GET BREAKING NEWS IN YOUR BROWSER. CLICK HERE TO TURN ON NOTIFICATIONS.

X

The House passes climate change bill, again

Legislation approved in response to Baker veto from 2020 Legislature

FILE – This Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019 file photo, shows the Massachusetts State House in Boston.  (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)
FILE – This Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019 file photo, shows the Massachusetts State House in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)
PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives’ votes on a roll call from the week of Jan. 25-29. There were no roll calls in the Senate last week.

CLIMATE CHANGE

The House, 144-14, and Senate, on a voice vote without a roll call, approved and sent to Gov. Charlie Baker a 57-page climate change bill. A key section makes the state’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal net-zero by 2050.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Mike Barrett, D-Cambridge, and Rep. Thomas Golden, D-Lowell, who led the successful charge for legislative approval of the legislation for several months in 2020. An identical measure had passed the House 145-9 and the Senate 38-2 in 2020 — margins that were large enough for the Legislature to easily override any gubernatorial veto. But it was too late for that. The 2020 Legislature ended Jan. 5 and under legislative rules, any vetoes made, or amendments proposed, by the governor after that time could not go back to the Legislature for an override or consideration. So the bill died on the governor’s desk.

“While I support the bill’s goals and am largely in agreement with many of its proposals, 35 hours was not enough time to review and suggest amendments to such complex legislation,” Baker said in his message. “Had this bill been presented to me with more time while the Legislature was still in session, I would have returned it with amendments to address the concerns. Unfortunately, because the Legislature has adjourned, I do not have that option, and therefore, reluctantly, I cannot sign the legislation as currently written.”

“The Massachusetts economy is just beginning to recover from the pandemic downturn caused by the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19,” Baker continued. “As we are all learning what the future will hold, I have concerns about the impacts portions of this bill will have for large sectors of the economy.”

Other provisions in the measure codify environmental justice provisions into Massachusetts law by defining environmental justice populations and providing new tools and protections for affected neighborhoods; provide $12 million in annual funding for the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center to create a pathway to the clean energy industry for environmental justice populations and minority-owned and women-owned businesses; require an additional 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind and increase the state’s total authorization to 5,600 megawatts; set appliance energy efficiency standards for a variety of common appliances including plumbing, faucets, computers and commercial appliances; and set benchmarks for the adoption of clean energy technologies including electric vehicles, charging stations, solar technology, energy storage and heat pumps

“If not for the initiative and resolve of Speaker (Ron) Mariano and Senate President (Karen) Spilka … the bill would not have been before the Legislature in the first month of the 2021-2022 session,” said Golden, House Chair of the Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. “I am beyond proud to have once again voted with my colleagues on this path-breaking legislation and I look forward to continued collaboration to make it law and propel the commonwealth toward its clean energy future.”

“I believe it’s our collective responsibility to be good stewards of the environment and empower entrepreneurs to develop innovative solutions for cleaner energy production,” said Rep. Nicholas Boldyga, R-Southwick. “Unfortunately, this climate bill is another example of the political class implementing mandates that hurt the poor and middle class. A housing market that is already out of reach for many will become even more inaccessible. The cost of everyday goods will increase. Being good stewards of our environment does not need to come at such high cost, hurting the most vulnerable.”

“By sending last session’s climate bill back to Gov. Baker’s desk, the House and Senate have taken an important step forward, but further action is needed to ensure a safe, healthy future,” said Ben Hellerstein, state director for Environment Massachusetts. “Let’s clear the decks of last session’s business by passing this bill into law, and then let’s turn our attention to the other important climate policies awaiting action. Here’s hoping 2021 is the year Massachusetts sets its sights on 100% renewable energy.”

“I am an advocate for protecting the environment, but we need a commonsense approach,” said newly-elected Rep. Kelly Pease, R-Westfield. “There needs to be a balance between becoming greener and protecting our businesses and economy. Reducing emissions by 40% instead of 50% by 2030 would have less of an impact on businesses and our economy and still allow us to reach our goals by 2050. There are a few issues with the current bill that need to be addressed so it will not be cost prohibitive for businesses and families while moving forward to a more environmentally friendly commonwealth.”

“Massachusetts Climate Action Network (MCAN) applauds the Legislature for taking leadership on quickly returning the … bill to the governor (who) now has the opportunity to pass the most progressive piece of climate legislation in Massachusetts in over a decade,” said Rebecca Winterich-Knox, the Better Buildings Campaign Director of MCAN. “We urge the governor to sign the … bill into law without amendment at once. We will not be able to address our climate, health and housing crises without it.”

“It’s a critical step in maintaining our position of national leadership and executing a green and equitable economic recovery,” said Environmental League of Massachusetts President Elizabeth Turnbull Henry. “We urge the administration and Legislature to quickly resolve differences and enact a law that reflects the scale and urgency of the climate crisis we face.”

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill. A “No” vote is against it.)

Rep. James Arciero, Yes; Rep. Kimberly Ferguson, Yes; Rep. Colleen Garry, No; Rep. Thomas Golden, Yes; Rep. Kenneth Gordon, Yes; Rep. Sheila Harrington, Yes; Rep. Natalie Higgins, Yes; Rep. Vanna Howard, Yes; Rep. Meghan Kilcoyne, Yes; Rep. Michael Kushmerek, Yes; Rep. Marc Lombardo, No; Rep. Rady Mom, Yes; Rep. Tram Nguyen, Yes; Rep. David Robertson, Yes; Rep. Dan Sena, Yes; Rep. Jonathan Zlotnik, Yes

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

Thousands of bills were defeated in the 2020 session that ended a few weeks ago. Here are some and how they died:

DONATE FOOD — Defeated by being shipped off to a study committee: Allows restaurants and other food establishments to donate their edible leftover cooked food and nonperishable food to local food pantries and assistance shelters. The donor would receive a tax credit or deduction. The measure also would relieve the restaurant of any liability if a person were harmed by eating the donated food.

FIREARM SCREENING BY DOCTORS — Defeated by being shipped off to a study committee: Requires doctors to screen all patients by asking them if they have a firearm in their home.

COLLEGE ATHLETES TO BE PAID — Defeated by being shipped off to a study committee: Allows college student athletes in Massachusetts to have representation and receive compensation for the use of their name, image and likeness. The proposal would also require each college to establish an injured athlete fund to help student athletes who suffer a career-ending or long-term injury.

ALLOW 16- AND 17-YEAR-OLD YOUTHS TO VOTE IN LOCAL ELECTIONS — Defeated by being shipped off to a study committee: Allows cities and towns to permit people aged 16 and 17 to vote in their local city and town elections. Current law requires that voters be 18.

REQUIRE DEFIBRILLATORS IN ASSISTED LIVING FACILITIES — Defeated by being shipped off to a study committee: Requires all assisted living facilities to have a defibrillator in the building.

NATURAL HAIRSTYLES — Approved by the House only: Prohibits any person or entity, including educational institutions, workplaces and public spaces, from implementing any policy that would explicitly target someone who wears their natural hairstyle. The measure defines natural hairstyle as “hair texture, hair type and protective hairstyles including braids, locks, twists and other formation.” The bill also would expand existing anti-bullying law in schools to include recognition for students who may be more vulnerable to bullying or harassment because on their natural hairstyle. Another provision requires the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination to investigate complaints filed against employers who have discriminated based on natural hairstyle.

BAN STORAGE OF GUNS IN STUDENTS’ CARS — Approved by the House only: Prohibits a student from transporting or storing a firearm in a vehicle on the grounds of a school or college. Under current law, the student can only be charged with a misdemeanor under the hunting section of state law for storing a loaded weapon in a motor vehicle. The proposal was first sparked by an incident in December 2016 in which a loaded rifle was found in the trunk of a student’s car in the parking lot at Masconomet Regional High School in Boxford. The student had a valid firearms identification card, which a person between ages 15 and 18 may apply for with their parents’ permission. Officials discovered the loophole that the student could only be charged with a misdemeanor and the seeds were planted for the filing of this proposal.

FINES FOR INTERFERING WITH FUNERALS — Approved by the House only: Amends the current law that imposes a $50 fine or one-year prison sentence on drivers who interfere with a funeral procession. The bill would eliminate the option of a prison sentence. Violations include driving between the vehicles forming a funeral procession; joining a funeral procession to secure the right-of-way; and passing a funeral procession on a multiple lane highway on the funeral procession’s right side unless the funeral procession is in the farthest left lane.

HANDICAPPED PARKING SPACES — Approved by the House only: Requires cities and towns to reserve 5% of on-street parking spaces for handicapped parking.

RAISE FINES FOR PARKING IN HANDICAPPED SPACE — Approved by the House only: Allows cities and towns to add $450 to the current $100-$300 fine for violations of handicapped parking. The funds would be used solely for funding and implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act on the city or town’s public property and in public buildings.

HARDSHIP LICENSE — Approved by the House only: Makes driving outside the terms of a hardship license the equivalent of driving with a license that has been suspended. The bill was filed in response to a 2007 court ruling in the case of a man who was convicted of drunken driving, received a hardship license and then was arrested for driving outside the hours the hardship license allowed. The court ruled that even though the man’s license restricted the hours during which he was allowed to operate a motor vehicle, his license was a “restored” license within the meaning of state law and therefore he could not be charged with driving with a suspended license.

IMPOUND CARS — Approved by the House only: Amends a current law that allows for the impoundment of a vehicle if the incapacitated driver is under the influence of alcohol. The bill would also allow the impoundment when the person is incapacitated because of some other substance abuse.

HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK’S SESSION? Beacon Hill Roll Call tracks the length of time that the House and Senate were in session each week. Many legislators say that legislative sessions are only one aspect of the Legislature’s job and that a lot of important work is done outside of the House and Senate chambers. They note that their jobs also involve committee work, research, constituent work and other matters that are important to their districts. Critics say that the Legislature does not meet regularly or long enough to debate and vote in public view on the thousands of pieces of legislation that have been filed. They note that the infrequency and brief length of sessions are misguided and lead to irresponsible late-night sessions and a mad rush to act on dozens of bills in the days immediately preceding the end of an annual session.

During the week of Jan. 25-29, the House met for a total of two hours and 43 minutes while the Senate met for a total of four hours and 45 minutes.

  • Monday: House 11:01 a.m. to 11:44 a.m., Senate 11:21 a.m. to 11:32 a.m.
  • Tuesday: No House session, no Senate session.
  • Wednesday: House 10:46 a.m. to 11:24 a.m., no Senate session
  • Thursday: House 2:13 p.m. to 3:35 p.m., Senate 11:13 a.m. to 3:47 p.m.
  • Friday: No House session, no Senate session

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com.