PVPC Legislative Priorities

02 Mar 2023

Congratulations to Hampden and Hampshire Counties' State Representatives and Senators for being entrusted by their constituents to represent our Valley's interests in this new legislative session.

Now that the deadline for timely filed bills has come and gone, we are excited to share PVPC's legislative priorities.

Below, please find the policy and budgetary issues we hope to work with our planning district's delegation on in the Massachusetts General Court over the next two years.

Legislative Priorities

An Act relative to RPAs: This bill would enshrine current practice regarding retirement payments in statute.


Municipal and Public Safety Building Authority: Massachusetts currently supports municipalities in the construction of new school facilities with funding through the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA). However, no such Authority or dedicated funding stream exists to assist municipalities as they build or upgrade other necessary municipal facilities. This bill would establish a Massachusetts Municipal and Public Safety Building Authority to similarly assist municipalities in financing upgrades to existing municipal buildings or the construction of new municipal or public safety facilities.


Office of Rural Policy: This legislation would establish an Office of Rural Policy as recommended in the 2019 Rural Policy Plan put forward by the the Rural Policy Advisory Commission (RPAC). As Massachusetts’ rural communities plan for their future, the Office of Rural Policy would not only foster greater collaboration between small communities with similar challenges, thus increasing efficiency, but also provide a critical mechanism for continuous evaluation of established policies and programs’ ability to serve rural communities, and the opportunity to continuously adjust these policies and programs based on the Office’s findings.


Remote Meetings: This bill would allow public bodies to continue conducting public meetings virtually without in-person attendance requirements, as they have throughout the pandemic, and preserve these bodies’ discretion over the format of their meetings (e.g. virtual, in-person, hyrbid). MARPA is supportive of extending the local option for representative and open town meetings as well.


Public Meeting Notices: The closure of local print media outlets across Massachusetts has forced many communities to post public meeting notices in regional or metropolitan publications to meet public meeting posting requirements, drastically increasing the cost of these postings, while doing little to ensure residents see them. This bill would allow public bodies to post notices of their meetings in local online media publications, rather than requiring these notices be available in print.


Regional Ballot Initiatives: This bill enables a municipality (or multiple municipalities which form a regional district) to place a question on the ballot relative to raising revenue for local or regional transportation projects, as is common practice to fund these projects in California, Colorado, Georgia, Michigan, and several other states. These initiatives enjoy high rates of passage (70-80%) and operate as key transportation funding mechanisms in states where they are used.


Regional Transit Authority (RTA) Reform: This bill sets a floor for RTA contract assistance, dedicates half of revenue raised from transportation network company (TNC) fees to RTAs, requires MassDOT to fund RTA capital projects at the same rate as MBTA capital projects, directs MassDOT to support RTAs in planning for bus electrification, and ends the use of the farebox recovery ratio in RTA performance metrics. The bill also requires that the RTA Council report annually to the Legislature on funding, technical assistance and service needs, and adds two seats to the Council for frequent RTA riders.


SAPHE 2.0: Following on the success of the SAPHE Act, SAPHE 2.0 seeks to build on the success of Public Health Excellence grants and implement the recommendations of the Special Commission on Local and Regional Public Health. This includes establishing: minimum public health standards for all communities, a uniform data collection and reporting system, incentives for cross-municipal collaboration in public health, and the Commonwealth’s first sustainable state-level funding mechanism to support local and regional boards of health.


Local Option Transfer Fee: This bill would grant municipalities statewide the power to levy a fee of up to 2% on certain real estate transactions to support local affordable housing needs. It enumerates several mandatory exemptions including transfers between family, transfers of properties subject to affordable housing restrictions, and transfer for less than 100% of the state median sales price, or if a municipality's median sale price is below that of the state, the county median sales price. The bill also allows municipalities the flexibility to set further exemptions.


HERO (Housing and Environmental Revenue Options): This legislation would increase the deeds excise fee statewide from $4.56 per $1,000 of taxable value to $9.12 per $1,000 of taxable value, splitting the estimated $300 million in additional tax revenue evenly between affordable housing and climate, inclusive of both mitigation and adaptation.


Budget Priorities

District Local Technical Assistance (1599-0026): DLTA funding is distributed to the Commonwealth’s 13 Regional Planning Agencies (RPAs) serving the 351 cities and towns of Massachusetts to allow RPAs to provide technical assistance that bridges the gap between communities planning needs and their planning capacity. The technical assistance provided to these communities on local and regional projects ranging from land use permitting, zoning, housing production and preservation, and economic development, to infrastructure, energy, climate, and public health planning.

Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (2000-1014): The Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness program provides both planning and action grants for municipalities looking to plan and take action to mitigate the biggest climate change related challenges facing their communities. MARPA will advocate for an increase in funding for the program to allow it to provide deeper benefits to a greater number of communities.

Regional Transit Authorities (1595-6370): The Pioneer Valley Transit Authority and regional transit authorities (RTAs) like it across our Commonwealth share a single line item that continues to lag behind the ever increasing cost of running what for some of our most vulnerable residents is a life line to destinations of employment, health care, education, and social inclusion.