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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
Policy Updates (September 22, 2023, PDF)
An Act increasing the conservation land tax credit (H.2839, S.1940)
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. The program cap would revert to $2 million after 10 years. The bills also amends the definition of a "public or private conservation agency" that may receive donations of land to include all land conservation trusts regardless of their corporate structure. (The current statute inadvertently excludes land trusts that are chartered as charitable trusts rather than non-profit corporations.) Passage is a recommendation of the Resilient Lands Initiative. MLTC will continue to work closely with coalition partners including The Trustees and TNC on strategies to move this forward. Read more about this bill here.
Joint testimony at Revenue Committee hearing (PDF), June 6, 2023
Amendment #770 (PDF)
Article: Waiting list for tax credits hurts land donation, Cape Cod land trusts say. By Jeanette Barnes. May 17, 2023
The Commonwealth issues bonds to fund capital spending on the land acquisition and restoration programs that are critical to our work. According to latest information from the Administration, spending authority from the 2018 Environment and Climate Bond is not yet depleted, so action on the next Bond bill is unlikely before 2024. As action on that becomes timely, MLTC will be working closely with our conservation partners to advocate for the bill to authorize investments that expand and 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. Governor Healy signed the fiscal year 2024 budget on August 9th. The approved budget includes significant increases to several lines of importance to the land conservation community, including DCR State Parks and Recreation, funded at $105.6 million ($20.6 million more than last year); Department of Environmental Protection, funded at $52 million ($6.6 million more than last year); Climate Adaptation and Preparedness, funded at $10 million ($4.6 million more than last year); Office of Environmental Justice, funded at $8.8 million ($7.4 million more than last year); Division of Ecological Restoration, funded at $5.4 million ($1.1 million more than last year); and the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, funded at $1.5 million ($500,000 more than last year). The Healthy Soils Program was funded for the first time with $1,020,000, following release of the Healthy Soils Action Plan earlier this year.
MLTC Also Supports
An Act relative to uniform partition of heirs property (H.1744, Rep. Roy.)
Heirs property is real estate owned by the legal heirs of a previous owner when there is no will. Under state law, multiple heirs take ownership as tenants-in-common, an unstable form of ownership that too often results in the heirs losing their land through a forced partition sale. The bill would institute new process protections for heirs in such situations by requiring that co-tenants receive fair market value in any partition sale, and generally providing that co-tenants have an option to buy. With endorsement by the Uniform Law Commission, provisions of this bill have already been adopted in 22 states and districts. Millions of dollars of inherited wealth have been lost nationally by families who were vulnerable to real-estate speculators, disproportionately impacting low-income property owners without resources for estate planning. Nationally, forced partition sales have been cited as a significant factor in conversion of agricultural property. MLTC joins a coalition including American Farmland Trust, The Northeast Farmers of Color Land Trust, Mount Grace Conservation Land Trust, The New England Land Title Association and the Greater Boston Real Estate Board in favor of this legislation.
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.
Summary and bill text (PDF)
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 changes 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.
Letter of support (PDF, June 2023)
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.
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.
Fact sheet (PDF)
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.