End of Session Wrap-up

The formal 2009-2010 Legislative Session ended at midnight on July 31st. While there were a couple of high points, generally it was a disappointing session with many of our legislative priorities not making it to the finish line.

Let's start with the good news:

Off Road Vehicle legislation passed and is now law. You can read the law here. Thanks to Jen Ryan at Mass Audubon, Jay McCaffrey at Sierra Club and others that led the way on this bill.

While overall the FY '11 environmental budget is a deep disappointment, we were able to maintain distinct line-item funding for the Toxics Use Reduction Institute and Office of Technical Assistance.

It is also worth noting that several bills made it further along in the legislative process than they had in previous years including: 

  • Zoning reform (S. 2482/Comprehensive Land Use Reform and Planning Act) was reported out favorably by the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government
  • An Act to Sustain Community Preservation (S. 90) that would expand and strengthen the current Community Preservation Act was reported out favorably by the House Committee on Ways and Means
  • Updated Bottle Bill (H. 3515/S. 2547) was reported out favorably by the Joint Committee on Telecommunications and Energy and the Senate Committee on Ethics and Rules but stalled in the Senate Ways and Means Committee. To read a poignant Boston Globe column on this, go here.

It is always good to have a bill advance through the system as a marker for the next session and we will be renewing our efforts and refining our strategies on these bills in 2011.

Also of note:

Legislation passed establishing a Massachusetts Food Policy Council (H. 4568) to support farmers and food grown in Massachusetts and promote increased state purchase and access to healthy locally grown food.

The Transportation Reform legislation that passed last year ((Chapter 25 of 2009) included some good language on expanding alternative modes of transportation including rail, bus, boat, bicycle and walking, and noted MassDOT's responsibility to help reach the greenhouse gas reduction targets in the Global Warming Solutions Act. To that end, the administration announced the GreenDOT program that has the following goals: reduce greenhouse gas emissions; promote the healthy transportation options of walking, bicycling, and public transit; and support smart growth development.

The Economic Development legislation (S. 2582) that passed in the last days of the session included a provision that would extend all permits issued between August 15, 2008 through August 15, 2010 for two years to deal with the difficulty of securing financing for some projects.  The original proposal was to extend all permits issued between August 2008 and January 2011 for three years so there was some compromise there. It also includes language that calls for agencies to do a specific analysis of the impact of any new regulations on small businesses.

Disappointments include:

  • Sustainable Water Resources Act (H. 834)--still in the Joint Committee on Environment and Natural Resources.
  • While the legislature included in their final budget a permanent waiver of a significant administrative charge taken out of funds received by the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program (which no longer receives a general fund appropriation), the Governor vetoed this language and the legislature did not override the veto. This means each year NHESP will need to seek a waiver of the charge.
  • E-waste legislation (H. 833) that called for a "producer take back" approach to deal with electronic waste stalled in the House Ways and Means Committee.
  • Wind siting legislation (H.4955) was in play until the last minutes of the session and received majority votes in support of the bill in each chamber. Unfortunately, some additional language added to the bill required that it be voted on by each chamber one more time and while this happened in the House, time ran out in the Senate.
  • Public Lands Preservation Act/aka No Net Loss of Article 97 Lands (S. 396/H. 3438) stalled in the House Committee on Ways and Means.
  • Safer Alternatives to Toxic Chemicals (H. 4865) stalled in the House Committee on Ways and Means.

With casino gambling taking up so much of the legislature's bandwith this year, it was difficult to break through, but we will take lessons learned from this session and use that information to strengthen our efforts when formal sessions begin again in January.

Thanks to all who made calls, sent letters, testified, strategized, and rallied their members during the past 18 months!

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