In the final session of the 191st General Court last Tuesday evening, a number of bills and policies championed by Senator Boncore passed the Massachusetts State Senate and House of Representatives. Critical legislation, ranging from transportation and housing to economic development and environmental protection, passed in the final days of the legislative session.
“Throughout this session, and especially over the past few weeks, the policies passed by the Senate represent our collective commitment to improving the lives of residents across the Commonwealth,” said Senator Joe Boncore (D-Winthrop). “Our path to both health and economic recovery from the COVID-19 will be shaped by these policies; ranging from sealing eviction records and expanding health insurance coverage, to improving our public transit system and supporting local restaurants. As we begin this new legislative session, I will continue to support policies that guarantee equity and justice.”
Boncore, who serves as the Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation, led efforts to pass the transportation bond bill; a $16.5 billion investment to modernize the Commonwealth’s transportation system. In addition to the wide variety of infrastructure projects, the bond bill addresses equity in public transit by requiring a low-income fare program, modernizes the transportation network fee structure, and decriminalizes fare evasion on MBTA service.
A number of bills to expand housing access and affordability, initially filed by Senator Boncore, passed the Legislature this week. Among these housing policies are:
• The HOMES Act; to create a process for sealing eviction records, protect minors from being named in eviction cases and expunge the names of minors from existing eviction records.
• Legislation to guarantee an elected tenant representative on local housing authority boards.
• Zoning reform to help cities and towns approve smart growth zoning and affordable housing by lowering the required vote threshold for a range of housing-related zoning changes from a twothirds supermajority to a simple majority.
• Policy to expand housing access by creating new requirements for transit-oriented development and multi-family housing.
• A local option for a tenant’s right of first refusal, by which tenants occupying a residential property may purchase said property prior to its sale or foreclosure.
On Tuesday, the Legislature also passed a $627 million economic development bond bill to support housing, climate resiliency, student loan borrowers, minority and women-owned businesses, broadband infrastructure, and provides over $102 million for local economic development initiatives across the Commonwealth.
The economic development bond bill also includes $20 million in grants to restaurants impacted by COVID-19, and establishes a 15% cap on third-party delivery fees during the COVID-19 state of emergency and protects delivery drivers from facing rate cuts.
The craft brewers legislation, designed to protect the economic viability of local and emerging craft breweries filed by Senator Boncore, passed the Legislature on Tuesday. The bill supports economic development by allowing craft brewers greater flexibility in ending contracts with distributors.
Healthcare, focused on recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and the health system broadly, has remained a priority for the Legislature this session. The healthcare legislation passed in December requires insurance parity between in-person and telehealth services, addresses out-of-network “surprise” billing, requires insurance coverage of PANS/PANDAS, and updates scope of practice for nurses, optometrists, and pharmacists.
To address climate change, the Legislature passed An Act Creating a Next-Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy. The omnibus bill includes measures to limit statewide greenhouse gas emissions, increase renewable energy sources including wind and solar, address natural gas safety, and create benchmarks for the adoption of electric vehicles and vehicle charging stations.
The climate change legislation also codifies environmental justice communities and includes unique plans to improve economic, environmental, and public health impacts in these communities.
Additionally, the Legislature supported environmental protection by passing legislation requiring public awareness for sewage pollution in public waters and creating a Massachusetts Healthy Soils Program and Fund to provide expertise in healthy soil practices.
These bills are now before the Governor.