Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup - 8/3/12
Jack Clarke, Director of Public Policy & Government Relations
Karen Heymann, Legislative Director
Christina McDermott, Assistant to the Director of Public Policy & Government Relations
End of Session Wrap-Up
The legislative session ended just after midnight on Tuesday. As usual, the marble halls in front of the House and Senate Chambers were packed with lobbyists of all stripes. Mass Audubon was there pushing back on the repeal of the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act and advocating for legislation that would protect water quality and aquatic ecosystems through reducing fertilizer use, along with legislation that would make it easier to remove obsolete dams and restore river habitat. Here’s the run-down.
The Massachusetts Endangered Species Act stands! Thank you to all of the organizations and individuals who stepped up to protect endangered species! Not only did the bill not pass, House leadership turned course and supported a compromise bill that we support. The bill did not pass, but it did take a step forward and move out of the House Committee on Ways and Means. This is a signal that the Beacon Hill lawmakers anticipate taking up the issue again in the next legislative session, which begins in January. It also is a signal that the legislature has heard loud and clear from you. This is a real change in direction, and wouldn’t have happened without the tremendous response from constituents. Thank you!
The Valley Advocate ran a great piece on the back-story. Read it here.
Here’s the compromise language. Over the rest of the summer and next fall, we’ll be talking to legislators and stake-holders and gearing up for the 188th session of the Massachusetts Great and General Court. We’re not done yet. Please take a moment to let your legislators know that you’re glad the anti-endangered species bill didn’t move!
Find out who your legislator is and how to contact them here: www.malegislature.gov/People/FindMyLegislator
The Green Communities Act strengthened! From our friends at ELM: “a big victory was the passage - just prior to the end of the session - of legislation that strengthens the Green Communities Act passed in 2008. Given that six months ago the bill was under attack by some leading members of the business community, the end result is very gratifying. Notable elements in the new bill are key provisions for: increasing long-term contracting for renewable energy by utilities (which will facilitate financing for renewable energy and lower costs); increasing the net-metering cap (allowing commercial and residential users that generate excess energy from renewable sources to sell it back to the grid).”
Also of note, the final legislation contains a provision adding the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network to the Energy Efficiency Advisory Council. There are thousands of nonprofits in Massachusetts, and many are based out of older, inefficient buildings. At Mass Audubon, we have reduced our carbon footprint by 45% over the past few years, and hope that by having a nonprofit voice on the Council other nonprofits will be better able to reduce their carbon footprints too. And we were very pleased that we were able to defeat amendments which would have watered down the environmental criteria for hydropower eligibility for renewable energy credits.
The bottle bill stalls out AGAIN! Despite tremendous efforts from environmental advocates, and especially MassPIRG and Sierra Club, the bottle bill did not pass. The Updated Bottle Bill has been stuck in the Legislature for the past 14 years. Every year the Bottle Bill gets held up, another 1 billion bottles — enough to fill Fenway Park to the Monster seats — get buried and burned instead of recycled. Despite broad public and legislative support, this bill keeps getting buried by legislative leadership. We’ll be back next year! For more on what happened, visit the Sierra Club’s bottle bill site.
The Community Preservation Act is funded and sustained! As we reported earlier this month, after six years of advocacy on this Mass Audubon legislative priority, the legislature passed and the Governor signed amendments to the Community Preservation Act which update and further fund this very successful community based land protection, affordable housing, historic rehabilitation, and recreational program. For more, visit our Coalition website.
No Dam Bill, for now… Despite a strong push lead by The Nature Conservancy and the American Council of Engineering Companies the dam bill didn’t make it over the finish line. The sticking point was whether or not funds could be used to repair seawalls. There’s a fair chance that this bill could still pass during the legislature’s informal session this summer or fall, so stay tuned. It would provide funds for removal and repair of hazardous dams and aquatic habitat restoration. Also, the fertilizer reduction bill, which made it through the Senate but did come to vote in the House, may also move during informal sessions.
Overall, it was a good year. The environmental budget began to rebound, albeit slowly. The endangered species act stands and our long-term priority, the Community Preservation Act bill, passed. Mass Audubon priorities of Zoning Reform and Old Growth Forest Reserve legislation did not move this session, but, with your help, we’ll be back at it next year.
Thank you for your advocacy and have a great rest of summer!