March 2019  

House and Senate Announce Committee Assignments for 2019-2020 Legislative Session

Every two years, at the start of the legislative session, the Speaker of the House and Senate President not only establish their respective priorities, they install leadership teams to manage the over 6,000 filed matters introduced into the legislature.  The leadership and committee assignments, while sometimes involving little change, can provide a glimpse into the political machinations that often occur out of sight.  With the 2019-2020 legislative session, there was guaranteed to be great interest in the committee and leadership assignments as both Ways and Means Committees Chairs were to be newly appointed.

To that end, Senator Mike Rodrigues has been appointed Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.  On the House side, Representative Aaron Michlewicz is the new Chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means. On the Senate side, Senator Cynthia Creem of Newton will remain on as Majority Leader, while Senate President Karen Spilka appointed Senator William Brownsberger to the third ranking position as Senate President Pro Tempore.  Senator Joan Lovely was elevated to assistant majority leader and chair of the Rules Committee.  On the House side, Representative Ron Mariano and Representative Pat Haddad remain as Majority Leader and Speaker Pro Tempore, respectively. Representative Joe Wagner has been elevated to the position of Assistant Majority Leader.Of particular note to UCANE members, the following appointments were made to a variety of key committees that consider items of interest to UCANE:

House Standing Committees

Ways & Means – Chair: Aaron Michlewitz, Vice Chair: Denise Garlick, Asst. Vice-Chair: Elizabeth Malia

Bonding, Capital Expenditure & State Assets – Chair: Antonio Cabral, Vice Chair: RoseLee Vincent

Global Warming & Climate Change – Chair: Michael Finn, Vice Chair: Mary Keefe

Joint Standing Committees (House Leadership)

Environment, Natural Resources & Agriculture – Chair: William Pignatelli, Vice Chair: Dan Cahill

Labor & Work Force Development – Chair: Paul Brodeur, Vice Chair: Stephen Hay

Municipalities & Regional Government – Chair: James O’Day, Vice Chair: Thomas Stanley

Public Safety & Homeland Security – Chair: Harold Naughton, Vice Chair: Alan Silvia

Revenue – Chair: Mark Cusack, Vice Chair: Paul Schmid

State Admin & Reg Oversight – Chair: Danielle Gregoire, Vice Chair: Sean Garballey

Telecommunications, Utilities & Energy – Chair: Tom Golden, Vice Chair: Carolyn Dykema

Transportation – Chair: Bill Straus, Vice Chair: Adrian Madaro

Senate Standing Committees

Ways & Means – Chair: Mike Rodrigues, Vice Chair: Cindy Friedman, Asst. Vice Chair: Jason Lewis

Global Warming & Climate Change – Chair: Marc Pacheco, Vice Chair: Mike Barrett

Bonding, Capital Expenditure & State Assets – Chair: Mike Moore, Vice Chair: Nick Collins

Joint Standing Committees (Senate Leadership)

Environment, Natural Resources & Agriculture – Chair: Anne Gobi, Vice Chair: Walter Timilty

Labor & Work Force Development – Chair: Patricia Jehlen, Vice Chair: Jason Lewis

Municipalities & Regional Government – Chair: Rebecca Rausch, Vice Chair: Diane DiZoglio

Public Safety & Homeland Security – Chair: Mike Moore, Vice Chair: Paul Feeney

Revenue – Chair: Adam Hinds, Vice Chair: Will Brownsberger

State Admin & Reg Oversight – Chair: Marc Pacheco, Vice Chair: Barry Finegold

Telecommunications, Utilities & Energy – Chair: Mike Barrett, Vice Chair: Marc Pacheco

Transportation – Chair: Joe Boncore, Vice Chair: Eric Lesser

With committee and leadership appointments now made, the Massachusetts legislature will begin the public hearing process on the myriad of filed matters.  In addition, the two branches will undertake the fiscal year 2020 budget process started by Governor Charlie Baker’s filing of his fiscal year 2020 budget proposal in January.

Consent Order for City of Holyoke to Address Combined Sewer Overflows

According to a press release from the United States Attorney’s Office, District of Massachusetts, the City of Holyoke agreed to enter into a proposed consent decree with federal and state enforcement authorities to prevent future sewage discharges into the Connecticut River from the City’s sewer collection system.

The consent decree is the result of an enforcement action brought by the United States Department of Justice, on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, on behalf of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). According to complaints filed with the consent decree, the City of Holyoke allegedly discharged pollutants into the Connecticut River in violation of its wastewater permits intended to limit combined sewer overflow (CSO) discharges into the Connecticut River from the City’s collection system and failed to properly operate and maintain its sewer system.

In addition to a wastewater treatment facility, Holyoke owns and operates a sewer collection system that services approximately 70 percent of the City, two-thirds of which carries both sewage and stormwater. Most of the time, the combined system transports all wastewater to the facility for treatment. However, during periods of heavy rain the wastewater volume can exceed the capacity of the sewer system or the treatment facility and the excess wastewater will discharge in to the Connecticut River without treatment. CSO discharges contain raw sewage and are a major water pollution concern. Many communities struggle with these same problems the City of Holyoke has been trying to address.

The complaints alleged that from at least 2012, Holyoke discharged untreated pollutants from its sewer system in violation of its permits and both the federal Clean Water Act and the state Clean Water Act. In 2015, for example, the City reported discharging 133 million gallons of untreated effluent during wet weather, and during a 2012 inspection, EPA identified 40 potential overflows in dry weather. The complaints also alleged that the City periodically discharges sewage and other pollutants into the Connecticut River outside its sewer system, such as through manholes that flow to storm drains.

The proposed consent decree requires Holyoke to develop an enforceable, long-term plan to control discharges from the City’s sewer system by December 31, 2019. Holyoke has already begun work on developing this plan and has submitted a scope of work, which the EPA and MassDEP have approved. While the City had taken steps over the years to address sewer discharges pursuant to a number of EPA-issued administrative orders, it remained in noncompliance with its permits and both the federal Clean Water Act and the state Clean Water Act. Once the City submits the plan, the consent decree calls for the parties to negotiate what further steps the City must take regarding the discharges.

The consent decree does not assess a civil penalty against the City for its violations at this time. Holyoke, however, is subject to vigorous reporting requirements to ensure compliance with the terms of the consent decree. If the City fails to comply, it may be subject to penalties as high as $2,500 per each day of violation.

This settlement is part of EPA’s National Compliance Initiative to keep raw sewage and contaminated stormwater out of natural water resources. As reported by the United States Attorney’s Office, raw sewage overflows and inadequately controlled stormwater discharges from municipal sewer systems introduce a variety of harmful pollutants, including disease causing organisms, metals and nutrients that threaten our communities’ water quality and can contribute to disease outbreaks, beach and shellfish bed closings, flooding, stream scouring, fishing advisories, and basement backups of sewage. More information about the National Compliance Initiative can be found at: https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/national-compliance-initiative-keeping-raw-sewage-and-contaminated-stormwater-out-our.

Personnel Changes in Baker-Polito Administration as Second Term Begins

Per the normal course of second term machinations, the Baker-Polito Administration recently announced a variety of its personnel changes. With the transition from the first four-year term to a second four-year term, there are often personnel changes within any administration.  To that end, Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito recently announced the following changes:

  • Governor’s Legal Counsel.The Baker-Polito Administration announced that Lon Povich will be stepping down as Chief Legal Counsel for the Office of the Governor. His replacement will be Bob Ross, current General Counsel at the Executive Office for Administration and Finance. According to a press release from the Governor’s Office, Mr. Povich managed attorneys across the executive branch as Chief Legal Counsel and played key roles in crafting significant pieces of legislation such as last year’s criminal justice reform bill and the MBTA reform measures passed in 2015. For his part, Bob Ross has helped craft the Baker-Polito Administration’s five state budget proposals and worked with legislative leaders and administration officials on several major initiatives, including a review of all Executive Branch agency regulations, while serving as General Counsel for the Executive Office of Administration and Finance. Formerly, he was the Bureau Chief for the Business and Labor Bureau in the Office of Attorney General Martha Coakley. He came to the Attorney General’s Office from the Office of the Senate President, where he worked for more than a decade in various roles in that Office and the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, including six and one half years as Chief Policy Advisor for Senate President Therese Murray. UCANE members may remember him for his work on Chapter 259 of the Acts of 2014, the most significant water infrastructure legislation passed in the past 15 years. Mr. Ross is a graduate of the College of William and Mary and Northwestern School of Law.
  • Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development.According to a press release from the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, Secretary Mike Kennealy announced Timothy J. McGourthy as incoming Deputy Secretary, effective March 4. McGourthy will assume the role vacated by former Deputy Secretary Carolyn Kirk, who was named Executive Director of Massachusetts Technology Collaborative earlier this month. McGourthy has been engaged on policy development for local, state, and federal initiatives over his 25-year career. In the last 20 years, McGourthy held public sector and nonprofit executive roles focused on the economic growth of Boston and Worcester, most recently serving as the executive director of the Worcester Regional Research Bureau, a position he has held since February 2014. McGourthy holds a bachelor’s degree in history from The College of William and Mary, a master’s degree in government from Johns Hopkins University, and a master’s degree in public policy and urban planning from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  • Governor Baker recently announced the appointment of Andrew W. Maylor as the Comptroller of the Commonwealth.  Comptroller Maylor brings more than 25 years of local government executive leadership and senior financial experience to the Commonwealth and is the 19th Comptroller to serve since the creation of the office in 1922.  Most recently as the North Andover Town Manager, Mr. Maylor’s financial policies led to the town’s first AAA Bond Rating; and he was nationally recognized for his leadership during the 2018 Merrimack Valley Gas Disaster, one of the largest natural gas pipeline catastrophes in the nation’s history. Previously as the Chief Financial Officer and Deputy City Manager for the City of Chelsea, Mr. Maylor was a key contributor in the financial resurgence of the only Commonwealth municipality placed under receivership. Comptroller Maylor was awarded the Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association of United States and Canada in 1998-2001 and 2012-2016, and the Distinguished Budget Award in 1998-2002 and 2006-2016. Mr. Maylor is a member of the adjunct faculty in Merrimack College’s Master of Public Affairs Program and has served in a similar role at several other colleges during the past 20 years. Comptroller Maylor earned his Bachelors degree in Management Science from Bridgewater State College and his MBA from Suffolk University. He received his MPA from Villanova University.

The next few months may contain more changeovers to state personnel.  To its credit, the Baker-Polito Administration has kept a solid core of first term Cabinet Secretaries despite this natural trend for changeover.

Baker Refiles Priority Legislation to Address Housing

According to a press release and media event to announce the same, Governor Baker filed legislation to further the Administration’s Housing Choice Initiative, a plan to support the production of 135,000 new housing units by 2025. This bill builds on efforts undertaken last legislative session to deliver necessary, targeted zoning reform to benefit communities pursuing new housing production.

As outlined, the Baker-Polito Administration developed the Housing Choice Initiative to offer a combination of incentives; technical assistance and new capital grant funding to facilitate community-led housing production across the Commonwealth. This diverse set of tools for communities is intended to create the conditions for sustainable housing development that meets the needs of current and future residents.

When the Baker-Polito Administration first unveiled the Housing Choice Initiative in 2017, in addition to the changes proposed through legislation, the initiative also created a new system of incentives and rewards for municipalities to deliver sustainable housing growth by designating communities that are producing new housing units and have adopted best practices with a new “Housing Choice Communities.” It also created a new technical assistance toolbox empowering cities and towns to plan for new housing production.

The bill filed by the Governor mirrors the legislation filed by the Governor in the last legislative session. This proposal will enable cities and towns to adopt certain zoning best practices related to housing development by a simple majority vote, rather than the current two-thirds supermajority. This legislation will not mandate cities and towns to make any of these zoning changes; but will allow municipalities that want to rezone for denser, transit, or downtown oriented, and new housing development to do so more easily.

Zoning changes that promote best practices for housing growth that would qualify for the simple majority threshold include:

  • Building mixed-use, multi-family, and starter homes, and adopting 40R “Smart Growth” zoning in town centers and near transit.
  • Allowing the development of accessory dwelling units, or “in-law” apartments.
  • Approving Smart Growth or Starter Homes districts that put housing near existing activity centers.
  • Granting increased density through a special permit process.
  • Allowing for the transfer of development rights and enacting natural resource protection zoning.
  • Reducing parking requirements and dimensional requirements, such as minimum lot sizes.

This legislation also includes a provision, added by the Joint Committee on Housing last session, that would reduce the voting threshold for a special permit issued by a local permit granting authority to a simple majority vote, for certain multi-family or mixed-use projects with at least 10 percent affordable units in locations near transit or, in centers of commercial activity within a municipality. Massachusetts is currently one of only a few states to require a supermajority to change local zoning.

While a broad coalition of organizations is supporting this initiative, it was not voted on in the House or Senate last session.  Groups supporting the measure feel confident the measure will be taken up this session.

New Round of Grants Under MassDOT’s Complete Streets Program Announced

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s Highway Administrator, Jonathan Gulliver, announced awards totaling nearly $3 million to eleven communities through the Complete Streets Funding Program at the end of February. These awards will be used to fund local, multimodal infrastructure projects that improve accessibility for bicyclists, pedestrians, public transit users, and people using other forms of transportation.

According to MassDOT, a “Complete Street” is one that provides safe and accessible options for all travel modes and for all people, taking into account the ages and abilities of individuals. The Baker-Polito Administration has now awarded a total of approximately $33 million in construction funding since creating a funding program for Complete Streets in February 2016.

The Baker-Polito Administration launched the Complete Streets Funding Program on February 1, 2016. To date, 187 municipalities have approved policies and 136 have approved Prioritization Plans. Examples of projects that can be addressed through the program include filling bicycle and pedestrian network gaps, improving transit access, installing street lighting, improving safety of crosswalks and intersections, and building new shared use paths.

The Baker-Polito Administration is continuing to invest in transportation infrastructure throughout the Commonwealth. Over the 5-year period, which began July 1, 2018, MassDOT expects to spend over $7.6 billion on roadway and bridge construction projects. This includes support for the Municipal Small Bridge and Complete Streets Funding Programs, two local funding programs created by the Baker-Polito Administration.

Among the grant awards included under this round of Complete Streets program:

  • Brookline will receive $234,968 for town-wide multimodal safety improvements, including the installation of pedestrian signals, new ADA compliant curb ramps, accessible pedestrian signals, high visibility crosswalks, bicycle lanes, and bicycle boxes at the intersections of Babcock Street and Harvard Street and Beacon Street at Harvard Street.
  • Carlisle will receive $250,000 for pedestrian improvements at multiple locations, including the installation of Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons and crosswalks at 142 Bedford Road and the driveway for the public athletic fields at the Banta-Davis land.
  • Great Barrington will receive $222,077 for a sidewalk extension on Housatonic Main Street.
  • Williamsburg will receive $275,000 for pedestrian network improvements, including the construction of sidewalks along the east side of South Street from the current sidewalk terminus at #5 South Street to Eastern Avenue.

For more information about MassDOT’s Complete Streets program and a list of all awardees, please visit: https://www.mass.gov/complete-streets-funding-program.