Below please find a brief update of recent activity at the State House and insight into what it all means from the Green Industry Alliance/BCB Government Relations. Courtesy of Irrigation Association of New England

Legislative Environment
The Legislature will cease formal sessions for the 2017-2018 term at midnight (or around there) on Tuesday, July 31, 2018.  After this date, the House and Senate will continue to meet twice each week for informal sessions until the new and re-elected legislators are sworn-in on the first Wednesday of January 2019.  During these sessions, only matters deemed non-controversial can advance and any single member may object to any matter, blocking it from moving forward.  So, anything that will be debated or that requires a roll call vote must be done prior to midnight on July 31st.

With the deadline looming, the Legislature has kicked into high gear and the House and Senate have passed several matters that are now being negotiated in conference committee, including the FY19 budget, short-term rentals (AirBnB), data breach, red flag/ERPO (gun ownership), veteran benefits, health care cost containment and civics education.  The next tier of issues includes another package on opioid abuse prevention and treatment, wage theft, raising the age to purchase tobacco and clean energy.  The hundreds of smaller issues still pending can fight to move ahead but not if there is even a moderate amount of disagreement.

Plenty of votes here once the branches reach the agreement and enough things to tout on the campaign trail from leadership’s perspective, so while the Senate may continue to pass a lot of crazy proposals, the House isn’t likely to budge and move off their list of priority issues.

Click here for a legislative tracking report is attached for your information – lots of issues included to give context.

Grand Bargain Passes
Three ballot questions got rolled into one bill that was engrossed and enacted by the Legislature last week and Governor Baker is expected to sign the bill into law before July 2nd.  The package includes provisions to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour over the next 5 years while reducing the time-and-a-half premium Sunday pay over the same period, establishing a permanent sales tax holiday, and establishing a new paid family and medical leave program.  Proponents of the sales tax reduction and the paid leave questions have agreed to pull their questions but the Raise Up coalition is still discussing its plans on minimum wage and could still submit their signatures and appear on the November ballot.  That will, of course, carry a significant amount of political grief form the Legislature, but this group was very upset about the reduction on premium Sunday pay and they could go forward despite the recent actions.

These two links below are documents that provide further details on the changes.

Proposed Ballot Initiatives

2018 Ballot Compromise Legislation

GIA Priorities
Proponents of legislation to restrict the use and require additional notifications related to the use of neonicotinoid-based pesticides (H.4041)continue to push aggressively for the advancement of the bill that remains pending before the House Committee on Ways and Means.  They have held events in and around the statehouse over the past few weeks and have activated their grassroots efforts – pushing information about retailers like Costco and Kroger that are taking steps on their own to limit the sale and use of these products.  And, of course, they have a blog that shows some “studies” that paint a troubling picture about MA hives.  The Vice-Chair of the Committee, Stephen Kulik (D-Worthington)  has been a strong advocate internally, pushing back against this legislation and given the timing, we are fairly well positioned but funny things can happen during these closing weeks of the session.  If you have a moment, please check to see if your State Representative is on the HWM Committee https://malegislature.gov/Committees/Detail/H34 and if you see them listed, send them a quick note expressing your concerns with this bill and suggesting it might be preferable to have DAR conduct an analysis before passing legislation.  If your Rep is not on the Committee, please send emails to the Chair and Vice-Chair – emails available using the same link.