• On Friday, February 25th, for the second time in less than two years, Attorney General Maura Healey rejected bylaws approved by the Town of Brookline that place restrictions or prohibitions on buildings incorporating fossil fuel infrastructure. As she did in 2020, Healey expressed agreement with the intent of the proposed bylaws that were approved by town residents last year -- to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. But the attorney general, who is now a candidate for governor, said her statutory obligation to review the legality of bylaws prevents her from taking policy issues into account. She said her review concluded the bylaws were preempted by the state building code and a law that gives the Department of Public Utilities oversight of the sale and distribution of natural gas in Massachusetts. The decision comes as the Baker administration is proposing new building codes for the state. The proposal would not allow individual communities to ban fossil fuel infrastructure in new construction or major rehabs.

 

  • On Tuesday, March 1st, the Massachusetts Republican Party announced that Bourne attorney and 2018 Republican nominee for attorney general Jay McMahon plans to run for the post again this year. McMahon, who earned about 800,000 votes or 30% of the total in the 2018 attorney general contest, would be the first Republican candidate to jump into the race for the job Maura Healey is giving up to run for governor. On the Democratic side, three candidates, attorney and former U.S. Senate candidate Shannon Liss-Riordan, former Boston City CouncilorAndrea Campbell and 2018 lieutenant governor nominee Quentin Palfrey, are running for the AG's office. The last Republican attorney general in Massachusetts was Elliot Richardson, who left office in 1969.

 

  • On Tuesday, March 1st, Reverend Miniard Culpepper, a community advocate, lawyer, and senior pastor at Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Dorchester, announced his run for the newly drawn Second Suffolk district, a move that follows his decision to retire as regional counsel for the nation’s housing authority. Rev. Culpepper spent 27 years overseeing HUD’s fair housing policies in New England. Following the decennial redistricting process, which occurs after every census, the district he is running in includes parts of Jamaica Plain, Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan. It has been represented since 2009 by Sonia Chang-Díaz, who is running for governor. The field already includes state Representatives Nika Elugardo and Liz Miranda, who both represent parts of Boston.

 

  • On Wednesday, March 2nd, the Department of Energy Resources launched its hearings on its straw proposal for a stretch code update and a new municipal opt-in specialized stretch code, and two key senators said to Commissioner Patrick Woodcock that they expect "substantial revisions" to the proposals before they take effect later this year. Senators Michael Barrett (D - Third Middlesex) and Cynthia Creem (D - First Middlesex and Norfolk), the chairs of the Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee and Senate Committee on Global Warming, told Woodcock in a letter that the suite of state code changes to encourage builders to shift from fossil fuel heating in favor of electrification "comes up short" and took issue with the way DOER scheduled the five statutorily required public hearings. Updating the existing stretch code and creating a new net-zero specialized stretch code for cities and towns to adopt is one step lawmakers required in last year's climate roadmap law to move Massachusetts towards net-zero emissions by 2050. The law requires the new net-zero code to be in place by the end of 2022.

 

  • On Wednesday, March 2nd, Representative Thomas Golden (D - 16th Middlesex), a 14-term veteran who joined Speaker Ronald Mariano's (D - 3rd Norfolk) leadership team this session, confirmed that he will jump into the mix to become the next city manager in his hometown of Lowell. The Lowell City Council declined to extend City Manager Eileen Donoghue, a former state senator, a one-year contract extension after seeking a longer-term commitment, and she is poised to depart in April. If his bid is successful, Golden would become the third straight state lawmaker to take a job as Lowell's chief executive. Golden serves as one of four division leaders for Speaker Ronald Mariano (D - 3rd Norfolk), and his potential departure would add to the list of departures in the House's Democratic hierarchy. Former Majority Leader Claire Cronin of Easton resigned to become U.S. ambassador to Ireland, and Second Assistant Majority Leader Joseph Wagner will not seek another term. It appears the House will leave the seats vacant rather than scheduling special elections ahead of this year's biennial elections. 

 

  • On Friday, March 4th, Senator Becca Rausch (D - Norfolk, Bristol and Middlesex) noted that lawmakers are working on legislation to address foundations beneath homes in central Massachusetts that are crumbling because of the use of a particular mineral in the concrete. Rausch, who co-chairs the Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, told colleagues the panel is working on details of the bill while operating under an extended reporting deadline, with plans to "hopefully advance it soon." A bill (S.548) sponsored by Senator Anne Gobi (D - Worcester, Hampden, Hampshire and Middlesex) and supported by central Massachusetts lawmakers speaks to the presence of pyrite or pyrrhotite in quarry mining, a requirement that producers of concrete products maintain a record of concrete batch sources for at least 30 years, and enabling property tax abatements for owners of property built after January 1, 1983 and located within a 50-mile radius of Stafford Springs, Conn. The bill also addresses the operation of a "captive insurance company" to provide for assistance to homeowners with concrete foundations that have deteriorated due to the presence of pyrrhotite. A relief bill was filed at the start of this two-year session in early 2021, but didn't get a public hearing until January 2022, when lawmakers heard Gobi's bill.