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2023-2024 State Legislative Priorities
With a new state legislative session underway, MLTC’s policy committee has agreed upon a limited list of legislative priorities driven by two strategic objectives:
- To increase state investment in land conservation and in the work of land trusts, and
- To maximize the integrity and natural resource value of protected lands as well as unprotected lands of significant conservation value.
MLTC's Top Priorities
An Act increasing the conservation land tax credit (H.2839, S.1940)
A top priority from last session, this remains at the top of our list. This bill would raise the annual cap under the Conservation Land Tax Credit (CLTC), the state income tax credit for donations of conservation land, from $2 million to $5 million - phased over three years. It would also amend the definition of a "public or private conservation agency" that may receive donations of land to include land trusts, and provide a ten-year sunset. Passage is a recommendation of the Resilient Lands Initiative. We’ll work closely with coalition partners including The Trustees and TNC on strategies to move this forward. Read more about this bill here. We encourage you to reach out to your state legislators to encourage them to sign on as a cosponsor of this bill.
The Commonwealth issues bonds to fund capital spending on the land acquisition and restoration programs that are critical to our work. The Environment and Climate Bond approved in 2018 is nearly depleted, so a new Bond bill is expected to be filed by summer. MLTC will be working closely with our conservation partners to advocate for the bill to authorize investments that expand or create new programs in alignment with our priorities.
State Operating Budget
Under ELM’s Leadership, a broad coalition of our partners advocates for “Green Budget Priorities” in the state’s operating budget. The operating budget for FY24 will be finalized only after a mult-istep legislative process that began with the Governor submitting her recommendation on March 1, which included significant increases to many environmental programs. The Green Budget Coalition will advocate that the legislature adopt her proposed increases in funding for lines including EEA Administration, Climate Adaptation, Environmental Justice programs, DEP Administration, and DCR Parks and Rec (which would see a $22M increase to address ongoing staffing and maintenance shortfalls and support partnerships to meet DCR’s service goals.) For certain lines (e.g. Division of Ecological Restoration and Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program), the coalition may ask the legislature for more than the Governor recommended. In 2022, as it appropriated the balance of federal funding received through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the legislature put into escrow $1.74 billion in budget surplus operating funds. MLTC will join statewide partners to encourage equitable investment of a portion of these funds in land conservation, parks, and natural climate solutions.
MLTC Also Supports
An Act investing in natural and working lands ( S.448, Sen. Comerford)
Meeting the natural and working lands goals in the Clean Energy Climate Plan (CECP) will require new tools. This bill would create a local opt-in program under EEA called “Farm and Forest Friendly Communities,” to incentivize municipalities to make land use and planning decisions that reduce loss of farmland and forests. Communities would receive technical and financial assistance and increased payments in lieu of taxes on state-owned land. Consistent with CECP recommendations, this bill would also direct DEP to set a MEPA review threshold for projects that involve certain levels of forest clearing or farmland conversion, and recommend a successor to the SMART solar siting incentive program that would minimize impacts to priority forest and farmland.
An Act to encourage solar development on buildings and disturbed land (H.3225, SD2013, Reps. Lindsay Sabadosa & Sean Garballey/Sen. Mark)
Massachusetts has committed to deploying solar energy that maximizes clean energy generation, avoids impacts on humans and natural communities, and connects efficiently to the grid. This bill would help achieve these goals by encouraging installation of solar panels on buildings and disturbed sites, such as parking lot canopies, brownfields, and roadway cuts. It would require the Department of Energy Resources to make change to existing policies and programs, such as net-metering and SMART, to increase incentives for generation and siting of solar projects in the built environment. Sierra Club is leading the effort on this bill.
An Act to create a commission to determine the feasibility of voluntary acquisition of flood risk properties (H.876, S.557) (Rep. Sarah Peake, Sen. Marc Pacheco)
This bill would create a new commission to bring together agency officials, legislative leaders, and expert stakeholders to study the feasibility of a voluntary acquisition program for properties that are subject to risk of catastrophic flood damage --- helping owners and renters move out of harm’s way while conserving land and restoring wetlands to increase climate resiliency. The commission would be tasked with making concrete recommendations to lawmakers for how to address this difficult and pressing issue, especially for Massachusetts’ most vulnerable residents. The Trustees is leading the effort on this bill.
Outdoor Recreation Act (H.757, S.488 Rep. Natalie Blais & Sen. Paul Feeney)
This bill would create a statewide dedicated fund to ensure the success of the newly created Massachusetts Office of Outdoor Recreation and provide grants for outdoor recreational purposes, with priority given to projects that benefit underserved and Environmental Justice populations. There would be no increase in sales tax, but existing sales tax revenues received by the Commonwealth from the sale of sporting goods would be placed in the Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund for the purposes of conservation, creation, preservation, and restoration of natural resources for recreational use. The Trustees and Charles River Watershed Association are leading the effort on this bill.
MLTC issues an Action Alert to the land trust community when legislation or a policy issue of high importance to land conservation is under consideration by the Massachusetts State Legislature. Our Action Alerts describe the policy issue, and how your land trust and members of your land trust can voice your support or concern.
Does your land trust have a new staff or board member who would like to receive MLTC Action Alerts? Please contact us and we'll make sure he/she is included on the list.