January 7th Information &
Resource Update
Summaries of Key Legislation Passed This Week

The state Legislature advanced a number of major initiatives to the Governor's desk in its final days of session this week. Below please find summaries of legislation passed of concern to the Partnership's stakeholders, including:
  • An Economic Development Bill
  • A Transportation Bond Bill
  • Major Climate Legislation

Each summary below includes links to access the full text of the relevant legislation, as passed. All three bills were Conference Reports, meaning earlier versions of the legislation had passed both the House and Senate. The differences between House and Senate versions were reconciled by conference committees, and returned to each chamber for an up-or-down vote. Please note that each item requires action by the Governor before becoming law.
Economic Development Bill: Summary

Both the House and Senate have passed An Act Enabling Partnerships for Growth (H.2520), an economic development and pandemic recovery package. The package includes components of the Governor's "Housing Choice" legislation, as well as borrowing authorizations to support programs designed to bolster economic activity.

Included among other provisions within the legislation, by topic area:


  • Housing Choice: Lowers the required vote threshold for a range of housing-related zoning changes and special permits at the local level from a two-thirds supermajority to a simple majority.

  • Zoning Appeals: Allows judges to require non-municipal parties who appeal special permits, site plan review, and variances to post a bond up to $50,000 to secure statutory costs. Provides judges with discretion to consider the merits of the appeal and the relative financial ability of the parties.

  • Housing Development Incentive Program (HDIP) Programmatic changes: Requires at least 10% of units to be affordable rental units for people whose income is not more than 60% of the area median income, or owner-occupied units for people whose income is not more than 80% of the area median income; amends the HDIP program to increase transparency and equity.

  • 40R Smart Growth: Permits DHCD to establish smart growth design standards; clarifies that mixed use development is allowed; places limitations on density bonus payments for housing in districts limited to age-restricted, disabled, or assisted living populations; enhances DHCD’s ability to claw back incentive payments if a community repeals 40R zoning.

  • Tenant’s Right to Purchase: Creates a local option establishing a tenant’s right of first refusal and outlines a process by which tenants occupying a residential property may purchase said property prior to its sale or foreclosure.

  • Eviction Record Sealing: Seals all no-fault eviction records.

  • Minors & Eviction Records: Prohibits minors from being named in a summary process summons; requires expungement of the names of any minors from any court record or electronic docket.

  • Local Housing Authority Board Member Elections: Amends provisions related to the election of local housing board members and modifies the definition of the tenant member on such boards by expanding seat eligibility to tenants with signed leases for public housing operated by the local housing authority, tenants in public housing operated on behalf of the housing authority, participants in rental housing assistance programs operated by a housing authority, or a resident of any such housing units over the age of 18.

  • Low-income Housing Tax Credit: Increases the state low-income housing tax credit program cap from $20,000,000 to $40,000,000.

  • MBTA Communities: Requires designated MBTA communities to be zoned for at least one district of reasonable size, as defined in the Act, in which multi-family housing is permitted as of right. Requires such housing to be suitable for families with children.

Bonding Items

The economic development bill includes $627,181,000 in bonding items. Bonding items are authorizations for the administration to borrow money to address necessary and specific projects. Inclusion in a bond bill does not mean a project is imminently due to be funded, only that the administration has the authorization necessary to borrow the funds and utilize them for the designated purpose. Bonding items in this legislation include but are not limited to:

  • Restaurant COVID-19 Grants: Authorizes $20,000,000 for a program administered by EOHED to provide financial and capital assistance to restaurants impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Site Readiness Program: Authorizes $15,000,000 for the Site Readiness Program administered by MassDevelopment to continue making sites ready for development through site assembly and assessment, permitting, and other predevelopment activities.

  • Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation - CDFIs: Authorizes $35,000,000 for the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation to provide matching grants to community development financial institutions certified by the U.S. Treasury or community development corporations certified under M.G.L c. 40H.

  • Massachusetts Broadband Incentive Fund: Authorizes $5,000,000 to fund the Massachusetts Broadband Incentive Fund for maintenance of broadband infrastructure owned by the Massachusetts Technology Park Corporation in Central and Western Massachusetts.

  • Massachusetts Technology Collaborative: Authorizes $10,000,000 in matching grants to support collaboration among manufacturers located in the Commonwealth and institutions of higher education, nonprofits and other public or quasi-public entities.

  • Technology Research & Development & Innovation Fund: Authorizes $52,000,000 for the Scientific and Technology Research and Development Matching Grant Fund to foster additional scientific and technology research and development in the Commonwealth.

  • Rural Community Development & Infrastructure Grants: Authorizes $20,000,000 for a competitive grant program fund dedicated to supporting community development, infrastructure projects, and climate resilience initiatives in rural communities and small towns.

  • Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation – Microbusiness Grants: Authorizes $25,000,000 for the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation, in consultation with the microbusiness development center, to administer a grant program to provide capital for micro-businesses and low-to-moderate income entrepreneurs looking to start or expand a new business.

  • Travel & Tourism Matching Grants: Authorizes $14,000,000 for a competitive grant program to improve facilities and destinations visited by travelers in order to increase visitation, entice repeat visitation through marketing and other means, and increase the direct and indirect economic impacts of the tourism industry in all regions of the Commonwealth.

  • Blighted Buildings Redevelopment Program: Authorizes $40,000,000 for a program to support the redevelopment of underutilized, blighted, or abandoned buildings.

  • Regional & Community Assistance Planning Grants: Authorizes $10,000,000 for planning initiatives undertaken by individual municipalities, joint cities or towns, or entire regions working together to address shared goals related to community development, housing production or other issues of local and regional concern.

  • Employment Social Enterprise Capital Grant Program: Authorizes $27,700,000 for the establishment of an Employment Social Enterprise Capital Grant Program to be administered by EOHED.

  • COVID-19 State Payroll Protection Program: Authorizes $30,000,000 for the Massachusetts Growth Corporation to provide small business loans to those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic to pay employee payroll, mortgage interest, rent, utilities and interest on other debt obligations.

  • Urban Agriculture Grant Program: Authorizes $2,000,000 for capital grants for urban farms as defined in this act.

  • Massachusetts Cultural Council Grants: Authorizes $6,000,000 for a competitive grant program administered by the MCC to promote artists in creating new mediums to showcase their art, and to promote local museums to showcase their exhibits remotely.

  • Cultural Facilities Grants: Authorizes $20,000,000 for a non-profit infrastructure and equipment competitive grant program administered by the MCC to provide means to safely and sustainably reopen to the public while upholding necessary public health and social distancing protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Transit-Oriented Housing Developments: Authorizes $50,000,000 in the form of grants and loans for transit-oriented housing and the production of high-density mixed-income affordable housing near transit modes.

  • Climate-Resilient Affordable Housing Developments: Authorizes $10,000,000 for sustainable and climate-resilient construction in affordable, multifamily housing developments to better respond to climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Neighborhood Stabilization: Authorizes $50,000,000 for neighborhood stabilization to help return blighted or vacant housing back to productive use.

  • Gateway Cities Housing Program: Authorizes $5,000,000 in a Gateway City housing pilot program to support the construction of shovel-ready market-rate housing opportunities.

  • Vocational School Expansion Grants: Authorizes $15,000,000 for capital grants to vocational technical schools to expand operating capacities and reduce wait lists.

  • Higher Education Workforce Grants: Authorizes $15,000,000 for a grant program administered by the Department of Higher Education to support career-oriented programs and initiatives at community colleges.

Pandemic Relief & Recovery

  • Third-Party Delivery Fee Caps: Limits fees charged by third-party delivery services for restaurants to 15% during the COVID-19 state of emergency; prohibits third-party delivery service companies from reducing rates for delivery drivers or garnishing gratuities as result of this Act.

  • Commission on Cultural and Creative Sector: Creates a commission to examine and make recommendations on addressing the recovery of the cultural and creative sector, including the arts, humanities and sciences, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Employee Protections, Business Growth, and Equity

  • Tourism Destination Marketing Districts: Enables, via local option, the creation of tourism destination marketing districts ("TDMDs"), made up of hotels, motels, and bed and breakfasts, for purpose of generating local revenue dedicated solely for the promotion and marketing of specific regions of the Commonwealth.

  • Waitstaff Employees: Amends the statutory definition of wait staff employee to include a person in a quick service restaurant who prepares or serves food or beverages as part of a team of counter staff; further amends that definition to clarify that such an employee has no managerial responsibility during a day in which the person serves beverages or prepared food or clears patrons’ tables.

  • Paid Family Medical Leave: Provides that the taking of family or medical leave shall not affect an employee's right to accrue vacation time, sick leave, bonuses, advancement, seniority, length-of-service credit or other employment benefits, plans or programs.

  • Grand Bargain Premium Holiday Fix: Requires retail employers to pay employees time and a half holiday pay for working on New Years Day, Columbus Day/Indigenous People's Day, and Veterans Day.

  • Natural Hair Braiding & Licensing: Exempts natural hair braiding from the definition of hairdressing, and exempts natural hair braiding from rules and regulations pertaining to aesthetics, barbering, cosmetology, electrolysis, hairdressing and manicuring.

  • PRIM Investment Board: Encourages the PRIM Board to use minority investment managers to manage PRIT Fund assets, where appropriate, and to increase the racial, ethnic, and gender diversity of Fund investments.

  • Transient Vendor License Extension: Expands the transient vendors license from one to three years.

  • Minority and Women Enterprise Study: Creates a special commission to identify ways to grow minority and women business enterprises in public construction.

  • Commission on Journalism: Establishes a commission of experts, industry members, academics, and elected officials to research and propose policy solutions related to the decline of local journalism in Massachusetts and the future sustainability of the industry.

Technology & Innovation

  • Personal Vehicle Sharing Insurance: Clarifies that carsharing platforms may obtain insurance coverage from non-admitted carriers and that carsharing platforms do not need their own insurance-producer or broker licenses to offer or maintain insurance policies for carsharing vehicles or drivers.

  • Future of Work Commission: Creates a special commission to conduct a comprehensive study relative to the impact of automation, artificial intelligence, global trade, access to new forms of data and the internet of things on the workforce, businesses and economy.

Transportation Bond Bill: Summary

Both the state House and Senate passed An Act Authorizing and Accelerating Transportation Investment, a major transportation bond bill that also includes other transportation-related provisions debated earlier in the year as part of transportation revenue legislation.

Bonding Items

In total, the economic development bill includes approximately $16.5 billion in bonding items. Bonding items are authorizations for the administration to borrow money to address necessary and specific projects. Inclusion in a bond bill does not mean a project is imminently due to be funded, only that the administration has the authorization necessary to borrow the funds and utilize them for the designated purpose. Bonding items in this legislation include but are not limited to:


  • A requirement that the MBTA conduct a feasibility study, with a written report, for in-person payment of daily parking fees without the use of a mobile telephone at parking lots owned and operated by the MBTA.

  • $10,000,000 for all-day service on the MBTA commuter rail system.

  • $50,000,000 for the Framingham/Worcester line.

  • $60,000,000 for constructing high level platforms at the busiest stations along the Franklin Line.

  • $2,500,000 for WRTA for purchase and retrofitting of handicap-accessible vans.

  • $600,000 for the planning, study, design, and capital costs to implement a Bus Rapid Transit pilot along the Route 2 Corridor (Acton to Cambridge).

  • $5,000,000 for a competitive three-year transit grant matching program for suburban communities that partner with RTAs or Transportation Management Associations and engage in Public Private Partnerships in support of commuter services linking to the MBTA.

  • Funds for the establishment of a pilot program and related capital improvements to implement dual-mode service on the south side of the commuter rail system, with priority given to dual-mode service on the Framingham/Worcester Line.

Allston Multimodal Project

The bill authorizes funding for capital costs associated with preconstruction, planning, and early action capital work for the Allston Multimodal Project, provided:

  • Two track service on the Framingham/ Worcester line be maintained with no reduction in service

  • After one year of construction West Station shall be operational with twenty-minute Commuter Rail headways and local bus service,

  • MassDOT will develop a plan to improve service and stations on the Framingham/Worcester Line that includes but is not limited to: 
  • Additional trains during peak ridership
  • Maintenance and capital improvements
  • Updating all malfunctioning signals
  • Adding third track between Framingham and Newton
  • Reconstruction of all station platforms to train level and ADA standards
  • Address time delays and improve notification to riders
  • A feasibility study for a pricing plan that establishes ticket and zone pricing
  • Cost estimate and implementation timeline no later than July 1

  • $50 million for the project mitigation efforts outlined in the legislation

  • A congestion mitigation plan be issued by a mobility manager, which will involve at least than 3 public forums to seek input from community members along the Framingham and Worcester commuter rail line, as well as input from stakeholder groups including (among others) the 495/MetroWest Partnership

Local Items

Transportation Policy Matters

  • Fees on Uber and Lyft trips would increase from $0.20 per ride of any type to $0.40 per shared ride, $1.20 per non-shared ride, and $2.20 per non-shared ride in a luxury vehicle, as well as a $0.20 "public-transit access" fee for rides originating in the 14 core MBTA communities. A portion of these revenues are designated to the MBTA and RTAs.

  • A requirement that the MBTA move forward with a low-income fare program.

  • Decriminalization of MBTA fare evasion.

  • The creation of an enforcement mechanism for bus lanes.

  • The creation of a Roadway and Congestion Pricing Commission, to be appointed by the Governor, to "study and make recommendations on the development and deployment of comprehensive and regionally-equitable roadway pricing and congestion pricing mechanisms which shall include, without limitation, greater Boston metropolitan area roadways, major bridges and interstate highways near the commonwealth’s borders."

  • $50 million for the Complete Streets program, including a requirement that "not less than 33 percent of the grants awarded shall be issued to cities and towns with a median household income below the average of the Commonwealth."   

The full text of this legislation can be accessed online at this link. The 495/MetroWest Partnership extends its thanks to Transportation for Massachusetts, from whom portions of this summary were excerpted.
Climate Bill: Summary

On Monday, both the House and Senate passed An Act Creating a Next-Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy (S.2995), major legislation intended to reduce emissions in the Commonwealth and respond to climate change. The legislation:

  • Sets statewide emissions limits every five years instead of every ten; compiling "comprehensive, clear, and specific" roadmap plans for reaching each limit; and producing regular reports on progress.

  • Codifies the statewide greenhouse gas limit for 2050 at "net zero" emissions, provided also that gross emissions must fall at least 85% below 1990 levels. Stipulates that the statewide emissions limit for 2030 shall be at least 50 per cent below the 1990 level, and that the limit for 2040 shall be at least 75 per cent below the 1990 level.

  • Increases offshore wind requirements for utilities, requiring utilities to purchase an additional 2,400 megawatts of generation. Builds on previous legislation action and increases the state's total authorization to 5,600 megawatts.

  • Mandates emissions sublimits for six high-priority sectors of the economy: electric power, transportation, commercial and industrial heating and cooling, residential heating and cooling, industrial processes, and natural gas distribution and service.

  • Defines environmental justice populations and provides new resources and protections for affected neighborhoods.

  • Requires each roadmap plan to improve or mitigate economic, environmental, and public health impacts on environmental justice populations and low- and moderate-income individuals.  

  • Raises the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS) by 3% each year for 2025-2029, ensuring that at least 40% of the state's electric power will be renewable by 2030.

  • Directs the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) to balance priorities the of system safety, system security, reliability, affordability, equity, and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Provides $12 million in new annual funding for the Mass. Clean Energy Center for clean energy workforce development for minority-owned and women-owned small businesses, environmental justice communities, and fossil fuel workers.

  • Mandates promulgation of a local option "net zero stretch energy code," including a definition of "net zero building." Authorizes cities and towns to adopt such a code.

  • Shifts responsibility for energy code development to the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) and away from the Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS).

  • Adds four new seats to the BBRS, to help with its other important duties. New seats go to an expert in commercial building energy efficiency, an expert in residential building energy efficiency, an expert in advanced building technology, and the Commissioner of DOER or her designee.

  • Instructs EEA to set explicit emissions reduction goals for each three-year plan formulated by MassSave, the state’s energy efficiency program. At the conclusion of each plan, requires the DPU to report on reductions actually achieved.

  • Requires utilities to include an explicit value for greenhouse gas reductions when they calculate the cost-effectiveness of a MassSave offering.

  • Sets numerical benchmarks for adoption of electric vehicles, charging stations, solar technology, energy storage, heat pumps, anaerobic digestors, and other breakthrough solutions.

  • Updates solar policy:
  • Loosens net metering caps by ending "load zone" restrictions, allowing an owner of a new solar facility to award duly-earned solar credits to customers of a given utility regardless of which ISO-NE load zone the customers are located in;
  • Mandates the DOER to prioritize low-income communities in the SMART solar program and in the design and operation of any other "new solar incentive program” created under the same legislative authorization;
  • Further increases opportunities for low-income individuals to participate in SMART and other future solar initiatives by allowing them to enroll without signing complicated contracts;
  • Establishes a new solar energy grant program for nonprofits that address food insecurity, homelessness, the need for emergency shelter, and other needs;
  • Writes into law a compromise between local tax assessors and developers on the tax status of clean energy installations;
  • Closes a gap in the net metering law to enable small municipal buildings to host rooftop solar;
  • Exempts businesses and other large customers from the solar net metering cap to allow them to install solar systems larger than 25 kilowatts on their premises, to help them offset their electricity use and save money; and
  • Allows utilities to own solar projects if they're located on utility-owned land within a municipality that gives its approval and is at high risk from the effects of climate change. Gives preference to municipalities with environmental justice populations. Requires utilities to conduct outreach efforts in municipalities with such populations.

  • Boosts hydrogen power by exempting fuel cell systems from local property taxes.

  • Creates a first-time greenhouse gas emissions standard for municipal lighting plants, requiring them to purchase 50% non-emitting electricity by 2030 and get to “net zero” emissions by 2050. Imposes a moratorium on wood-to-energy facilities, preventing them from qualifying as “non-carbon emitting” resources for five years. Directs EEA to conduct a new study of the impact of biomass on greenhouse gas emissions and public health.

  • Authorizes natural gas utilities to pilot "renewable thermal energy sources, systems or technologies capable of substituting for fossil-fueled natural gas."

  • Sets Massachusetts appliance efficiency standards according to California precedents and future federal standards.

  • Includes several natural gas safety measures:
  • Requires the DPU to issue new regulations relative to training and certifying utility contractors;
  • Instructs the DPU to set standards for maintaining gas distribution maps and records;
  • Directs gas companies to report "disruptions in the provision of electronic data" as a service quality metric;
  • Extends whistleblower protection to utility employees who report violations of law by their employers;
  • Increases the penalties for failure to restore service after emergencies;
  • Raises the cap on civil penalties for gas pipeline safety violations, allowing for fines in excess of those set by federal law;
  • Requires all written complaints regarding gas service to be investigated and responded to in a timely manner, and directs the DPU to establish a publicly-accessible database of such complaints; and
  • Strengthens gas company plans to address aging and leaking infrastructure, by setting interim targets for reducing gas leak rates and authorizing the DPU to levy fines for non-compliance.

  • Mandates transparency with respect to the inputs, outputs, assumptions, and modeling involved in the formulation of state climate policy.

As always, please do not hesitate to reach out if the Partnership can be of any assistance to you:
Jason Palitsch, Executive Director
(774) 760-0495 x105

Thank you for your continued commitment to strengthening our region.