Category Archives: State Budget

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – May 28, 2019

Action You Can Take This Week: Compost for the Climate

Did you know food waste makes up one-quarter of our state’s trash? That means biodegradable, plant-based materials are needlessly ending up in landfills and contributing to climate change. But there’s an easy fix – composting. Pledge to start today!Did you know food waste makes up one-quarter of our state’s trash? That means biodegradable, plant-based materials are needlessly ending up in landfills and contributing to climate change. But there’s an easy fix – composting. Pledge to start today!

Climate Central

A curated selection of climate news from Mass Audubon’s climate change program manager

Guiding Strong Ocean Management

Our advocacy director Jack Clarke has been reappointed by Governor Baker to the Massachusetts Ocean Advisory Commission. The Commission provides guidance on implementation of the state Ocean Management Plan, along with other ocean management issues.

State Budget Update

The Massachusetts Senate passed their version of the FY20 budget last week, including amendments funding Mass Audubon’s Trailside Museum and a needed increase for the CPA Trust Fund. Next, the House and Senate budgets will be reconciled in conference committee

Trailside director Norman Smith preparing to release a snowy owl

Fish and Game Day at the State House

Mass Audubon congratulates former state Senator, Representative, and Environmental Affairs Secretary Bob Durand on his recent appointment to the Massachusetts Fish and Wildlife Board.

Bob Durand and Mass Audubon’s Jack Clarke

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – May 20, 2019

Action You Can Take This Week: Support a Strong State Budget

The Massachusetts Senate begins debate on their version of the state budget tomorrow, and you can help make sure they strengthen funding for the Community Preservation Trust Fund and Mass Audubon’s Trailside Museum. Ask your Senator today to support amendments for CPA and for Trailside!

Trailside’s work includes the Snowy Owl Project. Photo credit: USFWS

Climate Central

A curated selection of climate news from Mass Audubon’s climate change program manager

  • This May, hundreds of valedictorians across the US will deliver the same commencement message on the need for climate action.
  • Boston makes the “A” list for cities leading the world on climate action!
  • The South Shore Climate Change Symposium, co-hosted by Mass Audubon’s North River Wildlife Sanctuary, was a successful day of idea sharing
State Representative Joan Meschino was a speaker at the South Shore Climate Change Symposium

Choosing Renewable Power for Boston

Incorporating renewable energy into local power choice programs helps communities take emission reductions into their own hands. We submitted comments on the City of Boston’s draft Community Choice Power Aggregation plan, urging them to adopt the strongest renewable component possible.

Speaking Up for Healthy Soils

We also submitted testimony with partners in support of legislation to promote healthy soils statewide. Soils are essential for life on earth, and policy makers have an important role to play in planning for their long-term health.

Drumlin Farm produce

The Plastic Problem

Mass Audubon weighed in on this recent Cape Cod Times article on our plastic pollution problem – a global issue that includes significant impacts along Massachusetts coasts.

Photo credit: NOAA

Next Steps Needed on Adaptation

We joined partners in supporting state legislation that would provide a needed framework – consistent, predictable policies and regulations – to support the progress Massachusetts has made so far on adaptation planning.

Coastal properties like these are vulnerable to sea level rise and storm damage. Photo credit: John Phelan

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – May 13, 2019

Ask Your State Senator to Support Trailside Funding

Trailside Museum Sanctuary Director Norman Smith educating visitors. Photo © Kent Harnois

Mass Audubon’s Blue Hills Trailside Museum is the interpretive center for the state-owned Blue Hills Reservation, and is home to programs like the Snowy Owl Project. Help make sure Trailside gets the state budget funding it needs.

Climate Central

Photo credit: Ryan O’Sullivan

A curated selection of climate news from Mass Audubon’s climate change program manager

  • See how much you know about what can be done to fight climate change with this quiz
  • This infographic from our Community Preservation Coalition explores how the Community Preservation Act also helps combat climate change

Improving Outdoor Opportunities

Photo credit: National Park Service

We submitted testimony last week in support of An Act Establishing the Office of Outdoor Recreation, which would work across sectors like public health, tourism, and economic development to promote recreational opportunities in Massachusetts’ outdoor spaces.

Drumlin Farm Education Honored at State House

Mass Audubon’s Drumlin Farm has received the Secretary’s Award for Excellence for their Riverschools Project, a collaboration with local schools to strengthen awareness and appreciation of river resources. Congratulations to the team!

Input Needed: Culvert and Small Bridge Replacements

Photo credit: MassDER

Climate change is a frequent concern for communities when dealing with culvert and small bridge infrastructure, since they’ll need to accommodate increased storm flows and flood levels. The state’s Culvert and Small Bridge Working Group is seeking public input as they develop recommendations to address these and other challenges

Support Trailside in the State Budget

As the FY20 state budget continues its progress through the State House, we’re at a crucial point for Mass Audubon’s Blue Hills Trailside Museum funding.

Trailside is the interpretive center for the state-owned Blue Hills Reservation and features a natural history museum and outdoor exhibits of rescued wildlife. Mass Audubon operates the museum in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, which means we receive a crucial component of Trailside’s funding through the state budget each fiscal year. Trailside welcomes more than 100,000 visitors a year and is home to the Snowy Owl Project.

Trailside director Norman Smith preparing to release a snowy owl

Although the Governor’s original FY20 budget did not include funding for Trailside, Senator Walter Timilty has filed an amendment requesting $1 million for the site. The Senate begins debate of their version of the FY20 budget on May 21. 

Over the past few years, Trailside has faced a continuing revenue shortfall and received only a fraction of the state funding needed to sustain its operation and public programs. Senator Timilty’s amendment is a chance to reclaim that much-needed funding.

You can help! Please contact your state Senator and ask them to cosponsor Senator Timilty’s Amendment #908 for Trailside, and to support the amendment when it comes up for debate next week. A quick call or email can make a big difference. Thank you for your advocacy!

End of Session Wrap-up

by Karen Heymann

On July 31st, the clock ran out for the majority of the  8,727 bills filed in the 2017-2018 legislative session, of which around only 400 were signed into law by Governor Baker. While there are many factors that go into determining the probability of a bill becoming law, those numbers translate to about a 5% chance of getting a bill passed in the Massachusetts legislature. That number drops even lower once you subtract the number of routine bills filed, such as the state budget, liquor licenses and sick leave banks.

Given these odds, the passage of our priority bill, An Act providing for the establishment of a comprehensive adaptation management plan in response to climate change, or CAMP, first filed in 2015, was remarkable. This success represented the collective efforts of many, including the Baker administration, legislators, municipal leaders, environmental organizations, businesses and others. The strong support of the Baker administration was essential; not only had Governor Baker adopted the major provisions of CAMP in an Executive Order (an excellent step, but not law), he also took advantage of the need for a new environmental bond bill and included CAMP as an outside section of the bill when he filed it. Bond bills are funding authorizations typically passed every 5 years, and can be one of the best legislative vehicles for environmental legislation, since bond bills are usually passed in the same session they are filed.

Mass Audubon advocacy director Jack Clarke, Governor Charlie Baker, and Mass Audubon president Gary Clayton at the bond announcement in Scituate back in March following a severe winter storm season

When we first started working to get this bill filed in 2015, few legislators were aware of the seriousness and magnitude of the climate threats facing Massachusetts. Even just a few years ago climate change still seemed far off, something that would impact future, not current, generations. The frequency and severity of winter storms over the past few winters however, were a wake up call to many that we are already experiencing the impacts of climate change, and that we need a comprehensive plan to prepare to deal with this threat. With the passage of CAMP, the current and future administrations are required to update a statewide climate adaptation plan every 5 years, and to support a program to provide technical and financial assistance to communities in assessing and addressing their own climate impacts.

The Bond: A Deeper Dive

Also included in the environmental bond bill were provisions which will also help reduce the Commonwealth’s climate emissions by protecting, restoring, and enhancing natural carbon storage areas like forests and salt marshes. One of Mass Audubon’s priority bills, supporting the Mohawk Trail Woodland Partnership (MTWP), was included in the final environmental bond, and will support rural economic development in the Berkshire region by promoting local sustainable forestry and eco-tourism. Mass Audubon’s Losing Ground report series has documented the threats facing privately-owned forests in Massachusetts, largely from residential and commercial development. Innovative forest management approaches, such as the MTWP, could serve as a model for other states facing similar development threats to forests and other open space.

Not all of our legislative priorities were included in the final bond or approved for final passage. The “No net loss” or “Public Lands Protection Act” (PLPA) bill, which would have codified existing state policy preventing the loss of constitutionally-protected open space (known as Article 97 lands) by requiring replacement land, as well as notification to EEA prior to filing legislation to dispose of land, was not adopted. A statewide ban on plastic bags, adopted as an amendment in the Senate, was not included in the final bond bill despite local bag-ban ordinances in over 70 cities and towns. And our priority bill that would have improved protections for pollinators statewide also ran out of time.

The newly-passed energy bill will allow for further expansion of offshore wind development off Massachusetts’ coast.

The Governor did sign into law an energy bill that increases the growth rate of the state Renewable Portfolio Standard to 2% per year until 2029 and then 1% thereafter. This will increase the percentage of our energy required to come from renewable sources to 35% by 2030 (previously set at 25%) and to 45% by 2040 (previously set at 35%). Among other things, the bill establishes stronger targets for energy storage, and increased the potential for Massachusetts to procure up to 1,600 additional megawatts of offshore wind energy by 2035.

In FY19 state budget news, the legislature approved healthy increases for the environmental agencies, but did not include two critical and widely supported sources of conservation funding: an increase for the Land Conservation Tax Credit and a much boost for the Community Preservation Trust fund, which provides a state match for locally-raised Community Preservation Act dollars. One of the big challenges for next session will be brainstorming ways to move forward funding increases for these two popular and critical sources of land protection funding.

Karen Heymann is Mass Audubon’s legislative director

The Intern Intel Report #2: Summer 2018 Edition

My name is Elizabeth MeLampy, and I am a new Conservation Policy Intern at Mass Audubon. I am from Dunstable, Massachusetts, but I’ve lived in and around Boston for the past few years. I graduated from Harvard in 2016, where I studied comparative religion with a minor in global health and health policy. During one of my summers in college, I interned on Capitol Hill in Washington DC and became fascinated by the modern political process. After graduation, I worked at a law firm in Boston for two years, and I will be returning to Harvard for law school in the fall. As I prepare for law school and all of these threads come together this summer, I find myself considering a path in environmental or animal law. In the meantime, I am excited to be here on Beacon Hill learning about conservation policy and legislation.

Despite my varied background, I have always loved bird watching and I’ve had a constant and deep respect for wildlife of all forms. Whether hiking in the White Mountains or enjoying the beaches of Cape Cod, running along the Charles or kayaking in a wooded lake, I love spending time in the natural world. It is a gift, and I believe we have a responsibility to protect it.

I have recently begun to understand how policy and regulations can have real and serious effects on even the most seemingly mundane aspects of non-human life. I am eager to learn about Mass Audubon’s priorities and to participate in promoting its messages and agenda. Already while interning at Mass Audubon, the Massachusetts Senate has debated amendments to their budget that would have lasting effects for local communities and their conservation efforts. It is energizing to see how big ideas about the environment and wildlife translate into concrete policy like this. I am excited to be a part of it all this summer!

Help Trailside Secure Needed Funding

Update 5/29/18: Good news – the version of the Senate FY19 budget that ultimately passed included $300,000 for Trailside! Thanks to everyone who contacted their state senator in support of Trailside funding. A conference committee will now have to reconcile the House and Senate budget versions, and we’ll be advocating for the highest funding levels for our priority programs.

As the FY19 state budget continues its progress through the State House, we’re at a crucial point for Mass Audubon’s Blue Hills Trailside Museum funding.

Trailside is the interpretive center for the state-owned Blue Hills Reservation and features a natural history museum and outdoor exhibits of rescued wildlife. Mass Audubon operates the museum in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, which means we receive a crucial component of Trailside’s funding through the state budget each fiscal year. Trailside welcomes more than 100,000 visitors a year and is home to the Snowy Owl Project.

Trailside director Norman Smith before releasing a Snowy Owl to safety. Photo: Raymond MacDonald

Although the Governor’s original FY19 budget did not include funding for Trailside, the House version included $50,000 thanks to an amendment filed by Representative William Driscoll.

Now the Senate is gearing up to debate their version of the budget on May 22, and Senator Walter Timilty has filed an amendment requesting $1 million for Trailside.

Over the past few years, Trailside has faced a continuing revenue shortfall and received only a fraction of the state funding needed to sustain its operation and public programs. Senator Timilty’s amendment is a chance to reclaim that much-needed funding.

You can help! Please contact your state Senator and ask them to support Senator Timilty’s Amendment #935 for Trailside. A quick call or email can make a big difference. Thank you for your advocacy!

Action You Can Take This Week – Massachusetts Cultural Council

Last week Governor Baker reviewed and finalized the FY18 state budget, and there was certainly reason to celebrate – it included $250,000 for Blue Hills Trailside Museum’s annual operating budget.

Unfortunately though, during his review the Governor also vetoed line item funding (resulting in a 14% cut) for the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC), which provides funding for arts, humanities, and science programs. The legislature can still decide to override any of the Governor’s vetoes, which Mass Audubon will be encouraging them to do for these line item. You can encourage your legislator too!

The MCC has strengthened Mass Audubon’s ability to provide nature-based education to citizens across the Commonwealth by funding upgrades to our visitor centers. As a result of these contributions, we are able to accommodate increasing demand and ensure universal accessibility for people of all abilities.

Action Alert: Critical Time for Trailside’s Budget

Late last week, the conference committee in charge of reconciling the House and Senate versions of the state budget released their $40.2 billion version. Now the budget heads to Governor Baker’s desk for his approval, where he can veto or reduce line-item funding.

Right now, $250,000 has been allocated to Mass Audubon’s Blue Hills Trailside Museum for FY18. This funding is more important than ever; due to a downturn in state revenues Trailside received no operating funds last year, and this year’s allocation represents only a fraction of what is needed to sustain Trailside and its public programs.

Trailside Museum Sanctuary Director Norman Smith educating visitors. Photo © Kent Harnois

Trailside is the interpretive center for the state-owned Blue Hills Reservation and features a natural history museum and outdoor exhibits of rescued wildlife. Mass Audubon operates the museum in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, which means we receive a crucial component of Trailside’s funding through the state budget each fiscal year. Trailside welcomes more than 100,000 visitors a year and is home to the Snowy Owl Project.

We must ensure that Governor Baker retains this funding in the budget and you can help! Call Governor Baker’s office at 617-725-4005 (or use the email form here) and ask him to support Trailside funding (within line item 2810-0100) in the state budget.

Thank you for your advocacy!

Mass Audubon Supports the Green Budget

This week Mass Audubon attended the launch of the FY2018 Green Budget, an annual report by our colleagues at the Environmental League of Massachusetts. Mass Audubon continues to support its recommendations for 1% of the state operating budget to support environmental programs and agencies – a goal Governor Baker committed to during his campaign.

As the Massachusetts Senate hosts their “Commonwealth Conversations” series around the state to hear from constituents about their priorities, let’s make sure conservation is part of the conversation!  We encourage you to attend a session and let Senators know the Green Budget is a priority for you. One penny of every state operating dollar is not too much to ask to fund environmental protection and our state parks! Currently, only half a penny of every dollar is going to support environmental agencies.  Agencies like the Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Conservation and Recreation have taken especially big hits in recent years.

To learn more about this topic, check out Jack Clarke’s recent Op Ed on the importance of budgeting 1% for nature.

Green Budget report launch event at the Massachusetts State House. Photo credit: Environmental League of Massachusetts