2021/2022 End of Formal Legislative Session

The end of formal sessions, which occurs on July 31st every other year, are typically busy with a flurry of activity and sometimes can be a bit chaotic! And the end to the 2021-2022 formal legislative session, which lasted 23-hours, was no exception. Leading up to the last 10 days of session, there were still 13 bills in active conference committees including:

  • General Bond, Infrastructure and Judiciary IT Bond Bills
  • Energy and Climate Bill
  • Reproductive Rights Bill
  • Veterans and Military Families and Soldiers’ Home Reform Bills
  • Cannabis Reforms Bill
  • Sports Betting Bill
  • Mental Health Access Bill
  • Open Space Preservation Bill
  • Economic Development Bill

With negotiations continuing into the early morning on August 1st, House and Senate leaders worked diligently to finalize as many of these bills as possible. When they finally gaveled out of session at a little after 10:00am on August 1st, all bills had been passed and sent to the Governor’s desk except for the Economic Development Bill and the Open Preservation Bill. Those bills remain in conference and we will have to wait and see if the Legislature can pass them in informal session or if it will suspend its own rules and bring all Legislators back this fall to wrap up these final bills.

See below for additional details on some of the biggest legislation to pass this session, including highlights from important workforce provisions of these bills:

Bond Bills:

An Act financing the general governmental infrastructure of the Commonwealth which authorized nearly $5.2B in bonds to repair, modernize, and upgrade state buildings, including $100M for the Workforce Skills Grant program. The Legislature had sought to impose a five-year moratorium on expanding the prison and jail footprint in Massachusetts but that portion was vetoed by Governor Baker. Workforce highlights include:

  • $500,000 for Bristol Community College for the construction of the National Offshore Wind Institute in the city of New Bedford to support job creation and workforce development.
  • $100M for the Workforce Skills Grant program.

 You can view the final bill here.

An Act to improve and modernize the information technology systems and capacities of the Judiciary which includes $165M in bonding authority to improve the IT system in the Judiciary and firearms language to respond to the recent Supreme Court ruling on NY’s gun law.

You can view the final bill here.

An Act relative to Massachusetts’ transportation resources and climate which authorizes nearly $11.4B, including $400M for immediate safety improvements at the MBTA and a $275M down payment towards the east/west rail expansion. In addition this legislation includes, $2.8B for projects on the interstate and non-interstate federal highway system, $1.375B for transit and rail improvements, $1.27B for non-federally aided road and bridge projects and tens of millions of dollars more for transportation planning, regional transit network improvements and Complete Streets funding for municipalities.

You can view the final bill here.

Energy and Climate Bill:

An Act driving clean energy and offshore wind which will reshape the way the state connects to offshore wind power, accelerate a transition to renewable energy sources, and help Massachusetts achieve its target of net-zero emissions by 2050. In terms of workforce development, the bill will:

  • Require EOLWD to provide DESE with a list of occupations in high-demand industries in the Commonwealth that either require an industry-recognized certification or for which such certification will enhance a job applicant’s opportunities for employment or increased compensation. The list shall include, but not be limited to: (i) the related workforce needs and shortages in each region of the commonwealth; and (ii) recommendations on potential courses and programming in public schools that can effectively contribute to providing credentials for high-demand industries in the commonwealth. EOLWD and DESE will have to make this list available to all school districts in the Commonwealth and post the list publicly on EOLWD’s website.
  • Direct DESE and EOLWD to develop a pilot program to help students acquire academic and technical skills that will prepare them for high-demand jobs in the offshore wind industry, including jobs in the offshore wind supply chain, including, but not limited to, manufacturing, construction, assembly, shipping and operations and maintenance, and any additional credentialed programming in support of the offshore wind industry. In addition, DESE shall reimburse each school district at a rate of: (i) $750 for each student in the district who earns an offshore wind industry-recognized certification for an occupation that has a high employment value or relevant industry-recognized certification that is recognized by any public institution of higher learning in the commonwealth as a basis for academic credit at such institution, and (ii) $600 for each student in the district who earns an industry-recognized certification in the offshore wind industry that does not meet the criteria of clause (i) but addresses regional demands identified by the local MassHire Workforce Board.
  • Make changes to the Massachusetts Clean Energy Technology Center governance structure and create the  Massachusetts Offshore Wind Industry Investment Trust Fund, which among other directives, shall work with regional employment boards to develop regional strategies to support the development of the offshore wind industry.
  • Finally, the creation of a Clean Energy Equity Workforce and Market Development program within the Clean Energy Center, which shall provide working training, educational, and professional development, job placement, startup opportunities.

You can view the final bill here. Senator Comerford has an in-depth analysis of the bill which can be viewed here.

Reproductive Rights Bill:

An Act expanding protections for reproductive and gender-affirming care which would create new legal protections for providers, require insurers to cover abortions without shifting costs to patients, expand availability of emergency contraceptives, among other provisions, all in response to the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade.

You can view the final bill here.

Veterans and Military Families and Soldiers’ Home Reform Bills:

An Act relative to military spouse-licensure portability, education, and enrollment of dependents which will overhaul aspects of professional licensing procedures, extend in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities to military members stationed in Massachusetts and their families. It also includes a tax credit for small businesses that hire members of the National Guard and requires the Governor to annually recognize the founding of several branches of the military.

You can view the final bill here.

An Act relative to the governance structure and care of veterans at the commonwealth’s veterans’ homes which will reshape the oversight, and chains of command for the Holyoke and Chelsea Soldiers’ Homes. This bill was passed in response to the deadly COVID-19 outbreak that hit these Homes in March 2020 and incorporates many of the recommendations of a special commission that was convened by the Legislature last year.

You can view the final bill here.

Cannabis Reforms Bill:

An Act relative to equity in the cannabis industry which will institute regulatory reform in the cannabis industry, institute reforms to increase diversity in the field, increase oversight on agreements between marijuana businesses and municipalities, and move closer to social pot consumption sites.

You can view the final bill here.

Sports Betting Bill:

An Act regulating sports wagering which will legalize wagering on professional and some collegiate sports, excluding betting on Massachusetts colleges and universities unless they are playing in a tournament. In terms of workforce development, this bill will:

  • Create a Workforce Investment Trust Fund, which would receive 17.5% of funds in the Sports Wagering Fund and be administered by EOHED. These funds will  be competitively granted to develop and strengthen workforce opportunities for low-income communities and vulnerable youth and youth adults in Massachusetts.

You can view the final bill here.

Mental Health Access Bill:

An Act relative to addressing carriers to care for mental health is a comprehensive bill that will continue the process of reforming the way mental health care is delivered in Massachusetts.

You can view the final bill here and a summary of the legislation here.

What’s To Come Next?

As noted above, the Open Space Preservation and Economic Development bills remain in conference.

The $4B Economic Development bill, which includes a $1B tax relief proposal, has received considerable attention given the expected tax refunds and spending included in the legislation. Lobbyists and others who work in public policy were surprised when the Legislature could not strike an agreement on an Economic Development bill given that it typically is passed without issue each legislative session.

However, a little-known provision called 62F put a wrench into the negotiations. Chapter 62F, which is the result of a tax cap referendum in 1986, has only been triggered once since its inception. Under Chapter 62F, if revenues grow by more than the growth in wages and salaries in any fiscal year, the excess money must be returned to taxpayers. Given the historic surplus expected from FY22 revenues, there is a good chance that 62F will be triggered in FY22. It appears the Legislature learned of this possible triggering of this law late in the session and caused negotiations on the Economic Bill to falter. While Governor Baker and Senator Spilka believe the state has enough revenues to pass the Economic Development bill and satisfy the requirements of 62F, House Speaker Mariano wants to wait for the auditor to determine how much, if any, tax revenue was collected above the cap and must be returned to the taxpayers.

As calls grow on the Legislature to suspend its own rules and come back to pass this legislation, MWA will keep you informed as things progress. Workforce provisions in the Economic Development bill to pay attention to include:

  • Additional funding for the UI trust fund.
  • Funding and a requirement for a comprehensive study of MassHire and Commonwealth Corporation training programs.
  • Funding for municipalities for local initiatives including training.
  • Expansion of the registered apprenticeship tax credit, and
  • The creation of a cyber security center.

You can view the final House bill here and Senate bill here.

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