MassLand 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 under debate and who your land trust and members of your land trust may contact to voice your support or concern.
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At its April meeting, the Policy Committee of MLTC reviewed bills filed to date in this legislative session and determined our highest priorities are:
An Act Increasing The Conservation Land Tax Credit (S.1986 / H.2960), sponsored by Sens. Tarrand Hinds; Reps. Jones and Pignatelli
This bill would raise the annual cap under the Conservation Land Tax Credit, 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 and provide a ten-year sunset.
An Act Preserving Open Space in the Commonwealth (S.524 / H.851), sponsored by Sen. Eldridge and Rep. Balser
Previously known as the Public Lands Protection Act (PLPA), this bill would prevent loss of constitutionally protected Article 97 lands by requiring replacement land, as well as notification to EEA prior to filing legislation to dispose of land. The legislation codifies EEA’s current "no net loss" policy.
PLPA support letter
PLPA fact sheet
MLTC also supports passage of:
S.603 / H.983: An Act establishing a Massachusetts flood risk protection program
This bill would require the state to create a new Flood Risk Protection Program (FRPP) to eliminate risk of flooding to homes and buildings by acquiring homes, small businesses, and nonprofit properties from interested owners and helping them relocate. The FRPP would cover inland and coastal properties and would 2 be entirely voluntary. Once property is acquired, the legislation requires the removal of structures and the permanent conservation of the land. A new climate resilient landscape would serve as a natural buffer against flooding to protect communities and natural resources.
S.1875 / H.2831: An Act to reform payments in lieu of taxes for state-owned land
This bill would change the way PILOT program payments for state-owned lands are calculated for municipalities, based on recommendations in the State Auditor’s December 2020 PILOT Report. The goal is to increase and equitably distribute of PILOT funds to make sure the formula no longer disadvantages smaller, rural communities.
H.2977: An Act relative to the classification and taxation of urban public access land
This bill would add a new chapter 61C entitled, Classification and Taxation of Urban Public Access Land. The bill incentivizes the protection of urban open space by reducing the acreage of land eligible for the Chapter 61 tax program to 5,000 square feet for land that is retained as defined open space or recreational resource open to the public. It also sets out parameters for valuation and changes of use.
S.560: An Act Establishing the Office of Outdoor Recreation
This bill would create a new office focused on outdoor recreation within EEA to support, promote and market outdoor recreational activities available throughout the state. The office would coordinate with other secretariats and nonprofit and business partners, stimulate economic development, and improve the quality of life, health, and well-being of residents and visitors to the Commonwealth.
S.556 / H.937: An Act providing for the public health by establishing an ecologically based mosquito management program in the Commonwealth
This bill proposes comprehensive improvements to the way the state manages mosquitoes. It establishes a new Mosquito Management Office and new Mosquito Management Board within EEA and creates a system where pesticide use is allowed only for disease control under ecologically based management plans. It also creates streamlined notice and opt out requirements, and bans pesticides containing PFAS.
S.2147 / H.3306: An Act to Improve Outdoor Lighting, Conserve Energy, and Increase Dark-Sky Visibility
This bill would promote energy-efficient lighting practices by requiring municipal- and state-funded projects to adopt standards for exterior lighting that meet best standards for human and wildlife habitat, require the Mass. Department of Transportation to update its criteria for road lighting, and require the Mass. Department of Public Utilities to establish incentives for energy efficient street lighting.
As the session progresses, we’ll monitor additional bills that may warrant support or opposition from the land conservation community.
FY22 Green Budget Priorities
MLTC is an active supporter of the Green Budget Coalition, which advocates for environmental priorities in Massachusetts' state operating and capital budgets. For the FY22 operating budget, priorities include increasing the DCR State Parks and Recreation budget to $50 million, the Department of Environmental Protection budget to $40 million, $1 million for the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, $3.25 million for the Division of Ecological Restoration, and $160,000 for the State Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs to hire staff to implement the new climate law as provided in the Senate budget.