By Kylie Armo
Kylie here, back with a final report on my summer as a Conservation Policy Intern at Mass Audubon.
July 31st, 2016 marked the end of formal sessions in the 2015-2016 Massachusetts legislative session, and the last few weeks have revolved around pushing through a final round of legislation and getting a jump start on preparations for next session.
End of the Session Rush
Once formal sessions have concluded, all bills in the House or the Senate that haven’t made it through the entire legislative process and been enacted into law automatically die. In order for these bills to be considered further, they must be re-introduced during the next session and start again from square one. Consequently, everyone from legislators to lobbyists is keen to push through their priority bills before the clock runs out.
At Mass Audubon’s Legislative Affairs office, we primarily focused on the enactment of An Act to promote energy diversity (H. 4385, aka the “energy bill”), and more specifically the inclusion of a climate adaption management plan (CAMP) within that bill. My latest contributions to CAMP advocacy involved the delivery throughout the State House of materials aimed at raising climate resiliency awareness. With that goal in mind, I delivered informational packets on CAMP to the energy bill conference committee members and distributed invitations to a Boston sea level rise presentation to all legislators.
Though the energy bill was successfully passed on July 31st, and included landmark offshore wind procurements, our climate adaptation provisions were unfortunately stripped from the final bill. All is not lost however, and Mass Audubon will continue to push for climate legislation on Beacon Hill.
Thinking Ahead to 2017
In the midst of these final acts of formal policy making, plans and preparations for the next legislative session are also being formulated.
I recently attended a meeting focused on water policy at The Nature Conservancy that included planning for the 2017-2018 session. Comprised of advocates dedicated to the protection of the Commonwealth’s water resources, the group reviewed their positions on water legislation and discussed policy priorities for the next session. As climate models project that Massachusetts’ current drought conditions will only become more frequent and intense in the future, engagement with sustainable water polices at the state level is increasingly important.
Another recent meeting focused on the preparation of the Environmental League of Massachusetts’s (ELM) recommendations for the FY18 state budget, which are annually circulated via their Green Budget publication. ELM’s Green Budget, which Mass Audubon supports and advocates for each year, urges funding for environmental agencies at levels enabling them to sufficiently fulfill their duties and safeguard the health of Massachusetts citizens and natural resources. For the past few years, just 0.6% of the state operating budget has been allocated to the environment – that’s less than a penny for every dollar in the budget. Organizations like ELM and Mass Audubon want to restore environmental funding to at least 1% of the total operating budget.
Witnessing strategies being developed for the next legislative session serves as an inspiring reminder that there are skilled, passionate, and hard-working advocates fighting each and every day to ensure that our laws protect the people and nature of Massachusetts. I have been fortunate to work and learn alongside these individuals and organizations, particularly as a team member of Mass Audubon, a leader in the field whose engagement with conservation policy is thoughtful, science-based, and impactful.
It has certainly been an educational and unforgettable summer. Thanks for reading and following along on my journey – I hope it has provided some interesting insight into environmental policy on Beacon Hill!
Kylie Armo is Conservation Policy Intern, Summer 2016