senate Committee on Rules today,” said State Senator Joan B. Lovely (D-Salem). “This legislation will improve public safety on our roadways and provide accessibility for all Massachusetts residents. Thank you, Senate President Spilka and Senators Crighton and Gomez for your leadership on this bill.”

 

"The Work and Family Mobility Act will make our roads safer and, just as importantly, make the lives of more than 185,000 Massachusetts immigrants without status easier by allowing them to earn a standard driver's license,” said State Senator Brendan P. Crighton (D-Lynn). “In the absence of a robust regional public transportation system, it is impossible for many Massachusetts residents to get through their day without the use of a car. No one should fear detention or deportation over essential everyday tasks such as getting to work, school, doctor's appointments and grocery stores. It is time for Massachusetts to join the 16 other states who have passed this common-sense legislation.”

 

"The legislation passed today is one I have been proud to co-lead on since I first entered the Senate," said State Senator Adam Gomez (D-Springfield). "As a proud Puerto Rican, a Boricua, and the State Senator for a district that is rich in diversity, I know that this bill will benefit generations of families across the Commonwealth. Our state is rich in culture and has a deep-rooted sense of community. Today we are voting on behalf of a part of that community that has often been overlooked or forgotten. As elected officials, we represent our communities as a whole, whether or not they are able to vote for us. Thank you to my co-lead Senator Crighton, Senate President Spilka, the Driving Families Forward Coalition, and the countless advocates and immigrants who lent their voices to this legislation so that we could reach the finish line."

 

The bill has received widespread support from members of the law enforcement community, advocacy groups, and members of the immigrant community. It proposes strict identity documentation criteria, asking for applicants to present two valid, unexpired identity documents. It makes no change to existing law requiring that all driver’s license applicants prove that they live in the Commonwealth. The bill passed by the Senate is nearly identical to the version that previously passed the House of Representatives earlier this year.

A version of this legislation having previously passed in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, the legislation moves back to the House for further consideration. 


MA Senate Passes Work and Family Mobility Act
MA Senate Passes Work and Family Mobility Act

Saturday, April 30, 2022

MA Senate to Debate Work and Family Mobility Act Next Thursday (5/05/22)

Senate to Debate Work and Family Mobility Act Next Thursday

The Massachusetts State Senate announced plans today (4/28/22) to debate An Act Relative to Work and Family Mobility at a formal session next Thursday, May 5, 2022. The Work and Family Mobility Act, filed by Senators Brendan Crighton and Adam Gomez, would allow Massachusetts residents who lack federal immigration status to apply for a Massachusetts standard driver's license, the non-REAL ID license. 

The bill, which received a favorable report from the Senate Committee on Rules earlier today, has received widespread support from members of the law enforcement community, advocacy groups, and members of the immigrant community. It proposes strict identity documentation criteria, asking for applicants to present two valid, unexpired identity documents. It makes no change to existing law requiring that all driver's license applicants prove that they live in the Commonwealth. The bill advanced by the Senate Committee on Rules is nearly identical to the version that previously passed the House of Representatives earlier this year.

"As the granddaughter of immigrants, I have been a longtime supporter of allowing everyone, regardless of immigration status, to safely get to work and school, access health care, and participate in the lives of their communities, and so I am pleased to see this bill move forward today," stated Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). "All our residents and their families deserve to feel safe, and driver's licenses for qualified individuals is good for our economy, our families, and public safety. I'd like to thank Senators Crighton, Gomez and Lovely for their efforts to push this bill forward."

"I am proud to work with my Senate colleagues to favorably move the Work and Family Mobility Act out of the Senate Committee on Rules today," said State Senator Joan B. Lovely (D-Salem). "This legislation will improve public safety on our roadways and provide accessibility for all Massachusetts residents. Thank you, Senate President Spilka and Senators Crighton and Gomez for your leadership on this bill."

"The Work and Family Mobility Act will make our roads safer and, just as importantly, make the lives of more than 185,000 Massachusetts immigrants without status easier by allowing them to earn a standard driver's license," said State Senator Brendan P. Crighton (D-Lynn). "In the absence of a robust regional public transportation system, it is impossible for many Massachusetts residents to get through their day without the use of a car. No one should fear detention or deportation over essential everyday tasks such as getting to work, school, doctor's appointments and grocery stores. It is time for Massachusetts to join the 16 other states who have passed this common-sense legislation."

"This important piece of legislation, which is long overdue, has received widespread support from law enforcement officials, municipal leaders, and advocacy organizations across our state," said State Senator Adam Gomez (D-Springfield). "These people are our neighbors, our friends, and our fellow community members. It's past time that we provide them with the ability to have reliable and accessible transportation where they don't have to fear deportation or separation from their families. This legislation gives undocumented residents the same opportunities that their documented counterparts may take for granted — the ability to drive freely across our state, find work in another community, drive their kids to school, run errands for their partner — not burdened with the worry that they may have negative interactions with law enforcement. That's what happens when people have access to reliable transportation: they can thrive, serve their communities, and succeed."

"There is a reason so many law enforcement leaders support this legislation, including a majority of my fellow sheriffs," said Middlesex Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian. "I first spoke in favor of this issue as a state representative over 20 years ago. This bill would not only improve public safety by increasing the number of properly identified and insured motorists; but just as critically it will improve a family's ability to get to medical appointments, to the grocery store, and to their kids' school activities. I commend Senate President Spilka, Senators Brendan Crighton and Adam Gomez, as well as the numerous legislators and advocates who have continued to support this vital issue."

In a formal statement, the leaders of the organizations co-chairing the Driving Families Forward Coalition, Brazilian Worker Center Executive Director Lenita Reason and 32BJ SEIU Executive Vice President Roxana Rivera said, "As co-chairs of the Driving Families Forward Coalition, made up of over 270 endorsers including business associations, labor unions, immigrant advocates, faith groups and many more supporting the Work and Family Mobility Act, we are overjoyed that the bill will be coming before a historic Senate vote. We extend our gratitude to Senate President Spilka, Senator Lovely, Chair of the Senate Committee on Rules and our bill lead sponsors, Senator Crighton, and Senator Gomez for their leadership in promoting everyone's safety in the Commonwealth by moving the bill through the legislative process. This includes law enforcement officials who need to know drivers' identities, Massachusetts motorists who benefit when every driver is tested and insured, and, of course, the diverse immigrant communities across the state who need to access doctor's offices, schools, and jobs. Many immigrants' lives would be transformed by this bill, and everyone in Massachusetts would have safer and more secure roads for it."

The legislation also includes layered protection for driver information, prohibiting the Massachusetts RMV from keeping records of citizenship or immigration status for standard license holders and applicants. Safeguards are also put in place for voting, above and beyond the extensive existing protections, directing the Registry of Motor Vehicles and Secretary of State to establish procedures to ensure that drivers without lawful immigration status are not erroneously registered to vote.

MA Senate to Debate Work and Family Mobility Act Next Thursday (5/05/22)
MA Senate to Debate Work and Family Mobility Act Next Thursday (5/05/22)

Thursday, April 28, 2022

MA Senate Passes Sports Betting Legislation

SENATE PASSES SPORTS BETTING LEGISLATION

Bill includes strong consumer protections

 

The Massachusetts State Senate on Thursday (4/28/22) passed An Act regulating sports wagering which would legalize commercial sports betting in Massachusetts. The bill, which would allow for in-person and online sports betting, also includes several consumer safeguards and addresses gaming addiction and recovery. This legislation is estimated to generate $35 million in tax revenue annually.

"I am proud that the Senate has taken a thoughtful and balanced approach to legalizing sports betting," said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). "This legislation is consumer-focused and responsible, while promoting economic development. I am grateful to the many, many Senators who added their voices to the discussion on sports wagering, to the Senators whose proposals we built upon, and to Chair Rodrigues and the Senate Ways and Means members and staff for their work to reach consensus on the bill we voted on today."

"With the Senate's passage of this bill, we lay a comprehensive foundation for a competitive legal sports wagering marketplace that will maximize revenue for our Commonwealth, promote equitable economic development, and establish the strongest consumer protection measures in the country," said State Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Senate Chair of the Committee on Ways and Means. "I want to thank Senator President Spilka for her invaluable leadership, along with Senators Lesser, Crighton, Feeney, Gomez, Brady, Creem and Tarr for lending their voices and contributing ideas and input throughout this process, and all of my colleagues in the Senate for helping to shape the final bill that the Senate has endorsed today."

"This bill has been carefully crafted to include strong consumer protections and encourage a competitive market for fun and responsible betting," said Senator Eric P. Lesser (D-Longmeadow), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies. "Its passage would bring Massachusetts into line with over two dozen states who have legalized sports betting since the 2018 Supreme Court decision. I want to thank Senate President Spilka, Chairman Rodrigues, and my House counterpart, Representative Parisella, for working collaboratively to get this legislation passed."

The legislation would allow for bets to be placed on a professional sport or athletic event, such as the World Series or Stanley Cup, and establishes a licensing process that is inclusive of the state's existing casino and slot parlor industry. In addition to sports wagering being offered at existing casinos, the bill contemplates six licenses to be awarded through a competitive process to companies which promote job-growth, responsible gambling, diversity, equity and inclusion, and which have community support. Those six licenses would be permitted to operate both in-person at a retail facility and online wagering. Wagering would not be permitted on electronic sports, amateur sports or athletic events including high school and youth sports, Olympic-related competitions, or collegiate sports. All leading Massachusetts Division 1 universities had previously weighed in against college sports betting.

Mindful of the harmful impacts of compulsive gambling and risks of addiction, the Senate proposal is intentional in its efforts to promote responsible gambling and takes steps to protect consumers. To that end, the bill would prohibit the use of a credit card to place a sports wager and would require the Department of Public Health (DPH) to establish a compulsive gambling direct assistance program.

Additionally, companies licensed to offer sports betting would be required to train employees to identify problem gambling and create plans to address instances of problem gambling, which would be submitted to the state's Gaming Commission. In addition, the bill would ensure that consumers could cash out and permanently close accounts for any reason or create self-imposed limits on wagers.

To further protect consumers, this legislation would include limitations on advertising for sports betting. The bill would prohibit unsolicited pop-up advertisements and certain promotional items, and institute a whistle-to-whistle ban on television advertising during live sporting events. Similar to the state's cannabis law, the bill would limit advertising on television and online where less than 85% of the audience is 21 or older.

With legislation relative to sports betting having passed the Massachusetts House of Representatives, a conference committee will be established to reconcile differences between the two bills.

Commonwealth Magazine coverage for this legislation ->
 https://commonwealthmagazine.org/gambling/237976/


MA Senate Passes Sports Betting Legislation
MA Senate Passes Sports Betting Legislation

Saturday, April 23, 2022

CommonWealth Magazine: "Senate plans to take up sports betting next week"

"THE SENATE IS POISED to debate legislation Thursday to legalize sports betting in Massachusetts, but the bill that emerged Friday afternoon from a Senate committee differs in several important ways from the sports betting bill that has already cleared the House. 
The long-awaited wagering bill was advanced favorably out of the Senate Ways and Means Committee late Friday afternoon, according to a Senate source. If it passes the Senate next week, lawmakers would have about three months to reconcile their differing approaches and get a bill to Gov. Charlie Baker, who has supported legalizing sports wagering for years."
Continue reading the article online

CommonWealth Magazine: "Senate plans to take up sports betting next week"
CommonWealth Magazine: "Senate plans to take up sports betting next week"

Friday, April 15, 2022

Senate Passes Major Climate Bill

Senate Passes Major Climate Bill

Package also includes bills focused on home heating oil and public land protection 

Amid alarming reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Massachusetts Senate on Thursday passed a major bill, S.2819, An Act Driving Climate Policy Forward, or the Drive Act. The bill addresses climate change in three primary areas—clean energy, transportation, and buildings—with the aim of achieving the Commonwealth's ambitious goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050, which the Legislature codified into law in 2021.

"Combatting climate change requires an honest assessment of the challenges before us, and constant work to change the course we are on," stated Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). "I'm proud to say that the Senate has never shied away from either, and that we continue to lead on taking action to combat climate change. The Drive Act takes important steps to expand clean energy, encourage the adoption of electric vehicles, reduce emissions from the building sector, and foster a workforce for our future, while two additional bills will help homeowners dealing with oil spills and protect open spaces. I'd like to thank Senators Barrett, Creem, Gobi and Eldridge, Senate Ways and Means Chair Rodrigues, and all of Senators who offered amendments to make this climate package stronger."

"Today's passage of an Act Driving Climate Policy Forward is a reflection of the Senate's strong commitment to an all-hands-on deck approach to boldly confronting our climate challenges head on," said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. "Thank you to the Senate President and her team for their leadership and guidance, and thank you to Senator Barrett, Senator Creem, their staffs, the Senate Ways and Means team, and all the members of the Senate for lending their voices and contributions throughout this process. With the passage of this comprehensive climate package, we are another step closer to ensuring the Commonwealth meets its ambitious goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050."

"We know climate change is relentless, so we think Massachusetts needs to be relentless, too," stated Senator Mike Barrett (D-Lexington), Senate Chair of the Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee. "No one's around to give out 'A's' for effort. What matters are results. An Act Driving Climate Policy Forward pushes back against global warming on multiple fronts, and with an emphasis on innovation and smart experimentation. It's about thinking long-range but executing now, in the short term.  It's about problem-solving, confidence, and even optimism."

"The Drive Act will help Massachusetts reach net-zero emissions by 2050 by paving the road to clean transportation, clean buildings, and clean electric and thermal energy," said Majority Leader Cynthia Creem (D-Newton), Chair of the Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change. "It is an impressive achievement, one that should give every resident of the Commonwealth hope about our ability to mitigate climate change. I'm grateful to every member of the Senate who contributed to this landmark legislation, and especially to Senate President Spilka, Chair Rodrigues, and Senator Barrett for their steadfast commitment to addressing climate change."

Clean Energy

Around 20 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in Massachusetts come from the power plants that fuel its energy grid, making support for clean energy alternatives necessary to meet the Commonwealth's goal of having net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Recognizing this, the Drive Act includes significant provisions to deploy clean energy infrastructure, including those related to offshore wind energy, solar energy, and energy storage. Acknowledging the importance of growing the Commonwealth's green economy, this bill allocates $100 million to a Clean Energy Investment Fund to support infrastructure development in the clean energy industry.

To assist with the financial viability of offshore wind energy projects, this legislation updates the procurement process for new offshore wind energy investments to ensure that the Commonwealth receives as many competitive bids as possible, that all projects maximize equitable economic development opportunities, that environmental impacts are mitigated, and that ratepayers are protected throughout the process. The bill also provides more flexibility to offshore wind developers by adjusting the existing price cap for offshore wind projects, allowing for price increases of up to 10 per cent of the previous procurement. It also require that any increase in price must be the result of economic development investments for low- and middle-income populations and diversity, equity and inclusion programs. This crucial change will give offshore wind developers more flexibility, protect ratepayers from significant price increases, and ensure that offshore wind investments support equitable economic development in the Commonwealth.

To support the advancement of solar power, the bill permits agricultural and horticultural land to be used to site solar panels, eliminates the so-called 'donut hole' for on-site solar energy net metering to promote residential solar; and requires the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) to make recommendations for the successor program to the current SMART solar incentive program.

In addition to wind and solar power, the bill addresses other innovative sources of clean energy such as fusion and geothermal power, and amends Massachusetts law to ensure that the state can consider potential options for the development of safe, clean energy sources. Acknowledging the harmful health and environmental impacts of biomass facilities, this legislation removes biomass from the list of energy-generating sources that are allowed to receive state incentives for clean energy. To ensure that the Commonwealth has adequate storage systems to accommodate all the clean energy that Massachusetts will be adding to its energy portfolio, this bill directs a study of how to optimize the deployment of long-term energy storage systems.

Transportation

As the transportation sector is the largest source of fuel emissions in Massachusetts, the bill takes steps to encourage the use of electric vehicles, including codifying into statute, expanding, and allocating $100 million for the state's MOR-EV electric vehicle incentive program, which provides rebates to individuals who purchase electric vehicles.

Under the Drive Act, the rebate amount will increase by $1,000, to $3,500, for passenger cars and light-duty trucks. Moreover, electric vehicle purchasers who trade in their emission-producing vehicles will be eligible for an additional incentive of $1,000. For the first time, rebates provided through the MOR-EV program will be administered at the point of sale, rather than through a rebate that can take up to 90 days to receive. The bill also makes used vehicles eligible for rebates.  Further, the bill directs the department of energy resources to conduct an outreach campaign to promote awareness about the MOR-EV program among consumers and businesses in underserved and low-income communities, as well as in communities with high proportions of high-emission vehicles.

To expand access to electric vehicle charging stations, this bill convenes an interagency coordinating council to develop and implement a charging infrastructure deployment plan, and allocates $50 million to this coordinating council to deploy charging infrastructure in an equitable and comprehensive manner.

The Department of Public Utilities (DPU) would be required to set vehicle electrification and greenhouse gas emission requirements for electric vehicle companies. In addition, to ensure that zero-emission vehicle charging remains affordable for consumers, the bill requires all electricity companies to submit proposals to the department of public utilities for how they will offer reduced electricity rates for consumers who charge their zero-emission vehicles at off-peak times.

Finally, the bill takes historic steps to address emissions that come from MBTA bus fleets. Starting in 2028, this bill would require every passenger bus that is purchased or leased by the MBTA to be a zero-emission vehicle. By the end of 2040, the MBTA would be required to operate exclusively zero-emission vehicles. Underserved and low-income communities would be prioritized for the equitable deployment of these zero-emission buses.

Amendments adopted during the debate include those to:

  • Allow the MOR-EV program to offer an additional $1,500 rebate for low-income individuals;
  • Require the state to examine historic and present participation of low- and moderate-income households in the MOR-EV program and recommend strategies to reduce disparities in uptake;
  • Require the MBTA to develop and implement short-, medium-, and long-term plans for electrifying the commuter rail fleet, with new purchase of diesel locomotives to be phased out in the coming years;
  • Require MassDOT to assist Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs) in creating an Electric Bus Rollout Plan for transitioning to zero-emission bus fleets; and
  • Direct the state to prepare a report on the estimated cost of converting school buses to zero-emission vehicles, as well as recommendations on how to structure a state incentive program for replacing school buses.

Buildings

To tackle the difficult issue of emissions from the building sector, the bill creates a 10 municipality demonstration project allowing all-electric building construction by local option. Participating municipalities must receive local approval before applying into the demonstration project.

The Drive Act makes targeted enhancements to the Mass Save program, which provides rebates and incentives for owners and renters related to efficient appliances and other home energy improvements. Under the bill, priority for Mass Save projects will be given to those that maximize net climate, environmental, and equity impacts. Beginning in 2025, Mass Save funds will also be limited in most instances from going to any fossil fuel equipment.

This bill requires the DPU to conduct an adjudicatory proceeding prior to approving any company-specific plan under the DPU's future of heat proceedings. In addition, the bill requires DPU to convene a stakeholder working group to develop regulatory and legislative recommendations for how Massachusetts can best align the Commonwealth's gas system enhancement program with the state's 2050 net zero goal. The working group must submit its final recommendations to the Legislature by July 31, 2023.

Amendments adopted during the debate include those to:

  • Require utility companies to report to the state annually the total amount of natural gas and electricity used by large buildings over 25,000 square feet, and for the state to make the data publicly available on a building-by-building basis;
  • Require the state to consider the historic and present participation of low- and middle-income households, including renter households, in the Mass Save program, and provide recommendations to promote equitable access and reduce disparities in uptake; and
  • Direct electric and gas distribution companies to collect and report on data related to ratepayer bills in communities that are involved in the demonstration project, as well as those who are not.

S.2821: An Act relative to the remediation of home heating oil releases

The Senate also passed S.2821, An Act relative to the remediation of home heating oil releases. Over 650,000 homeowners across Massachusetts use home heating oil to heat their homes. Every year, over 100 of those homeowners report to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) that there has been an oil spill associated with their home heating oil tank. These spills can cost anywhere from tens of thousands to millions of dollars to clean up, causing a potential financial crisis for a family.

"I would like to thank the Senate President, Chairman Rodrigues, and Senator Feeney for their steadfast support in moving this bill through the Senate," said Senator Anne M. Gobi (D-Worcester), the sponsor of the bill. "This legislation is a necessity for homeowners' protection and peace of mind. The cost of remediation is expensive and can force residents to seek risky financial maneuvers. It is only fair that the state takes action to protect its citizens from this danger. I am grateful to my colleagues in the Senate, for their unanimous support today. I urge the House of Representatives to move quickly on this legislation; it is in the best interest of the residents of Massachusetts."

The Legislature previously took action on this issue in 2008, adopting a bill that would require release prevention devices to be installed for residential heating oil systems, as well as and mandate all homeowner insurers in Massachusetts to offer coverage for home heating oil cleanups. While this bill made insurance coverage available, it was not successful in leading to high uptake rates. Currently, only seven per cent of homeowners who use home heating oil have insurance coverage for a potential spill. Many homeowners with home heating oil falsely assume that their current policy covers a potential clean up, or are unaware that such insurance coverage exists. This means that every year, hundreds of families are hit with unexpected and expensive cleanup bills that they are unable to cover themselves.

The bill adopted by the Senate today addresses this problem by requiring that all homeowner insurance policies cover a potential home heating oil spill. This is a common-sense measure, considering that homeowner insurance policies already cover other potential risks, including natural gas line explosions. This legislation will help prevent families from having to deal with the tragic situation of paying for the cleanup of home heating oil spills by themselves.

S.2820: An Act preserving open space in the Commonwealth

In addition, the Senate passed S.2820, An Act preserving open space in the Commonwealth. This bill would prevent the loss of natural resource lands that are covered under Article 97 of the Massachusetts constitution. The bill requires that any municipality or state agency that is disposing or changing the use of any Article 97 protected open space must replace that land with comparable land, which would protect open spaces across Massachusetts.

"I am very proud to join my Senate colleagues in passing the Public Land Protection Act to safeguard public lands for future generations," said Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton), the sponsor of the bill. "I'm grateful to Senate President Karen E. Spilka, Senate Ways and Means Chair Rodrigues, and Senate Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Committee Chair Becca Rausch for their work on this important environmental bill that will protect open space across Massachusetts."

Since the Drive Act builds off a previous climate bill that was passed through the House, the differences will need to be worked out by both branches before the bill advances to the Governor's desk. The open space bill also amends a similar bill that was passed through the House, and so differences will need to be reconciled on that bill as well. Having only passed in the Senate, the home heating oil spill bill will now go to the House for further consideration.

 

Senate Passes Major Climate Bill
Senate Passes Major Climate Bill