Recent Legislative Updates

September 2017

Massachusetts Joins with Other States to Further Reduce Greenhouse Emissions

The Baker-Polito Administration recently announced that it will accelerate state and regional efforts to combat climate change by joining with eight other Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states, participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), to reduce greenhouse gas emissions beyond 2020. RGGI, the nation’s first market-based regulatory program, was recently shown to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the power sector through the auction of carbon dioxide (CO2) allowances and the reinvestment of those proceeds in GHG reduction measures. The proposed program improvements include a new regional cap of 75.148 million tons of CO2 in 2021, which will decline by 2.275 million tons of CO2 per year thereafter, resulting in a total 30 percent reduction in the regional cap from 2020 to 2030. The RGGI states have already reduced power sector carbon emissions by nearly 50 percent since 2008, while generating more than $2.7 billion in proceeds across the region for reinvestment in programs to benefit consumers and build a stronger and cleaner energy system.

Since 2008, Massachusetts has reinvested $306 million in auction proceeds to increase the energy efficiency of residences and businesses, provide clean-energy solutions to 155 “Green Communities,” and to support the implementation of alternative energy resources. RGGI auction proceeds have helped Massachusetts earn the nation’s top ranking for energy efficiency six years in a row.

An 18-month review program of RGGI included extensive feedback from stakeholders and experts gathered through eight public meetings and thousands of written comments. The RGGI states will seek additional stakeholder input on the draft program elements in a public meeting scheduled for September 25, 2017. Once final materials and a revised Model Rule are issued, states will follow their specific statutory and regulatory processes to propose updates to their CO2 Budget Trading Programs. The terms of the proposed plan were developed collaboratively to ensure all nine states could move forward together with a shared commitment to achieving the most aggressive emission reductions possible while protecting ratepayers, growing local economies, and reinvesting auction proceeds in clean energy and climate change solutions.

According to a press release issued by the Baker-Polito Administration, efforts undertaken through RGGI support the implementation of Governor Charlie Baker’s Executive Order 569, An Order Establishing an Integrated Climate Change Strategy for the Commonwealth and emission reduction limits established by the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) of 2008. The GWSA requires a GHG emissions reduction of 25 percent below 1990 emissions levels by 2020 and at least an 80 percent reduction by 2050. As of 2014, the Commonwealth had reduced emissions by 21 percent from 1990 levels, leaving about 4 percent remaining to achieve the 2020 goal.

Baker-Polito Administration Promulgates Regulations to Implement Global Warming Solutions Act to Comply with SJC Decision

Preceding the Governor’s announcement that the Commonwealth was expanding its RGGI commitments, a variety of state agencies, in accordance with Executive Order 569, issued final regulations to further implement the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) of 2008. The Executive Order’s requirements followed a decision by the Supreme Judicial Court, in the case of Kain v. DEP, where the court ruled the GWSA’s required emissions reductions must include multiple greenhouse gas emission sources or categories of sources. As originally configured, the state regulations implementing the GWSA focused solely on the energy producers located within the Commonwealth.

According to the Baker-Polito Administration, the six areas within the code of regulations promulgated will, along with other Commonwealth climate policies, ensure that the GWSA’s target is achieved by addressing emissions from the natural gas distribution network, the transportation sector, the electric sector, focusing on generation and consumption, and gas insulated switchgear.

Among the areas the regulations address:

  • Carbon Dioxide Emission Limits for the Commonwealth’s State Fleet Passenger Vehicles;
  • Global Warming Solutions Act Requirements for Transportation;
  • Reducing Methane Emissions from Natural Gas Distribution Mains and Services;
  • Increasing clean energy through the development of a Clean Energy Standard;
  • Reducing Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Electricity Generating Facilities; and
  • Reducing Sulfur Hexafluoride Emissions from Gas-Insulated Switchgear.

Under Section 2 of Executive Order No. 569, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection was directed to publish proposed regulations by December 16, 2016, hold public hearings on the proposed regulations by February 24, 2017, and finalize those regulations by August 11, 2017. The Executive Order also requires the Commonwealth to begin planning for climate change adaptation and working with cities and towns to assess vulnerability and build resiliency to address climate change impacts.

August Brings Political Intrigue as Two Longtime Elected Officials Announce Future Plans

The normally quiet month of August turned a bit more interesting when two longtime legislators announced their future plans did not include running for reelection. Races to succeed State Senator Jen Flanagan and United States Congresswoman Niki Tsongas will begin in earnest as September hits full stride.

For her part, Senator Flanagan, a Leominster Democrat resigned her seat to become one of five members of the new Cannabis Control Commission. Appointed by Governor Baker to the marijuana licensing authority, Flanagan served four years in the House before being elected to the Senate in 2008 to represent the Worcester and Middlesex District that includes the cities of Fitchburg, Gardner, and Leominster and the towns of Berlin, Bolton, Lancaster, Lunenburg, Sterling, Westminster, Townsend, and two precincts in Clinton.

Flanagan recently co-chaired the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities and the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery and was the chair of the Special Senate Committee on Addiction Prevention, Treatment and Recovery Options. According to the State House News Service, which broke the news, Senator Flanagan had voted against the 2016 ballot questions legalizing marijuana.

In the race to succeed Flanagan, several State Representatives have already announced that they do not intend to run for the Senate seat. State Representative Jen Benson, Representative Jon Zlotnik, as well as Representative Natalie Higgins have all taken a pass. Local officials, including Democrats Michael Kushmerek of Fitchburg and Michael Mahan of Leominster, as well as Fitchburg Republican Lou Marino have expressed an interest in the seat.

In the other surprise announcement, Congresswoman Tsongas announced that she would not be seeking reelection in 2018. A 10-year member of Congress, Tsongas won the seat when Marty Meehan left office to become the Chancellor of UMass-Lowell. Tsongas, who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, has a solid reputation for working on sexual abuse and veterans issues. She has also proven to be a stalwart defender of Massachusetts companies with interests in the defense industry.

With the opening of a Congressional seat something of a rarity in Massachusetts, the seat will undoubtedly attract a fair amount of attention. Among potential candidates indicating that they are looking at the seat: Ellen Meehan, former wife of Congressman Meehan; State Senator Barbara L’Italien, the current Senate Chairwoman of the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection; State Senator Eileen Donaghue, the Senate Chairwoman of the Joint Committee on Economic Development; and Dan Koh, the former Chief of Staff to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. State Senator Jamie Eldridge, a one-time candidate for the special election Tsongas won, has already declared that he is not interested in the race this time around. Senator Eldridge is currently the Senate Chairman of the Joint Committee on Financial Services.

Expect more news to follow on the races to succeed these successful legislators as Fall approaches.

Brockton Looking at Options for a Back-up Source of Water

According to an article in the Brockton Enterprise, the City of Brockton is continuing to look at its options for procuring a back-up water supply after an initial analysis suggested that tying into the MWRA’s system could be cost prohibitive. Connecting to the water storage facility in Quincy would cost millions of dollars in piping alone, before factoring in permitting and legal costs, the MWRA’s annual assessment to pay for the drinking water, and an entry fee that would cost Brockton taxpayers a total of $4.3 million for each million gallons per day of capacity that the city needs, according to a presentation presented to the Brockton City Council. City officials fear that even establishing the infrastructure to tie-into the MWRA’s system out of Quincy might be in excess of $50 million for 11 miles of pipeline alone. While the issue of analyzing the MWRA option was ultimately postponed by a vote of the Brockton City Council, it is anticipated that the Council will revisit the issue in October.

Attorney General Names Two New Leadership Appointments

According to a press release from her office, Attorney General Maura Healey recently announced two new leadership appointments. Mr. Eric Gold was appointed to head the Attorney General’s Health Care and Fair Competition Bureau and Ms. Abigail Taylor was appointed to lead the Child and Youth Protection Unit.

Gold, who has served as deputy health care division chief since January 2016, will succeed Ms. Karen Tseng. Tseng is leaving her post as division chief to spend more time with family, but will continue in her role as senior health care counsel in the AG’s Health Care and Fair Competition Bureau. Gold was previously a litigator at Greenberg Traurig in Boston and also litigated at the firm Sidley Austin in New York and Chicago from 2003 to 2008, where he represented pharmaceutical companies in multi-district litigation.

Taylor has served as assistant attorney general in the Child and Youth Protection Unit since Healey created it in 2015. Her appointment will become effective October 1 when she replaces the retiring Ms. Gail Garinger. Taylor previously worked as a trial attorney in the Criminal Fraud Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, where she prosecuted defendants involved in health care fraud schemes, Healey’s office said. Garinger was the state’s child advocate before Healey named her as head of the new unit.

•Secured over $9 million in federal funding to increase apprenticeships in education and healthcare and improve job opportunities for women, minorities, lower-income populations, those with disabilities, and the unemployed.

New Secretary Rosalin Acosta recently stepped down as the Senior Vice President and Managing Director for Enterprise Wealth Management at Enterprise Bank in Lowell, where she oversaw the operations of the bank’s Wealth Management and Brokerage divisions since 2013. A widely respected financial and banking service professional with over thirty years of experience in Greater Boston financial institutions, Acosta has also worked in senior executive roles at TD Bank and Sovereign Bank (now Santander). Acosta serves in many community and civic capacities, including as a Board Member of The Boston Foundation, a Board Overseer at Boston Children’s Hospital since 2009, where she was a founding member of Milagros Para Ninos, and a 14-year Member of the Boston Chapter of the Association of Latino Professionals For America (ALPFA). Acosta is a Director and Planning Member of the Merrimack Valley Workforce Investment Board and was appointed a Northern Essex Community College Trustee by Governor Baker in 2016. Acosta has been named one of Boston’s Most Influential Women by the Women of Harvard Club in 2014, where she serves on the Leadership Committee, and El Planeta’s Top 100 Most Influential Hispanics in Massachusetts for three consecutive years.

Born in Cuba, Acosta earned a Bachelor of Arts from Wesleyan University in Connecticut where she was a member of the Women’s Varsity Ice Hockey Team. She is the proud mother of five children and an avid traveler, runner and cyclist.

Senate Passes Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

The Massachusetts Senate joined their House of Representatives colleagues by passing An Act Establishing the Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (Senate Bill 2093). The legislation requires that employers provide pregnant women reasonable accommodations including “more frequent or longer paid or unpaid breaks, time off to recover from childbirth with or without pay, acquisition or modification of equipment, seating, temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position, job restructuring, light duty, break time and private non-bathroom space for expressing breast milk, assistance with manual labor, or modified work schedules.”
While the House and Senate versions of the legislation differ slightly, there is little question that the legislation will eventually make its way to Governor Baker’s desk. Since opposition by business organizations last session, the advocacy group MotherWoman worked to address these concerns in developing consensus legislation that balances the needs of pregnant women with the practical issues faced by employers.

Again, among the provisions in the legislation, the employer and employee shall engage in a timely, good faith, and interactive process to determine effective reasonable accommodations to enable the employee to perform the essential functions of the employee’s job. An employer may require that the documentation about the need for reasonable accommodation come from an appropriate health care or rehabilitation professional. An employee shall not be required to obtain documentation from an appropriate health care or rehabilitation professional for the following accommodations: (1) more frequent restroom, food, and water breaks; (2) seating; and (3) limits on lifting over 20 pounds. Written notice of the right to be free from discrimination in relation to pregnancy and related conditions, including the right to reasonable accommodations for conditions related to pregnancy or related conditions, pursuant to this subsection shall be distributed in a handbook or other means.

To review the recently passed legislation, please visit: https://malegislature.gov/Bills/190/S2093

Lexington Carries Friedman to Victory over Garballey for 4th Middlesex District

Former Senator Ken Donnelly’s Chief of Staff, Cindy Friedman, won a tightly contested Democratic primary to fill the seat of the recently deceased Senator in the 4th Middlesex Senate District. Friedman earned slightly over 51 percent of the ballots in defeating State Representative Sean Garballey (D-Arlington) and Mary Ann Stewart of Lexington. With no Republican or Libertarian candidates on the ballot, Ms. Friedman will be able to claim the Senate seat once the July 25 general election occurs. As reported by the State House News Service, Ms. Friedman would be the first woman to be newly elected to the Senate since Sen. Barbara L’Italien in 2015, and the 41st female state senator in state history.

Ms. Friedman defeated her opponents by a count of 7,077 votes to 6,299 (Garballey) and 411 (Stewart). Representative Garballey won his and Ms. Friedman’s hometown with 56 percent of the vote, and also came out on top in Woburn. For her part, Ms. Friedman won Billerica and Burlington and achieved her widest margin in Lexington, where her 1,875 votes accounted for 81 percent of the Democratic ballots cast to 288 (Garballey) and 142 (Stewart).

According to published reports, 51 women — 39 representatives and 12 senators — now serve in the 200-seat state Legislature, making up just over a quarter of its membership. 30 of the female House members are Democrats and 9 are Republicans, accounting for roughly 26 percent of the 35-person House GOP caucus.

Representative Garballey will remain in the Massachusetts House of Representatives where he has championed a number of issues ranging from health insurance mandates to water infrastructure funding and the protection of vulnerable populations.