2019 marks the start of a new two-year legislative session in Massachusetts, the 191st in our state’s history, and MAR is excited to advocate on your behalf.
by Justin Davidson, Esq. Government Affairs Director & General Counsel
In this session, we’ll continue our support of innovative policies to increase housing production, support housing affordability, and help you do your jobs. While we’re already two months into the session, we wanted to give you a glimpse into how it all works so you’ll be able to follow and participate in the process.
Each session is a fresh start for the legislature. All bills that did not pass by the final day of the 2017-18 session are wiped clean, and all bills must be filed or re-filed anew. In the coming months, legislative committee memberships will be announced and committees will start holding hearings on bills by the spring. Every one of the thousands of filed bills will receive a public hearing. Some will pass throughout the session, many will not be enacted until the end of formal session in the summer of 2020, and most will not pass. MAR will be reviewing hundreds of bills relevant to our priorities
Each session features two budget cycles for the state’s fiscal year, which ends on June 30th. The governor’s office will release their budget by the end of January. The House and Senate will both develop budgets throughout the spring, culminating in the creation of a conference committee. A conference committee is made up of three members of the House and three members of the Senate. These members will negotiate a compromise budget by late June.
Once enacted by the legislature, the compromise budget will be sent to the governor who can use a line item veto to remove provisions that he disagrees with. The legislature will then have the opportunity to override those vetoes to finalize the budget.
MAR works to influence dozens of pieces of legislation and portions of the budget through support, opposition, or simply clarification to help legislators better understand the practical implications of their proposals. We accomplish this through several avenues, including conversations with legislators and staffers, testifying at hearings, and making public statements. We have worked hard to cultivate relationships with legislators and staffers and are proud to be a respected resource on housing and zoning issues.
Once again, we will support proposals to increase housing production in Massachusetts. We will support the H.O.M.E. bill that MAR developed in 2014, which seeks to remove existing barriers to housing production. We will also continue to support other proposals such as An Act to promote housing choices, which gives municipalities more tools and incentives to increase housing development. The bill nearly passed last session and Gov. Charlie Baker has again named it one of his top priorities.
We are also excited to be supporting a new bill in response to concerns we heard from many of you about challenges you faced in earning continuing education course credits. The bill, filed on our behalf by Sen. Paul Feeney (An Act further regulating the continuing education requirements for real estate brokers and salespersons), will enhance the Real Estate Board’s ability to approve courses for continuing education credits. Feeney is a member of the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure.
We are also on the lookout for bills that would negatively affect the real estate industry and homebuyers and sellers. One example is a proposal from Baker to increase the transfer tax on home sales by more than 50 percent in order to fund climate change resiliency programs. If enacted, such a tax hike would drive up the already high cost of housing in Massachusetts and strip homeowners of the equity in their property.
Stay tuned for regular updates on our advocacy and we urge you to get involved. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us or your legislative officials directly to share your concerns.