Showing posts with label conference committee. Show all posts
Showing posts with label conference committee. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

In this "Making Sense of Climate" episode - Brookline’s initiative, heat pumps, gas leaks, and the health and financial implications of these (audio)

FM #801 = This is the Franklin Matters radio show, number 801 in the series. 

This session of the radio show shares my conversation with Ted McIntyre, Franklin resident and climate activist. We recorded this via the Zoom conference bridge Thursday, May 19, 2022.  

Ted and I are joined by Lisa Cunningham and Wendy Stahl. They are climate activists and co-founders of 

This discussion continues our journey understanding the MA roadmap toward net zero and while it helps me “make sense of climate”, we hope it helps with your understanding as well. 

If you have climate questions or Franklin specific climate questions, send them in and we’ll try to answer them in a future session.  Wendy and Lisa are also happy to answer questions.

The recording runs about 50 minutes, so let’s listen to my conversation with Ted, Lisa, and Wendy as we discuss Brookline’s initiative, heat pumps, gas leaks, and the health and financial implications of these.  

Audio file -> 


Contact information
* for Lisa or Wendy use  
* Conference committee members (3 from MA House & 3 from MA Senate)

House of Representatives: 

 MA Senate: 

Articles referenced

Stanford Study on gas leaks


RMI article on gas stoves 

And to buy a low-cost induction cook plate to try induction cooking 

We recommend the least expensive “no frills” – works great!  And cast iron pans are magnetic and low cost (Ikea and Amazon also have low-cost magnetic/induction cookware).  

Globe article on Senate Drive Forward act

Electrify your home guide 

IPCC report “Code Red”  “The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable."

Mass Clean Energy Center (MCEC) on heat pumps 

Talking Points on Section 65 of the Senate’s Drive Act (S. 2842) 

Text of the MA Senate Drive Act   or here 

See the page that collects the “Making Sense of Climate” episodes -> 


We are now producing this in collaboration with Franklin.TV and Franklin Public Radio ( or 102.9 on the Franklin area radio dial.  

This podcast is my public service effort for Franklin but we can't do it alone. We can always use your help.

How can you help?

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Through this feedback loop we can continue to make improvements. I thank you for listening.

For additional information, please visit or

If you have questions or comments you can reach me directly at shersteve @ gmail dot com

The music for the intro and exit was provided by Michael Clark and the group "East of Shirley". The piece is titled "Ernesto, manana"  c. Michael Clark & Tintype Tunes, 2008 and used with their permission.

I hope you enjoy!


You can also subscribe and listen to Franklin Matters audio on iTunes or your favorite podcast app; search in "podcasts" for "Franklin Matters"

Friday, April 1, 2022

Mass Senate Passes CROWN Act

The Massachusetts State Senate on Thursday unanimously passed the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act, which prohibits discrimination based on natural and protective hairstyles in workplaces, school districts, and any school-related organizations.


“We must never forget how long and hard the struggle for true racial justice has been for Black and brown residents of Massachusetts, which is why I am proud the Senate listened to the voices of those residents and passed this critical legislation as one step toward breaking down discriminatory barriers,” stated Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “The CROWN Act ensures that discrimination based on one’s hair style, which largely impacts Black residents, has no place in professional or school settings in the Commonwealth. I am grateful to Mya and Deanna Cook, who stood up and fought hard to right this wrong for Black women and girls across the state. I want to thank Senators Gomez, DiDomenico, Rodrigues, Lewis and Edwards, as well as their staff members, for their work on this issue, as well as all the advocates and allies for their collaboration. I look forward to seeing it signed into law soon.”


“Natural hairstyles should be celebrated, not discouraged, and I’m proud to be standing with my colleagues in the Senate today to pass the CROWN Act,” said State Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Thanks to the leadership of Senate President Spilka, Senator Gomez, Senator DiDomenico, advocates and many others, we are taking an important and long overdue step to prohibit discrimination based on natural and protective hairstyles. I applaud the Senate for taking action today and look forward to seeing this bill advance to the Governor’s desk and become law in the near future.”

"Today's passage of the Crown Act is a symbol from the Massachusetts legislature that we stand with women of color who have experienced hair discrimination," said State Senator Adam Gomez (D-Springfield). "As a father to young women of color this legislation means a great deal to me, but legislation is just the first step. In order to change hearts and minds, you have to ensure that people know that this exists, that it is deeply wrong, and that it is something that many women of color have lived experience with. I would like to acknowledge the incredible activists who have brought this to the forefront of our minds this legislative session, my colleagues who co-filed the bill with me and championed it in both branches - Senator DiDomenico, Representative Tyler and Representative Ultrino, and Senate President Spilka and Chair Rodriguez for bringing it to the floor today for a vote. This was truly a team effort, and I am thrilled we were able to get it to the finish line."


“Far too many people, especially Black women and children, experience race-based hair discrimination,” said Senate Assistance Majority Leader Sal DiDomenico (D- Everett). “I am incredibly grateful to the advocates who worked to pass this bill and especially our young students who shared their stories about how they have experienced hair discrimination in their daily lives. We are certainly overdue to pass this legislation, but I am proud that we are finally taking this step today and making clear that natural hairstyles should be celebrated, not discouraged.”


“The CROWN Act addresses yet another structural racism issue in our society, by prohibiting hair discrimination traditionally directed at Black women, thereby helping eradicate unjust policing in the workplaces and schools. I was very pleased to report the CROWN Act favorably from the Judiciary Committee earlier this year, and I'm grateful to Senate President Karen Spilka for bringing the bill up for a vote in the Senate today,” said Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Judiciary.


“On the long march toward justice, and especially racial justice, the Senate’s unanimous passage of this legislation marks another step forward,” said Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester). “We would not be at this point without the great courage and strength of Mya and Deanna Cook, who as 15-year-old students faced discrimination and abuse from their high school for their hairstyles, and bravely stood up for their rights and those of so many other black women.”


“Today, an African American woman with natural hair voted on the Crown Act. This is a perfect example of when the personal becomes political, said Senator Lydia Edwards (D-East Boston). I am grateful to Maya and Deanna and so many black women who spoke up through and for our hair. This makes our commonwealth stronger and affirms our belief that we should be judged on the content of our character.  Today’s politics is especially a blood sport so to see both houses and both parties come together for Justice is especially meaningful.”


“As a racial equity champion who developed the legislative and social impact strategy for the national CROWN Act movement on behalf of the CROWN Coalition, I applaud today’s Senate vote”, said Adjoa B. Asamoah, CROWN Coalition Co-Creator. “Tackling injustice and protecting people’s civil rights require moral leadership. I thank Representative Steve Ultrino who championed the bill in the House with cosponsor Representative Chynah Tyler, in addition to Senators Adam Gomez and Sal DiDomenico for their leadership and partnership to outlaw race-based hair discrimination in Massachusetts.”

The CROWN Act would prohibit discrimination based on hairstyles by incorporating hair texture, hair type and protective hairstyle into the definition of race in the Massachusetts General Laws. The protection means that no school district, school committee, public school, nonsectarian school, or any equivalent school organizations, can adopt or implement policies that would impair or prohibit a natural or protective hairstyle that has been historically associated with one’s race.


If signed into law, Massachusetts would become the fifteenth state to adopt the CROWN Act. The legislation was inspired in part by sisters Mya and Deanna Cook, who as teens gained national attention after successfully overturning their school policy which had barred them from taking part in school activities.


The Senate also added a provision that would include the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association to the list of school entities banned from adopting and implementing restrictions on natural hairstyles. This change will ensure that those participating in sports and extracurricular activities will not be asked to change their natural or protective hairstyles in order to participate.


The legislation authorizes the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination oversight to create and adopt rules, regulations, policies, and recommendations that may be necessary to implement this legislation.


During Thursday’s session, the Senate also passed an extension of its emergency rules adopted during COVID-19 which allowed for such transparency and accessibility measures like remote voting procedures for Senators through August 1, 2022. The Senate also passed An Act Relative to Temporary Registration Plates, which requires the Registrar of Motor Vehicles to design, issue and regulate the use of temporary registration plates for out-of-state drivers looking to transport a vehicle to their state of residence.


A version of An Act Prohibiting Discrimination Based on Natural and Protective Hairstyles having passed the Massachusetts House of Representatives, both branches will now work together on compromise legislation before advancing a final version to the Governor. 

Link to the Legislation text ->

Boston Globe coverage ->

MA Senate Passes CROWN Act
Mass Senate Passes CROWN Act

Saturday, March 26, 2022

MA Senate Passes $1.65 Billion Supplemental Budget

The Massachusetts State Senate on Thursday (3/24/22) passed a $1.65 billion supplemental budget for Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22). The legislation makes investments in the state’s long-term COVID-19 response; addresses staffing shortages in schools; provides support for home and community-based services, assistance and protections for families experiencing housing and energy insecurity; funds winter road improvements; extends outdoor dining services as well as beer, wine and cocktails to-go, and provides for the resettlement of Ukrainian refugees in Massachusetts. Notably, the bill also would divest the state pension fund from Russian assets in response to the Russian war in Ukraine.


“Massachusetts has avoided the worst of the financial downside from this pandemic and its effects thanks to a history of careful financial planning and consistent investment in those programs and services which support public health and build resiliency in our communities and our Commonwealth,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “Today’s supplemental budget continues this trend by providing targeted funding to healthcare, housing, education, and transportation needs. Importantly, this budget ensures that Massachusetts can continue to offer sanctuary to refugees fleeing from violence abroad even as war continues in Ukraine. Thanks to an amendment championed by Senator Comerford, we are also investing crucial funding to the Massachusetts Office of Victim Assistance to continue providing victim services, including children’s advocacy centers and sexual assault programs. I want to thank Chair Rodrigues and his staff, the members of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, and my colleagues for their work to ensure that the needs of Massachusetts residents are met.”


“The passage of this supplemental budget today addresses a number of time sensitive needs as we look to simultaneously support our ongoing response to COVID-19, while continuing our Commonwealth’s recovery,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport)Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Thanks to Senate President Spilka’s leadership and the overwhelming support of the Senate membership, we made clear with the passage of this supplemental spending plan that we will always prioritize protecting our most vulnerable populations, supporting our health care and education workforce, investing in local infrastructure needs and taking the necessary steps to ensure vital public services will be available and accessible to all who need them across the Commonwealth as we recover from the impacts of the pandemic.” 


Responding to COVID-19

To mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and ensure robust preparation in the event of a future variant outbreak, the bill invests $700 million for the state’s COVID-19 response. This funding would ensure the continued no-cost availability of crucial services offered to residents during the pandemic, including on-site testing, vaccinations, and treatment, as well as public health staffing needs resulting from COVID-19.


To further protect families facing housing challenges, the supplemental budget extends through March 2023 several protections for tenants experiencing COVID-19-related financial hardship, including extending the requirement that a court grant a continuance in an eviction case for nonpayment of rent when the tenant has a pending rental assistance application.


The supplemental budget also extends popular pandemic-related provisions including outdoor dining services, and beer, wine and cocktails to-go through April 2023. The legislation also extends COVID-19 related bonuses for members of the Massachusetts National Guard.


Responding to Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

The supplemental budget responds to the Russian Federation’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent violence against Ukrainian civilians. An amendment unanimously adopted on the floor of the Senate requires the Commonwealth's Pension Reserves Investment Management (PRIM) Board to divest any holdings from companies officially sanctioned by the Biden administration or incorporated in Russia. The supplemental budget also allocates $10 million for the Office of Immigrants and Refugees to support the resettlement of international evacuees, including Ukrainian evacuees.


Housing and Energy Assistance

The supplemental budget includes several provisions relating to housing stability and support for individuals currently experiencing or near homelessness. The Senate proposal includes $100 million for the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) program which provides eligible families with funds that they can use to keep their housing or obtain new housing. One amendment added to the budget on the Senate floor would increase the cap of the RAFT program to $10,000 for the remainder of the fiscal year. Another amendment clarifies existing law to ensure that in all eviction cases where the only valid reason for the eviction is nonpayment of rent, that the tenant has access to protections. The supplemental budget also dedicates $20 million to the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which provides crucial assistance to families facing high utility bills. To increase oversight, the bill also directs the department of housing and community development to make detailed quarterly reports on the state's eviction diversion initiative.


The supplemental budget allocates $2.8 million for rates at shelters for homeless individuals and also ensures that down payment assistance funds received from the Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency or the Massachusetts Housing Partnership will not be considered taxable income.


Health Care & Mental Health

The bill allocates $346 million in federal American Rescue Plan funding for Home- and Community-Based Services (HCBS) resources to ensure that eligible Medicaid users throughout the Commonwealth are able to receive health care and medical services in their own homes or local communities.  Alongside this investment, the bill also appropriates $55 million in state resources to support reimbursement rates for human and social service providers that have also been doing crucial work during the pandemic. To address the crisis of mental health care, the bill also dedicates $10 million to suicide prevention and intervention services, focused on staffing and other resources at crisis centers, and the establishment of a statewide 988 suicide prevention hotline.


An amendment adopted to the supplemental budget allocates $24 million of the state’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds specifically for the creation of new behavioral health and substance use disorder treatment beds.



In response to reports of staffing shortages in public schools, the supplemental budget includes a provision authorizing the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education to issue emergency educator licenses until 180 days after the end of the public health emergency. For private special education schools operating under Chapter 766, the budget allocates $140 million to fill immediate staffing needs.


Other funding items of note include:


  • $100 million for a new Winter Road Recovery Assistance Program for cities and towns to repair potholes and roads and bridges worn down by adverse weather conditions.
  • $20 million for Victim of Crime Act (VOCA) funding which supports no-cost counseling, advocacy, and intervention services to victims of crime, thereby covering the immediate needs of the Victim and Witness Assistance Board as they are experiencing a shortage of federal funding
  • $10 million for Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled and Children (EAEDC)
  • $8.4 million for Department of Children and Families foster family rates
  • $8 million for Early Intervention staff stabilization supports
  • $5 million for state election costs
  • $5 million for the Department of Mental Health to expand clientele housing supports
  • $1.8 million for mental health services for international evacuees resettled in the Commonwealth
  • $1.7 million for state park investments, including water safety initiatives
  • $609,000 for additional staffing to implement the Next Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy legislation, which was passed early in the session
  • $500,000 to expand the capacity of the Commission on the Status of Women


A version of this legislation having previously passed the House of Representatives, the differences will need to be worked out by the branches before advancing to the Governor’s desk

Download a copy of this news release as a PDF ->

MA Senate Passes $1.65 Billion Supplemental Budget
MA Senate Passes $1.65 Billion Supplemental Budget

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Bill To Stabilize Supply of Egg and Pork Products Signed into Law

Bill To Stabilize Supply of Egg and Pork Products Signed into Law

Following action by House and Senate lawmakers earlier this week, a bill to ensure a more secure egg and pork supply chain in the state, was signed into law Wednesday (12/22/2021). The legislation updates Massachusetts' farm animal welfare standards passed by voters in 2016 to align with other states.

"When Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly passed a ballot question guaranteeing animal welfare in 2016, our state had the strongest protections for farm animals in U.S. history," said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). "Since then, national and industry standards have shifted towards even stronger animal welfare and consumer safety protections. With this law, Massachusetts is taking action to prevent cruelty to farm animals and ensure that our state has continued access to eggs that meet the expectations of the Commonwealth's residents. I want to thank House Speaker Mariano, for his collaboration, Senator Lewis for his steadfast focus on this issue, his fellow conferees and their staffs, and the residents of Massachusetts, including animal welfare advocates and egg-producers, for their support for this legislation."

"This law ensures that Massachusetts consumers and small businesses will have continued access to affordable egg and pork products, while also honoring the intent of the animal welfare ballot question," said House Speaker Ronald J. Mariano (D-Quincy). "I want to thank Senate President Spilka, Chair Dykema and the other members of the conference committee, as well as my colleagues in the House and Senate, for the hard work that ultimately led to this agreement."

"In 2016, the advocacy of animal welfare groups across the Commonwealth and overwhelming support from voters passed Ballot Question 3 to ensure that the factory farming industry provides more humane standards for pigs, calves and egg-laying hens, representing a historic victory for animal welfare," said Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester), the lead sponsor of the Senate bill. "Since then, the standard around the country for egg-laying hens has evolved, and Massachusetts is now an outlier, which could threaten our supply of eggs. Fortunately, the egg producers and animal welfare groups have come together to agree on this legislation, ensuring safe and humane conditions for egg-laying hens and affordable eggs for Massachusetts consumers. I appreciate the leadership of the Senate President and the support and guidance of my fellow conferees, Senator Rausch and Senator Tarr, in getting this bill passed."

"Together with my fellow conferees, I am pleased that we reached a comprehensive agreement that makes necessary updates to the voter-approved ballot initiative while reducing the risk of price shocks and disruptions to our food supply as pandemic impacts continue," said Representative Carolyn Dykema (D-Holliston), House Chair of the Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture. "I want to thank the Speaker and my colleagues for their steadfast commitment to fighting food insecurity, supporting small businesses, and continuing our leadership on animal welfare at every step of the legislative process."

An Act to upgrade hen welfare and establish uniform cage-free standards updates a 2016 law passed by the voters of Massachusetts. It would align Massachusetts' standards to that of other states by:

  • Providing detailed cage-free standards that consist of one square foot of usable floor space per hen in multi-tiered aviaries, partially-slatted cage-free housing systems or any other cage-free housing system that provides hens with unfettered access to vertical space so that hens can engage in vital natural behaviors such as perching, scratching, dust bathing and laying eggs in a nest.
  • Ensuring protections for various types of egg products. As passed in 2016, the law applied to shell eggs, but not egg products. This legislation would also cover egg products, mirroring legislation passed in other states.

The bill would also enhance market and regulatory certainty by:

  • Delaying the effective date of the new standards for pork products to August 15, 2022, to allow the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) ample time to promulgate, and the industry to comply with, robust regulations. The ballot initiative passed in 2016 required regulations to be promulgated 2 years in advance of the effective date of the act in order to provide adequate time for affected industries to comply. This legislation gives producers not only more time to comply with the new standards but also an additional opportunity to participate in the updated regulatory process.
  • Updating authority for promulgating rules and regulations to include both the Attorney General's Office (AGO) and MDAR. As passed in 2016, the law assigns to the Attorney General exclusive authority to promulgate rules and regulations as well as to enforce the law. This legislation would update the regulatory authority so that it's shared between the AGO and MDAR. Enforcement authority would remain exclusively with the AGO. Many states with similar laws include their state department of agriculture in the regulatory process.

An Act to upgrade hen welfare and establish uniform cage-free standards is endorsed by New England Brown Egg Council, The Country Hen (a major egg producer in the Commonwealth), United Egg Producers, and the Massachusetts Food Association, which notes that the language in this legislation offers a "readily available solution" to ensure retail-endorsed cage-free standards. The bill also has the support of numerous animal protection organizations, including the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Farm Sanctuary, the Humane Society of the United States, Animal Rescue League of Boston, Animal Equality, Animal Outlook, The Humane League, Harvard Law School Animal Law & Policy Program, Mercy for Animals, Compassion in World Farming, and World Animal Protection—all groups that have been working to increase welfare for farm animals for decades.

Text of An Act to upgrade hen welfare and establish uniform cage-free standards can be found at

Bill To Stabilize Supply of Egg and Pork Products Signed into Law
Bill To Stabilize Supply of Egg and Pork Products Signed into Law

Thursday, January 14, 2021

CommonWealth Magazine: Will Gov Baker sign the climate bill?

"For Baker, crunch time on climate change"

"LAST WEEK, a bipartisan climate bill passed with overwhelming majorities in the Massachusetts House and Senate. Gov. Charlie Baker now has to choose – by Thursday at midnight – between cementing his and the Commonwealth’s position as climate leaders, or withholding the tools needed for Massachusetts to comply with its own climate law.

A broad coalition of business, health, environmental, and environmental justice groups supports the bill. It includes key efforts that the Baker administration and the Legislature alike have deemed essential: offshore wind, better appliance efficiency standards, natural gas safety measures, and much more. Critically, the bill updates the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act by including a mandate to reduce state emissions to net zero by 2050, and centers environmental justice in policy-making. This bill sets the course for decarbonizing our economy and society over the next 30 years."

Continue reading the article
Direct link to Climate legislation doc:

Statement from Senate President Karen E. Spilka and House Speaker Ronald Mariano

“Climate change is the greatest existential threat facing our state, our nation, and our planet, and so Governor Baker should sign the climate change bill that is now on his desk. Should he not take this important step, the Senate and House are united in our intention to refile and pass the conference committee bill in its entirety and get it onto the Governor’s desk in the coming days.”

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Work begins on the State FY 2022 budget

With the FY 2021 state budget finally approved, work begins on FY 2022

"Next Tuesday, Dec. 15, the House and Senate Ways and Means committees and the governor’s budget office will convene the annual “consensus” revenue hearing, where the Department of Revenue and other fiscal experts and economists will discuss the prospects for the economy and state revenues over the second half of fiscal 2021 and for fiscal 2022.

The virtual hearing will start at 11:30 a.m., with streaming for the public and press available through the Hearing & Events section of Legislature’s website. The event will be closed to the public, and the participants in State House Hearing Room A-2 will be practicing social distancing."

How to listen in to the hearing

Work begins on the State FY 2022 budget
Work begins on the State FY 2022 budget

Friday, December 4, 2020

Statement from Sen. Pres. Karen Spilka on Budget Conference Committee Report

The following is a statement from Senate President Karen E. Spilka on the Fiscal Year 2021 Budget Conference Committee Report:

"I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to the Ways & Means Chairs, Senator Rodrigues and Representative Michlewitz, as well as the members of the Ways & Means committee, especially Senate Vice Chair Friedman and Assistant Vice Chair Lewis, for the hard work they put into crafting the Fiscal Year 2021 budget under very difficult circumstances. 
This budget makes important investments in key areas to steady the Commonwealth and assist our most vulnerable residents as we continue to deal with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. I am also thrilled that Massachusetts will be taking a vital step to protect reproductive rights with the inclusion of the Senate ROE provision, which has been preserved in the final budget."

The Conference Committee Report can be found

Budget Conference Committee Report
Budget Conference Committee Report


Thursday, November 26, 2020

CommonWealth Magazine: "The Legislature’s ‘black box’ committees"

From CommonWealth Magazine we share an article of interest for Franklin:

"After months and even years of public debate, the fate of six key pieces of legislation is now in the hands of just 29 lawmakers.
The lawmakers are charged with resolving differences between House and Senate bills dealing with the state budget, police reform, climate change, economic development, health care, and transportation bond conference committees on which these lawmakers serve are “black boxes” whose inner workings are unknown.
Rep. Denise Provost of Somerville, who retires in January after 14 years in the Legislature, said on the Codcast this week that many of her constituents have been asking her about progress on bills in the House-Senate conference committees. She said she has to explain that she doesn’t know.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Senate Passes FY 2021 Budget, Conference Committee to start with House to reconcile differences

The Massachusetts State Senate on Wednesday unanimously passed a $46 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21), after adding $36.1 million in targeted investments over the course of two days of deliberations. Passed with bipartisan support, the budget aims to move the Commonwealth towards an equitable recovery by making critical investments in sectors impacted by COVID-19 including early education and childcare, food security, housing supports, and public health.

“With a second surge of COVID-19 upon us, we must do everything we can to shore up critical resources for those most in need so that we can begin to build towards an equitable recovery,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “This unprecedented budget is a testament to the challenges we face as a Commonwealth, but I am confident Massachusetts will emerge stronger and more resilient than before. I am thankful for the hard work of Chair Rodrigues, his team, Vice Chair Friedman, Assistant Vice Chair Lewis and the entire Senate Committee on Ways and Means for the budget they produced and finalized under these very difficult circumstances.”

“Under difficult circumstances because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I am proud of the Senate's ability during these last two days to meet the moment, engage in respectful debate, take action to protect our most vulnerable and set the Commonwealth on a path toward an equitable recovery,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D- Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Under the leadership of Senate President Spilka, the Senate has taken important steps this week to confront the unprecedented challenges brought on by this public health crisis and pass a fiscally responsible budget plan that further protects access to child care, health care, housing, public transportation and economic opportunity. Thank you to my colleagues in the Senate for their tireless work and passionate advocacy over the course of our debate.”
As COVID-19 continues to spread across our Commonwealth, the Senate budget preserves access to essential services for our most vulnerable residents. The budget funds MassHealth at a total of $18.2 billion to maintain critical access to affordable health care coverage for over 1.9 million people, ensuring that comprehensive care for our most vulnerable children, seniors and low-income residents is protected in the middle of a public health crisis. The Senate’s budget also includes targeted investments to maintain and expand access to mental health care, while strengthening public health infrastructure at the local, state and regional level to combat the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am proud to have voted in favor of this budget—the $46 billion in funding will help our residents, especially those who are most vulnerable, as the Commonwealth continues to face new and unprecedented challenges that have emerged as a result of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Senator Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington), Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “The Senate's investments in behavioral health services, housing protections, reproductive health access, education, and food insecurity in particular are crucial steps toward ensuring a more equitable economic recovery and a more equitable Commonwealth for all. I thank Senate President Spilka, Chairman Rodrigues, and fellow committee members for their diligent but expeditious efforts in passing this budget.”

The Senate’s budget protects Massachusetts students and educational institutions. Continuing the Senate’s long- standing support of targeted investments in education, this budget holds harmless Chapter 70 funding in a manner consistent with the agreement reached between the Senate, House and Administration in July by providing $5.283 billion, an increase of $107.6 million over FY20.

This additional level of investment will allow all school districts to maintain foundation spending levels while accounting for enrollment and inflation changes. The budget also includes $345 million for the Special Education (SPED) Circuit Breaker, reimbursing school districts for the cost of educating students with disabilities at the statutorily required 75% reimbursement rate. In addition to ensuring stability for the state’s K-12 population, the Senate’s budget takes steps to invest in childcare providers and higher education institutions—both of which are critically important to the state’s economy and recovery in midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As our communities continue to struggle with both a public health and economic crisis, this budget represents an essential step forward to help our Commonwealth recover from the pandemic and rebuild a strong and equitable economy,” said Senator Jason Lewis, Assistant Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means and Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education. “I’m especially pleased that despite a significant decline in revenue, this budget invests substantially in early education and childcare -- recognizing how critical this sector is for children, working families, and the state’s economic recovery -- and also seeks to protect important public transit services that are currently at risk.”

The Senate’s budget recommends a total of $46 billion in spending, a 5.5% increase over the Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) General Appropriations Act. This spending recommendation is based on a revised tax revenue estimate of $27.592 billion, which provides for $3.558 billion less in available revenue than the original consensus revenue estimate originally agreed upon in January 2020. To close this anticipated revenue shortfall, the FY21 budget includes $1.5 billion from the Stabilization Fund, ensuring a majority of the Stabilization Fund balance remains for future years; $1.38 billion in available federal supports; and more than $400 million in new revenue initiatives. Among those initiatives, the budget includes provisions such as accelerated sales tax collection and a new fee structure for Transportation Network Companies. The budget also avoids drastic budget cuts while leaving the Commonwealth in a sound fiscal position moving forward.

Additional education investments include:

•    $5.283 billion for Chapter 70 education funding
•    $345 million for the Special Education Circuit Breaker
•    $115 million to reimburse public school districts for costs incurred when students leave to attend charter schools
•    $82.2 million to reimburse school districts for regional school transportation costs
•    $560.4 million for the University of Massachusetts, $308 million for the fifteen community colleges, and
$285.5 million for the nine state universities; and $2 million for grants offered through the Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative to support high school students with intellectual disabilities ages 18–22 with access to higher education opportunities
•    $40 million for a new reserve to cover parent fees for families receiving subsidized childcare for the remainder of FY 21
•    $25 million for a new Early Education and Care Workforce and COVID-19 Supports Reserve to provide classroom stabilization grants, incentive pay for providers, and support for increased operational costs due to COVID-19
•    $15 million for grants to the Head Start program to maintain access to early education services for low- income families
•    $5 million for the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative to expand access to preschool in underserved areas
•    $6.4M for Youth-At-Risk Matching grants, including support for YWCAs, YMCAs and Boys & Girls Clubs, after adding $5M on the floor
•    $3.0 million for Rural School Aid, after adding $1.5M on the floor
•    $1.5 million for the Civics Education Trust Fund Additional health investments include:
•    $500.3 million for Adult Support Services, including assisted outpatient programming and comprehensive care coordination among health care providers
•    $163.6 million for a range of substance abuse treatment and intervention services
•    $94.5 million for children’s mental health services
•    $45.2 million for domestic violence prevention services
•    $35.4 million for early intervention services, to ensure supports are accessible and available to infants and young toddlers with developmental delays and disabilities
•    $20 million for funding to support expanded access to mental health services, including $10M for the Behavioral Health, Outreach, Access and Support Trust Fund and $10M for a new inpatient mental health acute care beds grant program to expand access to critical mental health services
•    $17.5 million for Family Resource Centers to meet increased demand for services
•    $10 million for grants to support local boards of health to combat COVID-19
•    $2.5 million for a new matching funds grant program to assist communities making public health-oriented adjustments to their public safety systems, including targeted reforms such as jail diversion programs, de- escalation training and professionals, and behavioral health staffing and supports
•    $1.7 million for the State Action for Public Health Excellence (SAPHE) program to support a more effective local and regional public health delivery system
•    $1 million for a COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Plan program, focused on equitable vaccine distribution

In addition to these health care investments, the Senate’s budget takes meaningful steps to expand access to care. It includes provisions that prohibit insurers from denying coverage for mental health services and primary care services solely because they were delivered on the same day in the same facility. This important measure will remove a significant financial barrier to the integration of primary care and mental health. The budget, through the amendment process, also includes provisions that further expand reproductive health care options.
The Senate is committed to building an equitable recovery while dismantling the systemic barriers that exist in our society. To that end, the Senate’s budget creates and invests in programs to educate, train and prepare Massachusetts workers.

Opportunity investments include:

•    $46.4 million for a new Economic Planning and Response Program, including grants and loans to small businesses, small business technical assistance and capital improvement supports
•    $40.6 million for adult basic education services to improve access to skills necessary to join the workforce
•    $20 million for summer jobs and work-readiness training for at-risk youth
•    $15 million for a Community Empowerment and Reinvestment grant program to provide economic supports to communities disproportionately impacted by the criminal justice system
•    $10 million for the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund to connect unemployed and under-employed workers with higher paying jobs
•    $6 million for Regional Economic Development Organizations to support economic growth in all regions of the state
•    $5 million for Community Foundations to provide emergency economic relief to historically underserved populations across the Commonwealth
•    $3 million for the Secure Jobs Connect program, providing job placement resources and assistance for homeless individuals
•    $2 million for the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership

Access to affordable housing, which has taken on new urgency for many during the COVID-19 pandemic, is a key Senate priority for recovery. The Senate’s budget recognizes the crucial importance of housing to the Commonwealth’s recovery efforts and invests over $540 million in housing stability programs to support many families, tenants and property owners in this time of crisis.

Housing investments include:

•    $180.7 million for Emergency Assistance Family Shelters
•    $135 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP)
•    $50 million for Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT), as well as emergency changes to the RAFT program to increase the maximum amount of rental assistance that a household can receive from $4,000 to $10,000 and allow eligible households facing a housing crisis to access both RAFT and HomeBASE.
•    $53.4 million for assistance for homeless individuals
•    $27.2 million for the HomeBASE diversion and rapid re-housing programs
•    $12.5 million for the Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP), which provides rental assistance to people with disabilities, and $2.5 million for grants to improve or create accessible affordable housing units
•    $10.5 million for housing vouchers for Department of Mental Health (DMH) clients to transition into housing and community-based services
•    $4.75 million for the Housing Consumer Education Centers (HCECs)
•    $3.9 million for the Home and Healthy for Good re-housing and supportive services program, including
$250,000 for homeless LGBTQ+ youth
•    $2.5 million for the Office of Public Collaboration to support housing dispute mediation efforts across the Commonwealth
•    $1.3 million for the Tenancy Preservation Program
In addition to these critical investments, this budget includes additional protection measures to ensure the state’s residents most at risk of eviction in the middle of a pandemic are kept safe and secure in their homes. Through the amendment process, the budget also includes a provision that would simplify the application process for RAFT and protect the credit rating of individuals who face eviction due to COVID-19 by sealing eviction records. This proposal provides additional protections and resources to tenants suffering a COVID-19-related financial hardship, as well as stability as they await short-term emergency rental assistance.

Food insecurity has become one of the most prevalent consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, impacting children, adults and seniors alike. The Senate’s budget therefore prioritizes access to food resources across the Commonwealth.

Food insecurity investments include:

•    $30 million for the Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program
•    $13 million in Healthy Incentives Programs to ensure vulnerable households have continued access to food options during the pandemic
•    $1.2 million for Project Bread to support the Child Nutrition Outreach Program (CNOP) and the FoodSource Hotline

The Senate’s budget supports cities and towns while allowing them flexibility to confront the unique challenges facing them by directing significant resources to local and regional aid. This includes increased funding for Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs) to $94 million to ensure that commuters, students, seniors and people with disabilities have access to reliable public transportation during this time of critical need. Along with traditional local aid, the Senate’s budget level funds payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) for state-owned land to $30 million. PILOT funding has been a beneficial source of local aid that provides cities and towns with additional resources to support core public services.

Local investments include:

•    $1.129 billion for unrestricted general government aid to support community investments in education, health care, public safety and roads and bridges
•    $32.6 million for the Board of Library Commissioners, $11.5 million for regional library local aid, $12 million for municipal libraries and $4.4 million for technology and automated resources
•    $18.2 million for the Massachusetts Cultural Council to support local arts, culture and creative economy initiatives
•    $17 million for local Councils on Aging to strengthen programs and services in senior centers in communities across the state.

A Conference Committee will now convene to reconcile the differences between the Senate budget and the version passed by the House of Representatives last week. 

The chart hadn't been update with the most recent action by the Senate moving the budget to Conference Committee
The chart hadn't been update with the most recent action by the Senate moving the budget to Conference Committee