May 2019  

Massachusetts House of Representatives Passes FY’20 Budget

The Massachusetts House of Representatives passed a $42.7 billion budget during the last full week of April.  The budget, which was passed on a 154-1 vote, included significant new investments in elementary and secondary education as well as changes to MassHealth’s ability to negotiate better prices for drugs.  The budget proposal contained no new significant tax increases.

Over the course of four days of discussion and negotiation, House lawmakers added approximately $71 million in amendments. Of note to UCANE, the House FY’20 budget proposes to increase funding for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) to approximately $31.5 million – a continuing and positive trend for the agency that will allow it to continue to add staff resources.  The House FY’20 budget proposal also level-funded the state’s contract assistance line item at slightly over $63 million.  The funding assists the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust in its efforts to service the variety and numerous awards it makes under the State Revolving Loan Fund Program. Finally, the Massachusetts House of Representatives funded the Commonwealth’s rate relief program at $1.1 million.  The program, which once saw appropriations as high as $63 million, continues in a limited function to provide local aid to municipalities that have previously invested in their water infrastructure systems.

The Massachusetts Senate will release their FY’20 budget proposal in early May with debate slated for the week before the Memorial Day weekend.  The House and Senate will then work to reconcile their budget differences to present the Governor with a Conference Committee report on the FY’20 budget in mid-June.  The Commonwealth’s fiscal year begins July 1.

New Secretary of Executive Office of Environmental Affairs Appointed

At the end of April, the Baker-Polito Administration announced the departure of Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Matthew Beaton, and introduced current EEA Undersecretary of Climate Change, Kathleen Theoharides, as incoming Secretary. According to a press release from the Governor’s Office, Secretary Beaton will become the Senior Vice President of Renewable Energy and Emerging Technology at TRC Companies, Inc. Secretary Theoharides was officially sworn in May 3, 2019.

As reported by the Baker-Polito Administration, Secretary Beaton is credited with implementing a number of key initiatives, including, but not limited to:

  • Diversifying the Commonwealth’s energy portfolio and stabilizing electric rates through comprehensive energy diversification legislation, leading to the largest renewable energy procurements of hydropower and offshore wind in state history.
  • Leading the country as the most energy efficient state, including nation-leading goals for energy savings, investing over $220 million in grid modernization technologies, and over $60 million in funding through the Green Communities program.
  • Launching the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness program to provide funding to cities and towns to complete a community-driven process to identify hazards and develop strategies to improve resilience, and enrolled over half of Massachusetts’ communities in the initiative.
  • Creating the first State Hazard Mitigation and Climate Adaptation Plan, a blueprint for Massachusetts’ efforts to prepare for natural hazards and adapt to the impacts of climate change over the next five years.
  • Authoring a $2.4 billion Environmental Bond Bill, which authorized capital investments to safeguard residents, municipalities and businesses from the impacts of climate change, protect environmental resources, and improve recreational opportunities.

The incoming Secretary, Katie Theoharides, joined the Baker-Polito Administration as Director of Climate and Global Warming Solutions in the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs in 2016. As Director and later Assistant Secretary, Theoharides guided the development and implementation of the Administration’s efforts to safeguard Massachusetts from the impacts of climate change, support cities and towns, and coordinate efforts across state government to reduce emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. She worked to implement Executive Order 569, led the development of the State Hazard Mitigation and Climate Adaptation Plan and created the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness program, working to grow the program to reach 50 percent of cities and towns in the Commonwealth in less than three years. Theoharides was promoted to Undersecretary in 2019, and continued to lead the Commonwealth’s efforts on climate change, including working to strengthen regional and national coalitions focused on bipartisan state climate leadership including the United States Climate Alliance and the Transportation Climate Initiative.

Trained as a field biologist, Theoharides began her policy career working in Washington, D.C. at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and Defenders of Wildlife. During her time in D.C., Theoharides worked on the Federal Farm Bill and conservation policy, and helped establish a national program that partnered with federal and state agencies to incorporate climate change adaptation into policy, budgets, and planning. After returning to Massachusetts, Theoharides served as the Executive Director of the Hilltown Land Trust, and founded Theoharides Consulting, which provided climate and environmental policy analysis, strategic planning, and facilitation to universities, government agencies and non-profits.

Theoharides received a B.A. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Dartmouth College and a Masters of Science in Ecology and Environmental Biology from the University of Massachusetts-Boston.

MassCOSH: Workforce Injuries and Violence on the Rise

The Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH) released a new report documenting the loss of life taking place at worksites across Massachusetts. Titled Dying for Work in Massachusetts: Loss of Life and Limb in Massachusetts Workplaces, the 28-page report details how 69 workers in Massachusetts died of documented occupational injuries or disease sustained on the job in 2018. Nine of these workers died as a result of workplace violence. This figure is almost double the number of those who died from workplace violence in 2017, which was double the number of workers killed by violence in 2016.

The report highlights several findings, including:

  • Worker deaths in Massachusetts were once again concentrated in the construction industry (21 lives lost), with construction deaths accounting for 36% of workers fatally injured on the job.

 

  • 17 fatal transportation incidents, which includes motor vehicle crashes and workers struck by vehicles or moving equipment, were the leading cause of death from dangerous work, contributing to 29% of all worker deaths.

 

  • Since 2011, 35 workers were killed as a result of violence in the workplace in Massachusetts.

 

  • 10 firefighters died from work-related disease.

 

  • In the most recent year for which data sets are available, there were more than 73,300 recordable incidents of non-fatal occupational injuries and illnesses in Massachusetts.

After Massachusetts experienced an 11-year high in its worker fatality rate last year (74), work-related deaths are down but not by much. In 2017, 2.1 workers suffered fatal injuries per 100,000 workers, in 2018 that figure is 1.9.

The report continues to investigate the effects the opioid epidemic is having on workplace safety. The most recent and complete data available shows that in 2017, fatal overdoses and suicides claimed 39 workers. Emerging research supports the fact that workers who have higher risk of pain because of workplace injury are also at higher risk of opioid misuse and overdose. Construction has an injury rate that is 77% higher than the national average. According to the report, Massachusetts’ construction workers die from overdose at six times the average of other industries. The opioid overdose rate is also found to be higher among lower-wage workers.

To review a copy of the MassCOSH report, please visit: www.mediafire.com/file/9atia38h64oh4o3/DFW_april19_web_4.25.pdf/file

Senate Passes Traffic Safety Legislation; Construction Zone Safety Initiative Included

The final full week of April saw the Massachusetts Senate pass Senate Bill 2214, An Act to Reduce Traffic Fatalities, a bill designed to further enhance the state’s best-in-nation status for lowest rate of accident fatalities.  The legislation, which provides a variety of initiatives aimed at the safety of vulnerable road users such as bicyclists, pedestrians and other road users, was passed by the Senate last session as well.

The legislation is notable to the construction industry for two reasons: the mandate to install sideguards or lateral protective devices for those contractors with state contracts and the inclusion of construction safety zone improvements.  With respect to the issue of mandated equipment, the legislation specifically provides that:

“A motor vehicle, trailer, semi-trailer or semi-trailer unit classified as a class 3 or above by the Federal Highway Administration, with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or more, that is leased or purchased by the Commonwealth or operated under a contract with the Commonwealth shall be equipped with a lateral protective device, convex mirrors and crossover mirrors. This paragraph shall not apply to ambulances, firefighting apparatus, low-speed vehicles, agricultural tractors or any other classes or types of vehicles as determined by the registrar. The registrar shall adopt regulations establishing standards, consistent with the United States Department of Transportation Volpe Center’s side guard standard DOT-VNTSC-OSTR-16-05, and specifications for the size, design, and mounting of lateral protective devices, convex mirrors and crossover mirrors. The registrar may provide alternative means of compliance with the convex mirror, crossover mirror and lateral protective device requirements. A contractor’s failure to comply with this paragraph may be grounds for termination of the contract and may be punished by a fine of not more than $500 for the first offense and not more than $1,000 for a second or subsequent offense.”

 

The mandated equipment requirement shall not apply to a motor vehicle, trailer, semi-trailer or semi-trailer unit that is operated under a contract with the Commonwealth that was entered into before January 1, 2024, but will apply to all qualifying vehicles after that date.

In passing the traffic safety legislation, Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr successfully attached an amendment to improve safety in areas designated as construction zones, so-defined as places along public highways or adjacent rights of way where construction, repair, maintenance, or survey work is being performed. The language grants MassDOT the authority to implement reduced speed limits and increased construction zone fines.  Existing law does not currently allow for applicable fines to be doubled in the work zone.

This legislation, having passed the Senate, moved to the Massachusetts House of Representatives where it was assigned to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

Baker-Polito Administration Awards Funding to Protect Drinking Water Resources

Early April saw the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) award $1,119,362 to six Massachusetts public water suppliers through the Drinking Water Supply Protection Grant Program (DWSP). The grant awards, administered by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs’ (EEA) Division of Conservation Services, will enable water suppliers to protect existing or new wells and surface drinking water supply systems, such as reservoirs and other bodies of water.

Since 2004, the DWSP Grant Program has offered grants to municipal and public water systems to be used for water supply protection and land conservation purposes, such as the acquisition of land, the placing of a conservation restriction, or the assignment of a watershed preservation restriction. Land acquired through the program must be located within existing MassDEP-approved drinking water supply areas, in estimated protection areas for new sources, or in an area identified through an appropriate planning process as suitable for groundwater recharge to an aquifer. Projects funded under this grant program should also provide appropriate public recreational opportunities to the residents of the Commonwealth.

According to the MassDEP’s release announcing the awards, the 2019 DWSP grant awardees are:

  • Amherst Water Department – Kruczek Property: $41,300 grant award to preserve two parcels in the Pelham watershed for water supply protection;

 

  • Charlton Water and Sewer Commission – Buffumville Public Water Supply: $61,900 grant award to acquire a 20-acre parcel for the development of a well for the town’s public water supply;

 

  • Fall River Department of Community Utilities – Copicut Reservoir Watershed Protection Project: $200,000 grant award to acquire 16 acres of woodland to provide an additional buffer to the Copicut Reservoir;

 

  • Southampton Water Commission – Pomeroy Meadow Protection Project: $216,162 grant award to preserve 15 acres of forested land to protect the town’s critical drinking water source. This project will also serve as a catalyst for preserving the surrounding 132 acres;

 

  • Springfield Water and Sewer Commission – Fontaine Parcel Project: $300,000 grant award to preserve a 527-acre parcel that will protect the water quality in the Cobble Reservoir watershed;

 

  • Town of Gosnold – Cuttyhunk Island Wellhead Project: $300,000 grant award to conserve 20 acres of the town’s sole aquifer.

For more information regarding the program, please visit the Drinking Water Supply Protection Grant Program at: https://www.mass.gov/service-details/drinking-water-supply-protection-grant-program

Department of Family and Medical Leave Makes Workplace Poster Available

The Massachusetts Department of Family and Medical Leave recently announced that it has finalized its mandatory workplace poster.  All Massachusetts employers must display the Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) mandatory workplace poster prepared or approved by the Department of Family and Medical Leave (DFML) that explains the benefits available to your workforce under the PFML law. This poster must be placed at an employer’s workplace in a location where it can be easily read.

The poster must be available in English and each language, which is the primary language of five or more individuals in your workforce, if such translations are made available from DFML.  As recently reported by the agency, the deadline for employer notice to employees has been extended from May 31 to June 30, 2019. The notice, which may be provided electronically, must include the opportunity for an employee or self-employed individual to acknowledge receipt or decline to acknowledge receipt of the information.

Employers need to notify each of their Massachusetts W-2 employees in writing about available PFML benefits.  You must issue this notice to each employee within 30 days of their first day of employment. The notice must be written in the employee’s primary language.  Employers will also need to notify each Massachusetts 1099-MISC contractor who provides services to them, in writing, about available benefits when entering into a contract for services. The notice must be written in the contractor’s primary language.

You must obtain from each employee a written statement acknowledging receipt of the notice or a statement indicating the employee’s refusal to acknowledge the notice.

To download a copy of the required workplace notice as created by DFML, please visit:

https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2019/03/21/20190321_DFML%20Notice_FINAL.pdf