ACEC/MA Government Affairs Update: January 2017
Next ACEC/MA Government Affairs Committee Meeting: January 20, 2017
10 AM at Aldrich Center at The Engineering Center.
For call-in information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
New Legislative Session Started January 4
The Massachusetts House and Senate convened on January 4, 2017 to officially begin the new 2017-2018 legislative session. The full-time Legislature meets regularly over the two year period with formal sessions concluding on July 31, 2018.
With strong Democratic veto proof majorities in both the House and Senate behind them, Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop) and Senate President Stanley Rosenberg (D-Amherst) were re-elected to their respective positions without opposition. In the coming weeks, they will appoint chairs, vice-chairs and members of the various joint legislative committees. Once the committee structure is in place, and after the January 20th filing deadline for legislation, the House and Senate will begin the process of referring bills to committees for consideration and starting public hearings on all non-budgetary bills.
Additionally, the debate over the Fiscal Year 2018 budget will begin with Governor Baker's filing of his budget proposal on January 25, 2017. The House and Senate will then file their respective versions of the budget in April and May, aiming to agree upon a consensus budget to send to the Governor before the start of FY18 on July 1, 2017.
Here's a look back at the last legislative session: ACEC/MA had an active legislative agenda and worked closely with Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications in 2016 to keep ACEC/MA's reputation as an active and involved engineering, land surveying and design community advocates on Beacon Hill. During the 2015-2016 legislative session, Massachusetts State Senators and State Representatives filed more than 6000 pieces of legislation. ACEC/MA focused on bills that would have had a direct impact on design professionals. Some of these bills would have had a negative impact, costing member firms and taxpayers millions of dollars. These bills range from preventing public agencies from contracting out for private sector design services to bills proposing to impose burdensome regulations. ACEC/MA and our lobbyists tracked these bills, developed briefing sheets and written testimony, met with legislators, testified at public hearings, and kept key legislators informed about the impact these bills would have on design professionals, on construction projects and on taxpayers. Thanks to the vigilance of ACEC/MA, none of the bills we opposed became law in 2016. We expect some of the bills we opposed to be refiled again in 2017, either by the January 20, 2017 filing deadline or later in the 2017-18 legislative session. ACEC/MA and Rasky Baerlein will again work to defend our member firms against harmful legislation and work for passage of legislation to help infrastructure.
End of the 2015-2016 Legislative Session
On January 3, 2017, the legislature concluded the 2015-2016 legislative session, passing a number of bills during the last day of informal session. These bills are being reviewed by Governor Baker. He will sign some into law, while others will receive a 'pocket veto' if he doesn't sign them. Any bills that he does not sign by January 14 will potentially be refiled by January 20, 2017 and will receive new bill numbers, starting the legislative process again. Among the bills that received final approval late on January 3, 2017:
-- AUDIT SCHEDULES H 4720 reconciling inconsistent statutory audit schedules.
-- MASSAGE ON SUNDAY: H 169 relative to massage therapy services on Sundays and holidays.
-- ALCOHOL DONATIONS: H 248 relative to special alcohol licenses for nonprofit charitable corporations.
-- CONTRACTS: H 1832 employment contracts for appointed municipal assessors, treasurers and collectors.
-- RTA MEMBERSHIP: H 3028 relative to membership in regional transit authorities
-- BICYCLISTS: H 3072 protecting bicyclists in bicycle lanes.
-- DEEDS MODERNIZATION: H 3862 relative to modernizing the registries of deeds.
-- CREDIT UNION RESERVES: H 4193 further regulating the reserve fund for credit unions.
-- ZERO-EMISSION VEHICLES: S 2505 promoting zero-emission vehicle adoption.
-- MEDFORD LIQUOR LICENSES: H 4786 increasing certain liquor licenses in Medford from twenty-five to forty.
-- NATUROPATHY: S 2335 establishing a board of registration in naturopathy.
-- EYE DROPS: H 4195 relative to prescription eye drops.
-- PULMONARY HYPERTENSION: H 4121 establishing a pulmonary hypertension task force.
-- BEACH WARNINGS: S 1956 creating uniform beach warnings.
-- WINE IN CLUBS: S 2244 relative to serving wine in private clubs.
-- BOND TERMS: H 4715 recommending legislation relative to recommending terms for certain bonds.
-- SELF-STORAGE INSURANCE: S 2233 relative to self-storage insurance.
-- WOMEN'S COMMISSION: H 1867 establishing a Hampshire-Franklin Commission on the Status of Women.
-- HIV/HEPATITS FUND: H 3960 renaming the Massachusetts AIDS Fund as the State Public Health HIV and Hepatitis Fund.
Looking Back and Looking Ahead
Here are a few highlights of our advocacy work in 2016:
Water Infrastructure Funding - Advocating for Infrastructure
For several years, ACEC/MA's Executive Director Abbie Goodman has co-chaired the Water Infrastructure Alliance (WIA) along with Jennifer Pederson, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Water Works Association (MWWA). WIA is comprised of engineering associations and firms, construction associations and firms, environmental advocacy groups, and others that promote clean water investments in Massachusetts. Several years ago, the Massachusetts Water Infrastructure Finance Commission identified an estimated $21 Billion funding gap for water and sewer needs in Massachusetts over the next 20 years. It has been two years since the passage of Chapter 259 of the Acts of 2014, which introduced a range of provisions to assist municipalities with their water and sewer funding needs. The FY2017 state budget, however, did not appropriate the necessary funding to implement Chapter 259. ACEC/MA continues to lead WIA to address funding needs and increase public awareness about the importance of safe water infrastructure,
Infrastructure Funding Advisory Committee
Chapter 259 of the Acts of 2014 created a Water Infrastructure Advisory Committee. In late 2015, ACEC/MA was appointed one of 22 members to this advisory group tasked with developing a long-term funding mechanism that will address the significant gap between projected needs and currently available funds for water, sewer, and stormwater projects. ACEC/MA President-Elect Michael Scipione represents us on the Committee. The Water Infrastructure Advisory Committee convened for the first time in September 2016 under the chairmanship of Ned Bartlett from the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
Utility Coordination Commission
Chapter 259 of the Acts of 2014 also created a Utility Coordination Commission that was charged with developing some best management practices to assist municipalities and public utilties in improving the coordination between public and private underground infrastructure projects. ACEC/MA provided input to the commission, which issued its report to the legislature in December 2016. Report Link
Senate President and Speaker Reach Agreement on Rules
In early December, Senate President Rosenberg and House Speaker DeLeo announced that they had reached an agreement over the rules that will govern the next legislative session that starts in January 2017. The major changes include moving up the deadline for committees to report out bills from the third Wednesday in March to February 1 in the second year of the session and requiring that bills be referred to the branch where they originated as they are reported from committees. The changes are significant as debate over rules reform slowed legislative activity for the first several months of the 2015-2016 legislative session.