The House and Senate ended the 2019-2020 legislative session in the early morning hours on Jan. 6 by sending to the governor two major bills that had been in the works since the summer, and dozens of smaller bills, including a number of local petitions. The session-ending meetings wrapped up just before 5 a.m.

The MMA is reviewing these bills and others approved in the waning days and hours of the session and will provide additional updates as soon as possible.

Partnerships for Growth
In near unanimous votes, the House and Senate approved a long-awaited conference committee report (H. 5250) on an economic development bill meant to sustain and support economic growth and job creation.

The bill includes controversial sections related to local zoning and permitting statutes.

The compromise bill contains a version of the governor’s Housing Choices proposal, which would lower from two-thirds to a simple majority the threshold of votes required to approve certain permits and zoning changes aimed at increasing housing density.

However, the bill also includes language (section 18), opposed by the MMA, that would require the 175 cities and towns in the MBTA region to have at least one by-right multifamily housing district of a reasonable size as determined by the state’s housing agency. Any city or town that fails to comply would not be eligible for funds from the MassWorks Program, the Housing Choice Initiative, or the state’s Local Capital Projects Fund.

Transportation investments
In a second round of near-unanimous votes, the House and Senate at 3 a.m. approved a conference committee report (H. 5248) on a $16.5 billion transportation bond bill.

The bill includes substantial funding for highway and bridge maintenance, train modernization and other major transportation and transit capital projects.

The borrowing package includes renewed funding for several priority municipal grant programs, such as Complete Streets and Small Bridges, as well as new Municipal Pavement Partnership and Local Bottleneck Reduction programs, and funding to support construction and repair of state-numbered, locally owned roads.

The final transportation bond package does not include long-term funding for the Chapter 90 local road program. Legislators separated the fiscal 2021 Chapter 90 authorization from an earlier version of the bond bill, and the governor signed that one-year authorization last July. A new Chapter 90 bond bill for fiscal 2022 will be needed in the spring.

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