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Our members are the local governments of Massachusetts and their elected and appointed leadership.
An omnibus climate bill passed by the Legislature in the final days of the last legislative session and vetoed by Gov. Charlie Baker on Jan. 14 was re-filed (as S. 9) and passed again by the House and Senate on Jan. 28.
After the 2019-2020 Legislature passed the original bill (S. 2995) on Jan. 4, the governor had 10 days to decide whether to sign or veto it in its entirety. When he vetoed it on Jan. 14, the legislative session had ended and the Legislature did not have the option of considering a veto override. (Since the bill was not an appropriations or bond bill, the governor did not have the option of returning it with amendments for consideration, or vetoing sections of it.)
The re-filed bill, unchanged from the previous iteration, would establish a “net zero” limit on statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 (with gross emissions at least 85% below 1990 levels). The bill would also set interim emissions limits for 2030 (half or less of 1990 levels) and 2040 (no more than one-quarter of 1990 levels).
The bill would also mandate statewide emissions limits at five-year intervals and require the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs to develop comprehensive and specific plans for reaching each goal and to produce regular reports on how the state is doing on emissions goals.
In vetoing the previous bill, the governor outlined several policy concerns, including that the legislation could inhibit his recently passed priority, the Housing Choice Act (part of an economic development bond law), which is intended to facilitate new housing construction across the state. He cited concerns voiced by the construction industry that one provision of the climate bill, to allow municipalities to update their building codes to require net-zero energy usage, would be damaging to housing production goals.
Other areas of contention include a difference between the bill’s proposed 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2030 and the administration’s preference for a 45% target.
The governor also highlighted a gap in the area of climate adaptation, which has been a priority for his administration.
“If we intend to comprehensively address climate change, we must give ourselves and our colleagues in local government the tools necessary to create a Commonwealth that is more resilient to the destructive weather events and natural disasters we continue to face because of ongoing climate change,” he wrote.
Even before the governor announced his decision to veto the climate bill, Senate President Karen Spilka and new House Speaker Ron Mariano announced their intent to re-file the bill as soon as possible.
The re-filed bill passed by a 144-14 vote in the House and a clear voice vote in the Senate, all but guaranteeing the level of support needed to override a potential veto.
The governor now has another 10 days to either sign the new bill, veto it outright, or return it with proposed amendments.