Mayor Walsh releases ambitious 2015-2016 legislative agenda
January 16, 2015
Mayor Martin J. Walsh today unveiled an ambitious 2015-2016 legislative agenda, focused on the Mayor’s continued commitment to strengthening neighborhoods and supporting the local economy. The Mayor’s agenda will create tools that will have an immediate impact on Boston, and support the growth and development of the City for the next generation.
“After 17 years in the legislature and now as Mayor of Boston, I see the impact Boston has not only on the region but on the Commonwealth,” says Mayor Walsh. “I am committed to working with the State legislature and our local partners from across the Commonwealth to pass legislation that is mutually beneficially to us all. In particular, I want to thank Boston’s state delegation for their support and collaboration on these legislative initiatives. I look forward to working with them as well as all of my colleagues in the Massachusetts Senate and House of Representatives to ensure that we have a successful two year legislative session here in the City.”
Improving the climate for local businesses, Supporting workers
Filing 56 bills, 26 new to the City’s agenda, Mayor Walsh is proposing two innovative approaches to our business licensing process this legislative session. The first would provide municipalities with increased flexibility for the issuance of entertainment licenses and common victualler licenses, which are required for all food establishments. It would also eliminate the need for certain specialty licenses, reducing the administrative burden for our small and local businesses. This proposal also includes a local option to allow licensed establishments to stay open past 2 a.m. to complement the work of the Mayor’s Late Night Task Force. The second proposal would allow monetary fines to be levied against business owners for license violations. Current enforcement tools, including suspension and revocation of a license, not only hurts the establishment’s owner but also negatively impacts those who work in the service industry. Monetary fines would provide an additional tool to licensing authorities that would hold employees harmless. These changes reinforce and strengthen the Mayor’s efforts to streamline the regulatory process for the important small business community.
Supporting Access to Affordable Housing
As referenced in his State of the City Address, Mayor Walsh will file a local option for a modest property tax incentive for private developers of workforce housing. Through this legislation, the City will designate workforce housing special tax assessment zones in areas that present an opportunity for increased development of middle-income housing. It would be within those zones that property taxes are waived during the two-year construction phase and then phased in to 100% over a 3 year period. This will act as an incentive to maintain affordable rents while only creating a modest reduction in tax revenue for the City during development and stabilization of certain housing projects.
An Equitable Electoral Process
Fulfilling his promise to create a more equitable electoral process, Mayor Walsh is filing a new special act that modifies the nomination paper process for municipal elections in the City of Boston. As it stands now, voters in the City are only allowed to sign one nomination paper for candidates for mayor and district city councilor, and up to four nomination papers for city council at-large candidates. Mayor Walsh’s initiative will allow voters to sign nomination papers for as many candidates as they choose. This change would allow more candidates to meet the threshold required to seek elected office and would provide voters in the City of Boston broader choice when entering the voting booth.
Working to Lower Utility Costs
Mayor Walsh’s new proposals also include the establishment of a home heating commission to study opportunities to shift residents away from inefficient, costly and carbon-intensive heating systems toward cleaner and more affordable alternatives. As a result of rising energy costs, inefficient heating systems, and recent patterns of severe weather, a record number of Massachusetts households are in need of financial assistance to adequately heat their homes. To build upon his past advocacy for the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, Mayor Walsh is taking a leadership role in facilitating the state-level discussions around the long-term solutions to reducing home heating costs and promoting energy efficiency.
To ensure that Massachusetts veterans receive the benefits their service warrants, Mayor Walsh will file legislation to provide additional financial assistance to military families who are not able to cover funeral and burial expenses for a veteran. The Mayor’s proposal will increase the caps currently in place on both the benefit level that municipalities are able to provide these families and the total allowable expenses, to keep pace with the cost of burials and services.
Increased Access to Recovery Services
As a long-time friend to and advocate for the recovery community, Mayor Walsh will continue to push for legislation, which he had sponsored as a State Representative in prior sessions, that would provide individuals facing first and second time non-violent, drug offenses an opportunity to be evaluated by a licensed addiction specialist. Those with a documented medical need would have access to addiction treatment before continuing with their judicial proceedings. Through his new Office of Recovery Services, this legislation is one part of the Mayor’s plan to ensure that the treatment and recovery systems are in place to support those battling addiction and their loved ones.
In the past legislative session, in partnership with his colleagues at the State House, Mayor Walsh secured a number of state policy changes to benefit the City of Boston. Additional liquor licenses were made available for the first time since 2006, particularly for underserved neighborhoods and Main Streets districts. Also, for the first time since 1906, appointment authority over the Boston Licensing Board was transferred back to the City. Significant changes strengthened our state gun laws, including more comprehensive background checks, and needed reforms to expand access to and the effectiveness of our substance abuse recovery system were made.