Six Bills, Three Weeks: Massachusetts Legislators Need to Hear from You Today


Updated on Friday, July 27.

As a runner, I know what it’s like to reach the end of a long race. That last mile is when a marathon truly does become a sprint, and it takes tremendous will and energy to push yourself over the finish line.

That’s a lot like the end of a legislative session. Here in Massachusetts, our legislative sessions last for two years. Much of that time is like the first 25 miles of a marathon – with our senators and representatives making steady progress shaping, debating, and discussing legislation that will affect our lives every day – from healthcare to taxes, education to the environment.

But the last weeks of these two-year sessions share a lot in common with that last marathon mile – they’re a sprint to pass meaningful legislation before July 31, when one session ends, and the cycle starts all over again.

As of today, we are in that final sprint. The next 19 days are critical if we are to pass key legislation that will bolster the health of our communities, our climate, and our economy. Right now, we are focused on six bills that need a push over the finish line. And we need you to be part of that push.

This is the most important time for you to speak up and make your voice heard. It only takes eight calls from constituents for a legislator to pay attention to an issue. If you make one call a day for the next six days, we can get there.

Below is what you need to know about each of these bills and who to call to move them forward. Note that the next two weeks are a dynamic time in the legislature and the status of these bills can change quickly. Be sure you’re signed up for CLF’s action alerts so we can keep you up to date on our progress!

Thank you for being part of the CLF community and for your diligence in getting this critical legislation through this last sprint of the session.

Environmental Bond Bill
H.4599/S.2591

What: This bill funds a variety of capital projects and grant programs to help Massachusetts communities prepare for climate impacts, as well as for conservation, recreation, and environmental protection projects, among others.

Why It Matters: Climate impacts are here now, yet the state is not prepared. We need to give our communities and residents the resources to take proactive steps to deal with rising seas, more intense storms (like the two bomb cyclones we experienced this past winter), and more frequent flooding.

What You Can Do: This bill has passed both chambers of the legislature and will now go to the Governor’s desk for his signature. Call the governor at (617) 725-4005 and tell him to sign the bill!

House Energy Bills
H.1747: An Act to Increase Renewable Energy and Reduce High-Cost Peak Hours; H.2600: An Act to Improve Grid Resiliency Through Energy Storage; H.2712: An Act Relative to Net Metering; H.3742: An Act Relative to Electric Vehicles Expansion

What: We’re considering these as one bill that represents the House’s take on energy, which is less ambitious than the Senate’s energy bill (below). The House bills would allow only a minor increase in the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (which requires utilities to purchase a set percentage of renewable energy every year); some minor measures in favor of energy storage; a small increase in the cap on commercial net metering only (which is when solar panel owners receive credits for selling excess energy they produce back to the grid); and some minor measures that would promote the adoption of electric vehicles.

Why They Matter (and Need to be Stronger): Massachusetts can’t wait when it comes to transitioning to a clean energy economy. We need to do the hard work now to boost renewable energy sources and end our reliance on dirty fuels like gas and oil. Half measures won’t do. The Senate is ready to take bold action. We need the House to step up, too.

What You Can Do: Please call your representative and ask them for a strong energy bill (find contact information here). You can use these talking points for your call:

For Massachusetts to protect its families and businesses from the harmful effects of climate change, we need the legislature to:

  • Increase the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard. This will increase the amount of clean energy our utilities are required to purchase every year, which in turn will bring more local jobs to Massachusetts.
  • Increase or remove the net metering cap. Removing this barrier to solar power will allow this industry to grow – bringing with it good local jobs and boosting our state’s economy.
  • Boost electric vehicles and battery storage. Increasing the number of electric cars, trucks, and busses on the road – as well as increasing the amount of energy we can store – is crucial for us to achieve our climate goals.

Senate Energy Bill
S.2564: An Act to Promote a Clean Energy Future 

What: The Senate energy bill increases the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard; requires the State to implement an economy-wide mechanism that prices carbon by 2023; eliminates caps on net metering; and requires the creation of a roadmap for meeting the state’s goal of cutting carbon by 2050; among dozens of other provisions.

Why It Matters: We need to end our addiction to polluting fossil fuels now – and that means transitioning Massachusetts to an economy built on clean, renewable energy. This bill will ensure the Commonwealth is prepared to meet its goals to cut climate-damaging pollution while boosting innovation and creating good, local jobs in burgeoning new industries.

What You Can Do: The Senate has passed this bill, and this bill and the House’s energy bills are being negotiated in a closed-door conference committee of three Senators and three Representatives. Please call your senator and representative and ask them to urge their colleagues on the energy conference committee (Senators Pacheco, Barrett, and O’Connor, and Representatives Haddad, Golden, and Jones) to agree on a bill that is strong and ambitious on clean energy (find contact information here). You can use these talking points for your call:

In order for Massachusetts to protect its families and businesses from the harmful effects of climate change, we need the legislature to:

  • Support renewable energy by increasing the Renewable Portfolio Standard to achieve 50% renewables by 2030. By increasing the amount of clean energy utilities are required to purchase every year, we’ll bring more local jobs and investment dollars to our state.
  • Remove barriers to solar power. Solar is one of the biggest drivers of new jobs for the entire state. Given that, the legislature should support solar energy by eliminating the cap of net metering. This would boost our state economy and bring good local jobs with it.
  • Adopt a clean energy roadmap. By this, I mean pass the Global Warming Solutions Implementation Act. This would give Massachusetts milestones for meeting the goals outlined in our Global Warming Solutions Act. It would establish strong limits on climate-damaging emissions for both 2030 and 2040 and add protections for vulnerable communities and our workforce. This should be the center of any clean energy bill you pass.

Great Neighborhoods Bill
H. 4397: An Act Building for the Future of the Commonwealth

What: The Great Neighborhoods Bill is the latest legislative effort to address the state’s outdated zoning and permitting policies. This broad and substantive reform bill aims at increasing the building of multi-family housing; allowing developers to “cluster” homes in subdivisions to conserve land, curb urban sprawl, and protect natural resources; making it easier for cities and towns to pass zoning reforms that promote best land use practices; clarifying that discriminatory actions in zoning and permitting are illegal; and more.

Why It Matters: It’s no secret that housing in Massachusetts has become more and more expensive and that affordable rental units are too few and far between. This bill would make it easier for young families and seniors to stay in their communities by providing housing choices; promoting healthy, active communities with good access to open space; and providing protections for critical natural resources.

What You Can Do: The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means. Please call Committee Chair Jeffrey Sánchez and ask him to bring the bill to the House floor for a vote. You can use these talking points for your call:

We need the House to vote on H.4397 to:

  • Streamline new housing approval and construction processes to ensure the supply of new housing can keep up with the market.
  • Allow communities to contribute to project design to make our neighborhoods better and more inclusive.
  • Provide flexibility for builders and homeowners to create different types of housing depending on community needs.
  • Help prevent discriminatory actions in zoning and permitting.
  • Equip local cities and towns with the tools they need to plan projects and development effectively.

Environmental Justice
H.2913/S.426 An Act Relative to Environmental Justice and Toxics Reduction in the Commonwealth

What: This bill transforms existing Environmental Justice policies into law, creating accountability and additional protections for vulnerable communities.

Why It Matters: Communities of color, low-income communities, and communities with limited English proficiency bear higher environmental risks and lack access to the environmental benefits (like nearby open space and cleaner air) that wealthier, whiter communities take for granted. We can and must do more to protect environmental justice communities.

What You Can Do: Call your senator and representative (find contact information here) and tell them that you support environmental justice legislation and hope to see protections this session. You can use these talking points for your call:

As a constituent, I am asking that you please support environment justice provisions that will:

  • Ensure that the communities most vulnerable to environmental harm – people of color, low-income, and non-English speakers – are explicitly designated by law as “environmental justice communities” to give them the tools they need to fight pollution.
  • Cap the number of toxic sites that can be built in these environmental justice communities.

Plastic Bags
H.4234/S.424: An Act Reducing Plastic Bag Pollution
 

What: This bill would prohibit all stores from distributing single-use plastic grocery bags starting August 1, 2019. It would also make void the almost 80 local ordinances passed to date in Massachusetts but allow cities and towns to pass additional requirements after August 1, 2019.

Why It Matters: Single-use plastic bags hurt wildlife, pollute our environment, and contaminate landfills. This is an opportunity for Massachusetts to lead and show its commitment to people and the planet by doing away with these disposable bags for good.

What You Can Do: Unfortunately, this bill did not pass this legislative session. However, you can still call your senator and representative (find contact information here) and tell them to prioritize action to reduce plastic bag pollution in the next legislative session.

Converting State Forest to Toxic Landfill
H.4677: An Act authorizing the town of Westminster to acquire state forest land

What: H. 4677 would remove 85 acres of Article 97 protected forestland from the Leominster State Forest and add it to the existing Westminster/Fitchburg landfill, which would impact two environmental justice communities.

Why It Matters: The bill has been quietly ushered through the legislative process, yet has statewide, precedent-setting impacts that could diminish protections for public lands. If passed, it would be the largest footprint expansion of a landfill currently proposed in New England, a devastating prospect for nearby communities. According to monitoring by the landfill operators, releases of chemicals that are probable carcinogens have been detected in the groundwater around the landfill already. This, coupled with toxic emissions into the air, will have a negative impact on the health and environment of Westminster, Fitchburg, and Leominster, cities with most of their communities designated as environmental justice block groups. 

What You Can Do: Call your State representative (find contact information here). You can use these talking points for your call:

  • As a constituent, I’m calling to ask you to halt House Bill 4677, An Act Authorizing the Town of Westminster to Acquire State Forest Land.
  • This bill would remove 85 acres of Article 97 protected forestland from the Leominster State Forest and add it to the existing Westminster/Fitchburg landfill.
  • The bill will harm two environmental justice communities and allow for the largest footprint expansion of a landfill currently proposed in New England.
  • Don’t allow this bill to slip through the cracks and move forward without further study and without sufficient information on the impacts on the environment and public health.

Places

Massachusetts

About the CLF Blog

The views and opinions expressed on this blog do not necessarily represent the opinions or positions of Conservation Law Foundation, our boards, or our supporters.