I hope this Spring legislative update finds you all well and that you were able to enjoy the Easter holiday with your loved ones. I wanted to provide you all with a recap of my actions so far this legislative session.
I am very honored to have been chosen by Speaker Mariano and confirmed by my colleagues in the House to serve as Vice-Chair of the Joint Committee on Community Development and Small Businesses. Our main priorities must be beating back COVID and advocating for legislation that bolsters economic recovery. This session I will also be serving on Joint Committee on Financial Services, Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, & Energy as well as the House Committee on Global Warming.
To that end I will work through these committees and others to shape legislation that provides support for our district and the entire Commonwealth.
Once the new legislative session kicked off my office was back to work drafting and filing bills I will be advocating for during the 192nd General Court. Here some of my legislative priorities I have filed so far this session:
HD3110 – An Act to increase Veterans earned tax savings (VETS)
- Jointly Presented with Rep. Jon Santiago, this bill would increase the existing local property tax exemptions by 50% for eligible veterans, spouses, and parents.
HD3134 – An Act to further reduce the property tax liability in exchange for volunteer services by persons over age 60
- This bill would further reduce the property tax liability in exchange for volunteer services by an additional $500 per tax year from $1500 to $2000.
HD3558 – An Act to establish a digital advertising revenue commission
- Jointly Presented with Rep. Natalie Blais, this bill would create a Special Legislative Commission to conduct a comprehensive study relative to generating revenue from digital advertising that is displayed inside of Massachusetts by companies that generate over $100 million a year in global revenue. The study would also consider the use of such funds to include but not be limited to the creation of a program to improve broadband internet to communities that do not have reliable broadband internet access, the creation of an annual matching grant program to upgrade internet access in K-12 school districts, the creation of an annual matching grant program to upgrade computer technology and remote learning capabilities in K-12 school districts, the creation of a program to improve internet access in public parks, to evaluate the adequacy of the Commonwealth’s and its municipalities cyber security, the creation of a municipal cybersecurity grant program.
HD2722 – An Act to update the prescription monitoring program
- This bill establishes a fine, set by the appropriate department, for those parties who do not utilize this program as required by law.
HD3112 – An Act relative to diabetes prevention
- This bill would create a diabetes action plan within the Department of Public Health (DPH) that will create goals and benchmarks to reduce the prevalence and impact of diabetes in the Commonwealth.
HD3428 – An Act to continue providing for virtual notarization to address challenges related to COVID-19
- This bill would continue to allow virtual notarization through July 31, 2022.
HD3092 – An Act expanding the use of video conferencing
- This bill would allow a mortgagor to received counseling in person or via video conference before agreeing to a reverse mortgage.
HD3121 – An Act relative to line-of-duty death and survivor benefits
- This legislation would increase the line-of-duty death benefit from $300,000 to $350,000. Also, it would elevate the rank of the public safety official one step for purposes of his/her pension as survivor benefits. This would ensure that the Commonwealth is taking care of families impacted by the sacrifice a loved one made while in the line-of-duty.
HD3088 – An Act relative to election ballots
- The intent of this bill is to have one official ballot for all voters – polling place voting, early voting, and absentee voting. The ballot color distinction for primary ballots would remain unchanged. Some of this proposal was incorporated into the temporary election law changes we made last session.
HD491 – An Act exempting veterans from the standard registration fee for veteran’s license plates
- Jointly presented with Rep. Mike Day, this legislation removes the standard registration fee of $60 from Veterans license plates for the Veterans of our Commonwealth while maintaining the modest $40 special plate fee that will continue to help fund the Chelsea and Holyoke Soldiers’ homes.
HD2663 – An Act relative to municipal light plant participation in Green Communities
- Jointly presented with Minority Leader Brad Jones, this bipartisan bill will require that all municipalities served by a municipal lighting plant where customers receive services from an investor-owned utility be eligible for the Green Communities Program.
My Thoughts on the Vaccine Rollout in MA
I have received many calls, emails, texts, and messages from people who are frustrated, distressed, anxious – and yes angry – about the vaccine rollout in Massachusetts. I want you all to know I share many of those feelings and continue to advocate through the legislative process for steps to be taken to improve the rollout moving forward.
Especially disappointing was the website failures and the delay in the creation of the 2-1-1 call center. Many residents experienced the difficult to use first iteration of the state vaccine signup website only to then find out that the ‘new and improved’ site was crashed the day the 65+ population could start to sign up.
In the past 30 days the website has been updated to become much for user friendly. I want to thank the Joint Committee on COVID-19 and Emergency Preparedness and Management who continues to press the Governor and his administration on the vaccine rollout.
In an effort to get our students back in the classroom I called publicly for the Governor to prioritize school workers in the vaccination program, and I pleased that across the state nearly eighty percent of teachers are now vaccinated. Vaccinating school staff gives our school committees greater flexibility with local decision making and is an integral part of moving back to in-person-learning. We continue to distribute a limited number of vaccines to local boards of health so they can vaccinate local seniors who have difficulty with transportation, lack of physical mobility, or are ill. Municipalities did a wonderful job running the local clinics and many of the seniors I spoke with gave rave review about the staff and ease of use of these clinics.
To those who have contacted my office I want you to know I hear you loud and clear and have made every effort to communicate your frustration to the Baker Administration.
Supporting the Vote-by-Mail Extension
As we continue to deal with the effects of COVID on our daily lives we must safeguard our democratic elections and provide safe access to the voting process for all those who wish to participate. I was pleased to be a lead co-sponsor on the bipartisan vote by mail extension bill that was recently signed into law that will allow municipalities to utilize many of the same voting reforms that worked so well last summer and fall including no excuse absentee voting and early in-person voting. We must continue to make sure we protect both voters and poll workers from the risk of contracting this deadly virus.
The bill allows municipalities to provide residents with the option to vote early in-person in these elections. Additionally, the legislation requires local election officials to make reasonable efforts to grant accommodations for voters with disabilities who might have difficulty accessing a paper mail-in ballot and request an accommodation.
Furthermore, cities and towns can postpone municipal elections and caucuses scheduled before June 30, 2021 until August 1, 2021.
Standing by our Small Businesses and Workers
The Governor recently signed COVID-19 relief package to assist Massachusetts’ small businesses and employees as they continue to deal with the economic fallout from the coronavirus. This has been a difficult year for the Commonwealth’s workers and businesses, with this critical legislation aiming to help both as our economy begins to recover. By creating an emergency sick leave bank, we are able to better protect our worker’s health and livelihoods, so they are able to continue providing for their families during this difficult time. For our employers, the two-year unemployment insurance rate freeze and tax relief on PPP loans will be essential to help businesses bounce back stronger in the coming years.
Some other components of the bill include:
- A two-year unemployment insurance (UI) rate freeze for employers to mitigate the impact of a scheduled April rate increase
- For employees, the legislation provides access to up to 40 hours of COVID-related emergency paid sick leave, along with tax relief for lower-income workers who collected unemployment in 2020 and 2021.
- Allows those individuals to deduct the first $10,200 in unemployment compensation received in both calendar years.
2050 Climate Roadmap Signed into Law
I was very proud to again support a comprehensive energy bill that builds on the Commonwealth’s commitment to a clean energy future by adopting an aggressive 2050 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target, business solar incentives, and creates 2,400 more megawatts of clean offshore wind power. With it now signed into law, this legislation will support the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center by encouraging further work-force development programs. As we have recently seen with the life science industry in our state, our Commonwealth’s job market will benefit in the long-term from investing in future-growth industries including the clean energy sector.
Some other noteworthy aspects of the Next Generation Climate Roadmap legislation are:
- Codifying environmental justice provisions into Massachusetts law, defining environmental justice populations and providing new tools and protections for affected neighborhoods.
- Establishing a municipal opt-in specialized stretch energy code which includes a definition of “net-zero building” and net-zero building performance standards.
- Sets appliance energy efficiency standards for a variety of common appliances including plumbing, faucets, computers, and commercial appliances.
- Adopts several measures aimed at improving gas pipeline safety, including increased fines for safety violations, provisions related to training and certifying utility contractors.
- Increases the amount of renewable energy purchased in Massachusetts by 3 per cent each year from 2025–2029, resulting in 40 per cent renewable energy by 2030.
- Sets benchmarks for the adoption of clean energy technologies including electric vehicles, charging stations, solar technology, energy storage, heat pumps and anaerobic digestors.
- Provides solar incentives for businesses by exempting them from the net metering cap to allow them to install solar systems on their premises to help them offset their electricity use and save money.
- Creates a first-time greenhouse gas emissions standard for municipal lighting plants that requires them to purchase 50 percent non-emitting electricity by 2030, 75 percent by 2040 and “net zero” by 2050.
My office has hosted three virtual office hours sessions so far this year and will continue to do so on a monthly basis. These sessions are a great opportunity for us to speak directly on the issues concerning you most, and I stand ready to listen and help in any way I can. If you ever have any questions, please contact my Legislative Aide Anthony Langone at email@example.com or call 617-722-2090.