House of Representatives Passes Landmark Climate Change Bill

Yesterday, I voted with my colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives to pass landmark climate legislation that overhauls the state’s climate laws, drives down greenhouse gas emissions, creates clean energy jobs, and protects environmental justice communities.

The bill, An Act Creating a Next-Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy (S.2995), sets a 2050 net-zero greenhouse gas emissions limit, as well as statewide limits every five years; increases the requirements for offshore wind energy procurement bringing the statewide total to 5,600 megawatts; requires emission reduction goals for MassSave, the state’s energy efficiency program; and, for the first time, establishes the criteria in statute that defines environmental justice populations. The legislation also increases support for clean energy workforce development programs including those targeting low-income communities and improves gas pipeline safety.

The legislation includes, among other items, the following provisions.

  • Sets a statewide net zero limit on greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and mandates emissions limits every five years, as well as limits for specific sectors of the economy, including transportation and buildings.
  • Codifies environmental justice provisions into Massachusetts law, defining environmental justice populations and providing new tools and protections for affected neighborhoods.
  • Requires an additional 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind, building on previous legislative action and increases the total to 5,600 megawatts in the Commonwealth.
  • Directs the Department of Public Utilities (DPU), regulator of the state’s electric and natural gas utilities, to balance priorities going forward: system safety, system security, reliability, affordability, equity, and, significantly, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. 
  • 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 and regulations related to training and certifying utility contractors. 
  • Increases the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) by 3 percent each year from 2025 – 2029, resulting in 40 percent renewable energy by 2030.
  • Establishes an opt-in municipal net zero energy stretch code, including a definition of “net zero building.”
  • Prioritizes equitable access to the state’s solar programs by low-income communities 
  • Establishes $12 million in annual funding for the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center in order to create a pathway to the clean energy industry for environmental justice populations and minority-owned and women-owned businesses.
  • 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 offset their electricity use and save money.
  • Requires utilities to include an explicit value for greenhouse gas reductions when they calculate the cost-effectiveness of an offering of MassSave.
  • Creates a first-time greenhouse gas emissions standard for municipal lighting plants that requires them to purchase 50 percent non-emitting electricity by 2030 and “net zero” by 2050.  
  • Sets benchmarks for the adoption of clean energy technologies including electric vehicles, charging stations, solar technology, energy storage, heat pumps and anaerobic digestors.

The bill is now before the governor.

Massachusetts Legislature Passes Balanced FY2021 Budget

Last week, I voted along with my colleagues in the Massachusetts Legislature to pass a Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) budget, which invests in programs and services across the Commonwealth.

Funded at $46.2 billion, the budget aims to address the sweeping effects of the global pandemic by making targeted investments in housing, food security, and substance use addiction services, as well as domestic violence, sexual assault treatment and prevention programs. The budget also invests in programs that provide COVID-19 related supports for students and increases funding for developmental services, early education and childcare, and public health.

Several items in the budget that I supported or filed as amendments have impacts locally here on Cape Ann, including:

  • $75,000 for the Gloucester Marine Genomics Institute to develop a strategic plan with UMass Amherst and Tufts University to study applications of genomics to mitigate the effects of climate change on land and marine food resources;
  • $25,000 for the First R Foundation and Pathways for Children to provide books to Cape Ann’s children through the Imagination Library;
  • $14,000 each for Gloucester, Rockport, and Essex for costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • $75,000 to increase workforce development training opportunities and technical education in secondary and post-secondary schools for careers in the marine trades; and
  • $125,000 for the Essex county court-appointed special advocates program.

The Legislature continues to further its commitment to cities and towns by investing $1.1 billion in Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA) and $5.283 billion in Chapter 70 education funding, including over $16 million for Cape Ann’s schools and municipalities. Continuing the Legislature’s support of targeted investments in education, this budget provides an increase of $107.6 million over Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20). The education budget allocations include:

  • $53 million in COVID-19 related student supports;
  • $345.2 million for Circuit Breaker Special Education reimbursement;
  • $117 million for Charter School Reimbursement; and
  • $82 million for Regional School Transportation reimbursement.

Due to the pandemic, access to safe and affordable housing for many families across the Commonwealth has taken on new urgency. The budget represents the Legislature’s ongoing commitment to housing and homelessness funding. This year, the budget makes targeted investments into rental and housing assistance to support families, tenants and property owners during this time of crisis:

  • $180 million for Emergency Assistance Family Shelters;
  • $135 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP);
  • $50 million for Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT), as well as emergency changes to the RAFT program to increase the maximum amount of rental assistance that a household can receive from $4,000 to $10,000 and allow eligible households facing a housing crisis to access both RAFT and HomeBASE;
  • $80 million for public housing subsidies;
  • $56 million for homeless individual shelters;
  • $13 million for homeless student transportation;
  • $12.5 million for the Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP), which provides rental assistance to people with disabilities;
  • $11 million for Department of Mental Health Rental Subsidy Program; and
  • $8 million for unaccompanied homeless youth.

In addition, the budget includes protections to ensure tenants facing eviction better understand their rights and have the opportunity to slow any court process down if they are seeking financial assistance with their rent payments. To help oversee the state’s tenancy preservation efforts, the budget requires additional data and reporting and creates a task force made up of legislators, the administration, and court officials.  

Keeping in mind the widespread economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, this budget makes specific investments in labor and economic development programs that provide opportunities for the Commonwealth’s workers and its businesses. The budget maintains its support for the Massachusetts Manufacturing Partnership with an investment of $2 million—funding which has helped many Massachusetts manufactures retrofit their businesses into the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) market. Other investments include: 

  • $94 million for Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs);
  • $46.4 million in new economic development funding including; 
    • $17.5 million for a local Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
    • $17.5 million for community development financial institutions
    • $7.5 million for matching grants for capital investments by small businesses
    • $3.85 million for small business technical assistance grants
  • $46 million for Adult Basic Education Services;
  • $20 million for summer jobs for at-risk youth; 
  • $15 million for a Community Empowerment and Reinvestment grant program to provide economic supports to communities disproportionately impacted by the criminal justice system;
  • $10 million for the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund; 
  • $6 million for Regional Economic Development Organizations to support economic growth in all regions of the state; 
  • $5 million for Community Foundations to provide emergency economic relief to historically underserved populations;
  • $2.5 million in Urban Agenda Grants; and
  • $1.4 million for small business development.

The budget builds on the Legislature’s commitment to ensuring all children have access to high-quality early education and care (EEC) during this pandemic. The budget provides $25 million for a new Early Education and Care Workforce and COVID-19 Supports Reserve to provide classroom stabilization grants, incentive pay for providers, and support for increased operational costs due to COVID-19. In addition, the budget invests in those who work with children by increasing rates for early education providers by $20 million and provides $40 million for a new reserve to cover parent fees for families receiving subsidized childcare for the remainder of FY21. The budget also includes the following EEC investments and initiatives:

  • $15 million for Head Start grants;
  • $10 million for EEC Workforce Higher Education Opportunities;
  • $2.5 million in early childhood mental health grants;
  • $11 million for child care resource and referral agencies; and
  • Establishes the Early Education and Care Economic Review Commission to review childcare funding and make recommendations on policy changes to expand access.   

The budget continues to dedicate substantial resources toward supporting public higher education and increases scholarship funding for students. These investments include:

  • $286 million for state universities;
  • $307.7 million for community colleges; 
  • $560 million for the University of Massachusetts system;
  • $120 million in scholarship funding;
  • $4.8 million for the STEM Starter Academy, to support underrepresented students in STEM fields at community colleges; and
  • $2 million to ensure high school students with intellectual disabilities have continued access to higher education opportunities during this time of need.  

Funded at $19 billion this fiscal year, MassHealth is the largest investment the Commonwealth makes in its most vulnerable residents, including children, seniors, low-income residents and those experiencing homelessness. In response to the threats to reproductive rights for women on the national level, the Legislature also voted to remove medically unnecessary barriers to women’s reproductive care across the Commonwealth. The budget also invests in critical health and human services agencies and providers including: 

  • $501.1 million for Adult Support Services; 
  • $307 million for the Department of Children and Families for social workers, family support and stabilization, and foster care and adopted fee waivers;
  • $94.8 million for children’s mental health services;
  • $36.4 million for early intervention services;
  • $30.4 million in emergency food assistance;
  • $25.8 million for funding to support expanded access to mental health services, including $10 million for the Behavioral Health, Outreach, Access and Support Trust Fund and $10 million for a new inpatient mental health acute care beds grant program to expand access to critical mental health services; and
  • $17.5 million for Family Resource Centers to meet increased demand for services.  

In addition to these health care investments, the conference report includes provisions that prohibit insurers from denying coverage for mental health services and primary care services solely because they were delivered on the same day in the same facility.

Highlighting the urgent need to strengthen public health infrastructure at the local, state and regional level to combat the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the budget includes targeted investments aimed at redoubling our efforts and pushing forward with a proactive public health response to defeat this horrible virus. The budget includes:

  • $10 million for grants to support local boards of health to combat COVID-19;
  • $1.7 million for the State Action for Public Health Excellence (SAPHE) program to support a more effective local and regional public health delivery system; and
  • $1 million for a COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Plan program, focused on equitable vaccine distribution.

Keeping in mind those affected by domestic violence, the budget establishes a grant program to provide domestic violence advocate services across the state to connect survivors with essential services. 

In order to support programs for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, the budget increases funding for developmental services to $2.1 billion and includes $239 million for community day and work programs across the Commonwealth. The budget also includes the following investments:

  • $237 million for state-operated residential services
  • $78 million for family respite services; and
  • $38.5 million for autism omnibus services.

The budget furthers the Legislature’s ongoing commitment to fight the opioid epidemic. To provide assistance to those who are battling substance addiction, the budget increased funding for the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services to $169 million while offering continued support for step-down recovery services, jail diversion programs, and expansion of access to life-saving medication. 

Food insecurity has become one of the most prevalent consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, affecting children, adults and seniors alike. To that end, the conference report prioritizes access to food resources across the Commonwealth. Food insecurity investments include:

  • $30 million for the Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program;
  • $13 million in Healthy Incentives Programs to ensure vulnerable households have continued access to food options during the pandemic; and
  • $1.2 million for Project Bread to support the Child Nutrition Outreach Program and the Food Source Hotline.

The budget includes funding for the judiciary and ongoing criminal justice reform, including a $762.9 million investment in the trial court and to support for criminal justice reform implementation. The budget also includes $29 million for civil legal aid to provide representation for low-income individuals via the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation and invests in community-based re-entry programs and a pre- and post-release services grant program.

The budget calls for $312.6 million in spending for environmental programs, which aim to protect the Commonwealth’s natural resources. These investments include:

  • $70.4 million for the Department of Environmental Protection, including additional funding for a PFAS-specific team to remediate water contamination in the Commonwealth;
  • $51.5 million for state parks and recreation;
  • $40.1 million for the Department of Agricultural Resources, including $1.4M for mosquito spraying to mitigate the risk of the Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) virus;
  • $16.1 million for fisheries and wildlife protection;
  • $8.5 million for agricultural resources;
  • $2.6 million for ecological restoration; and
  • $500,000 for the Commonwealth’s endangered species program.

Having been passed by the House and Senate, the legislation now goes to Governor Baker for his signature.

Rockport Awarded $183,000 Green Communities Grant

Cape Ann’s survival as a community depends on us to be good stewards of our natural environment. Rising sea levels could submerge homes and prevent public safety officers from responding to emergencies. Increasing water temperatures could inhibit our ability to harvest from the sea. Climbing atmospheric temperatures may increase the likelihood of respiratory issues. 

Confronting factors that induce climate change and fostering a cleaner environment requires the use of many different tools. One of those tools is partnerships between state and local governments. The relationship and interdependence among the two are critical to help our municipalities meet their goals and contribute to our common goals.

As part of our state-local partnership, I am glad to announce that Rockport has been awarded $183,454 by the Commonwealth’s Department of Energy Resources (DOER) in the latest round of Green Communities competitive grants. This grant to Rockport will fund municipal energy conservation measures, LED lighting, UV controls, weatherization, building operator certification training, and administrative assistance.

Since being designated as Green Communities, Gloucester, Rockport, and Essex have received over $2 million in grants combined through the program to support local projects that conserve energy or make use of clean energy technologies.

The Legislature passed the Green Communities Act to help municipalities become more sustainable, control rising energy costs, and incubate the clean energy technologies and practices that will put Massachusetts cities and towns at the center of the 21st century clean energy economy. DOER’s Green Communities Division provides technical assistance and financial support for municipal initiatives.

This round of DOER Green Communities competitive grants is awarded to existing Green Communities that have successfully invested their initial designation grants and previous competitive grant awards. That Gloucester, Rockport, and Essex have each received several grants since being designated as Green Communities showcases our local commitment to clean energy and energy efficiency and the great partnership between our state and municipal officials.

Under the Green Communities Act, cities and towns must meet five criteria to be designated a Green Community and receive funding. 271 Massachusetts cities and towns have earned the Green Communities designation, which accounts for 84 percent of the Commonwealth’s population.

Ferrante Outlines House’s 2019-2020 Session Progress

During the ongoing Massachusetts 191st General Court’s 2019-2020 session – which has been extended through action taken by the Legislature – the House of Representatives has passed emergency legislation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as major legislation relating to education, transportation, and climate change.

Following a decisive vote in July to extend the formal legislative session, the House remains at work on bills vital to the Commonwealth including the state budget and COVID-19 related matters. This action followed the passage of major legislation relating to the COVID-19 State of Emergency that included provisions to extend unemployment benefits, protect public health, and institute landmark provisions for remote voting in the House and mail-in voting for local, state and federal elections held in 2020. The emergency legislation creates opportunities for restaurants to serve alcohol, beer and wine for carry out service.

For the first time in the history of the Commonwealth, the House voted on emergency rules to establish procedures to allow members of the House of Representatives to vote remotely during the height of the pandemic. These temporary changes enabled the House to vote on items requiring formal votes (such as a measure facilitating the postponement of the tax deadline) while reinforcing public health and safety.

Amid a difficult fiscal climate, the House also voted to level fund Chapter 90 at $200 million for key repairs for the maintenance and upkeep of municipal roads and bridges in Massachusetts. As part of a sweeping economic development bill which I helped to author, the House passed legislation to legalize sports betting, provide supports to small businesses and at-risk populations, increase funding for economic empowerment in Black and Brown communities, and make investments and zoning changes to promote more affordable housing. In recognition of the House’s commitment to a safe, accessible, and reliable transportation system, the House also approved an $18 billion investment in the Commonwealth’s transportation infrastructure.

In keeping with the House’s ongoing commitment to protecting public health and safety, the House passed health care legislation to facilitate the use of telemedicine as well as strengthen community hospitals. The House also passed legislation aimed at eliminating racial inequities in maternal health that have resulted in women of color dying of pregnancy-related causes at more than double the rate of white women. Under a policing reform bill, the House voted to establish a certification process for police, creating an independent and empowered oversight board, and codifying restrictions on use of force measures. The House also voted to protect public sector employee rights and to approve campaign finance reform.  

In building on the House’s history of leadership in climate change policy, the House passed legislation setting a statewide 2050 net zero greenhouse gas emissions limit, establishing environmental justice population criteria, increasing statewide renewable energy requirements, and bolstering green programs for underserved populations.

In keeping with the House’s commitment to the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable and at-risk children and families, in May, the House announced the formation of its Early Education and Care (EEC) Recovery Advisory Group, which I co-chair alongside House Education Committee Chair, Rep. Alice Peisch. The group is tasked with helping address the challenges facing childcare in this new and changing landscape, and established the EEC Public-Private Trust Fund, creating an infrastructure to foster public-private and philanthropic efforts for childcare providers, including providing $500,000 for technical and small business support during the recovery process. In July, in response to growing concerns about the significant drop in reports of child abuse and neglect during the COVID-19 crisis, the House also passed legislation to strengthen oversight policies and operations at the Department of Children and Families.

At the start of this session, in 2019, the House passed several pieces of landmark legislation including an historic $1.5 billion statewide investment in public schools – known as the Student Opportunity Act

The House also passed nation-leading legislation to modernize tobacco control and ban all flavored tobacco as well as legislation to reduce distracted driving. In addition, the House passed legislation to protect college students by ensuring higher education financial stability and oversight. The House also banned conversion therapy for minors, ensured no student in-need would go hungry by requiring breakfast after the school bell, and provided supplemental funding for women’s reproductive health organizations as a result of federal cuts to the Title X program, which was included as part of a supplemental state budget.

Helping to protect the most vulnerable children and families in the Commonwealth prior to the onset of the COVID-19 public health emergency, the House voted to lift a decades-old family welfare cap to extend cash benefits to the 8,700 Massachusetts children and their families who had previously been excluded. The House also passed legislation creating a care registry to protect persons with intellectual or developmental disability from abuse. To address the complex health and wellness needs of the Commonwealth’s 1.4 million children, the House led efforts this session passing comprehensive legislation to ensure increased access to services and a more holistic approach to children’s health and wellness supports.

The House acted to address climate resiliency by advancing a $1 billion investment – known as GreenWorks – over the next 10 years to help communities across Massachusetts adopt technologies that cut greenhouse gas emissions, fortify infrastructure, and reduce municipal costs.

The House passed following legislation over the General Court’s two-year session between January 1, 2019 and July 31, 2020. Due to the public health emergency, the House and Senate have extended the legislative session through December 31, 2020 in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

  • An Act to Facilitate the Delay of the Income Tax Filing Deadline (H.4677)
  • An Act Providing Additional Support to Those Affected by the Novel Coronavirus Through the Unemployment Insurance System (H.4648)
  • An Act Addressing COVID-19 Data Collection and Disparities in Treatment (H.4672)
  • An Act Relative to Voting Options in Response to COVID-19 (H.4820)
  • An Act Making $15 million in Appropriations for the Fiscal Year 2020 to Provide for Supplementing Certain Existing Appropriations Relating to the Coronavirus (H.4561)
  • An Act to Further Address Challenges Faced by Municipalities, School Districts and State Authorities Resulting from COVID-19 (H.4616)
  • An Act to Address Challenges Faced by Municipalities and State Authorities Resulting from COVID-19 (H.4598)
  • An Act Granting Authority to Postpone 2020 Municipal Elections in the Commonwealth and Increase Voting Options in Response to the Declaration of Emergency to Respond to COVID-19 (S.2608)
  • An Act Authorizing Waiver of the One Week Waiting Period for Unemployment Benefits (S.2599)
  • An Act to Expand Take-Out/Delivery Options in Response to COVID-19 (H.4856)

COVID-19 Legislation Awaiting Final Passage

  • An Act Relative to Long Term Care Facility and Elder Housing COVID-19 Reporting (H.4667)
  • An Act Addressing Challenges Faced by Food and Beverage Establishments Resulting from the COVID-19 Pandemic (H.4774)

Other Enacted Laws

  • An Act Financing the General Governmental Infrastructure of the Commonwealth (H.4932)
  • An Act Relative to Collective Bargaining Dues (H.3854)
  • An Act to Mitigate Arbovirus in the Commonwealth (H.4851)
  • An Act Regarding Breakfast After the Bell (H.4218)
  • An Act Relative to Educational Opportunity for Students (S.2412)
  • An Act to Lift the Cap on Kids (H.3594)
  • An Act to Support Improved Financial Stability in Higher Education (H.4099)
  • An Act Requiring the Hands-Free Use of Mobile Telephones While Driving (H.4203)
  • An Act Modernizing Tobacco Control (H.4196)
  • An Act Relative to Abusive Practices to Change Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Minors (H.140)
  • An Act Relative to Children’s Health and Wellness (H.4210)
  • An Act Relative to Campaign Finance (H.4223)
  • An Act Relative to Strengthening the Local and Regional Public Health System (H.4503)
  • An Act to Protect Persons with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities from Abuse (S.2367)

Other Legislation Awaiting Final Passage

  • An Act to Reduce Racial Inequities in Maternal Health (H.4818)
  • An Act to Reform Police Standards and Shift Resources to Build a More Equitable, Fair and Just Commonwealth that Values Black Lives and Communities of Color (H.4886)
  • An Act Enabling Partnerships for Growth (H.4887)
  • An Act Authorizing and Accelerating Transportation Investment (H.4547)
  • An Act Financing Improvements to Municipal Roads and Bridges (H.4803)
  • An Act Creating a 2050 Roadmap to a Clean and Thriving Commonwealth (H.4933)
  • An Act Relative to Transportation Finance (H.4530)
  • An Act Relative to the Host Community Agreements (H.4367)
  • An Act Relative to GreenWorks (H.3997)

Significant Drought Conditions Declared Across Massachusetts

Due to above normal temperatures throughout July and early August and more than three months of below normal rainfall, a Level 2 – Significant Drought has been declared in all seven regions of the Commonwealth – the Western, Connecticut River Valley, Central, Northeast, Southeast, Cape Cod, and Islands regions. The declaration will remain in effect until water levels return to normal in the affected regions.

At a Level 2 – Significant Drought, as outlined in the Massachusetts Drought Management Plan, conditions are becoming significantly dry and warrant detailed monitoring of drought conditions, close coordination among state and federal agencies, emphasis on water conservation, more stringent watering restrictions, and technical outreach and assistance for the affected municipalities.

The state asks residents in every region across the Commonwealth to be very mindful of the amount of water they are using, to be proactive in reducing or eliminating outdoor water use, to reduce indoor water use, and to address plumbing leaks as soon as possible. Limiting nonessential outdoor watering is one of the most effective ways to minimize the impacts of drought on water supply and the environment, and ensure there is enough water for fire protection. All these steps will help reduce water use to ensure essential needs such as drinking water and fire protection are being met, and habitats have enough water to recover.

Residents and Businesses:

  • Minimize overall water use;
  • Limit outdoor watering to hand-held hoses or watering cans, to be used only after 5 p.m. or before 9 a.m. one day a week.

Immediate Steps for Communities:

  • Adopt and implement the state’s nonessential outdoor water use restrictions for drought; Level 2 restriction calls for limiting outdoor watering to hand-held hoses or watering cans, to be used only after 5 p.m. or before 9 a.m.
  • Limit or prohibit installation of new sod, seeding, and/or landscaping; watering during or within 48 hours after measurable rainfall; washing of hard surfaces (sidewalks, patios, driveways, siding); personal vehicle or boat washing; operation of non-recirculating fountains; filling of swimming pools, hot tubs, and backyard informal rinks.
  • Implement drought surcharge or seasonal water rates.
  • Establish water-use reduction targets for all water users and identify top water users and conduct targeted outreach to help curb their use.

Short- and Medium-Term Steps for Communities:

  • Establish a year-round water conservation program that includes public education and communication;
  • Provide timely information to local residents and businesses;
  • Check emergency inter-connections for water supply; and
  • Develop a local drought management plan using guidance outlined in the state Drought Management Plan.

For further information on water conservation and what residents and communities can do, visit the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs’ drought page.