Senate Passes Economic Development Bill

COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS
MASSACHUSETTS SENATE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON 02133

Senator Joan B. Lovely
State Senator
2nd Essex District

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

July 15, 2016

Senate Passes Economic Development Bill

 (Boston) – Late yesterday evening, the Senate passed comprehensive economic development legislation including investments, initiatives and incentives to promote development and workforce training, create jobs and stimulate the Commonwealth’s economy. The legislation strengthens existing programs and authorizes $743.9M in capital spending over a period of three years for a range of economic development initiatives supporting workers, businesses and communities.

The bill strengthens existing programs designed to create jobs and connect people to jobs, makes several changes to tax incentives and expenditures and establishes a tax expenditure review unit. The bill also establishes a new tax incentive, limited to Massachusetts residents, encouraging families to save for higher education. Continuing the Senate’s efforts to address income inequality and support working families, the bill increases the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) by 5%, from 23% to 28% of the federal refund, effective January 1, 2018, and closes a loophole that allows nonresidents to claim this credit in Massachusetts

During the debate, the Senate voted to adopt several of Senator Joan Lovely’s local funding and statewide policy amendments.

The Senate voted to adopt Senator Lovely’s Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) amendment, which was originally introduced to the Massachusetts legislature by joint sponsors Representative Ellen Story and Senator Lovely. The PWFA amends Massachusetts anti-discrimination laws to include pregnancy, childbirth or a related condition, including the need to express breast milk for a nursing child. The legislation further protects pregnant workers from discrimination in the workplace by prohibiting employers from not hiring or firing a worker from her job based on pregnancy, requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodations for workers who are pregnant, including accommodations such as providing a stool to sit on and allowing the worker to carry a bottle of water, and prohibiting an employer from requiring an employee to take paid or unpaid leave because of pregnancy.

“Pregnancy is a natural part of life, and pregnant women should not have to choose between losing their jobs or risking their health or the health of their babies when they can continue working with a reasonable adjustment,” said Senator Lovely. “The Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act will ensure that pregnant workers are treated fairly on the job.”

Senator Lovely’s amendment updating Massachusetts alcoholic cider tax law was also adopted by the Senate. The amendment, originally introduced in the Massachusetts legislature by joint sponsors Representative Paul Tucker and Senator Lovely, would bring Massachusetts in line with the federal CIDER Act that was recently adopted by Congress and scheduled to come into effect on January 1, 2017. Under current law, much of the cider produced in Massachusetts is taxed at the same rate as champagnes and wines, despite drastic differences in the nature of the products. The change better reflects the characteristics of cider’s production, marketing, and pricing, and will help to support over twenty cideries and other cider producing businesses across the Commonwealth.

“This change will support the growing hard cider industry in our Commonwealth, which includes many small businesses and great local entrepreneurial spirit,” said Senator Lovely. “I’m particularly pleased with the passage of this amendment as it will support the growth of Far From the Tree Cider, a rapidly growing cider producer located in Salem.

Senator Lovely also filed two amendments supporting local projects that were adopted in the Senate’s Economic Development legislation. One amendment included $250,000 for the repair of the Carriage House at Lynch Park in Beverly that has become an increasingly popular choice for weddings, class reunions, and other special occasions.

“While progress has been made in preserving, restoring and renovating the Carriage House, there is still a significant need for additional funding to complete its restoration,” said Senator Lovely. “Most recently, last week a portion of the Carriage House was affected by a fire. Fortunately, the portion affected was a part of the building not yet renovated. However, the building suffered damage and now will cause a larger investment in this part of the building.”

Another amendment included $250,000 to support the creation of a Children’s Museum or other economic redevelopment of 2-12 Washington Street in Peabody, which were recently acquired by the City of Peabody.

“There is an opportunity and potential for these properties to play a key role in preserving the city’s history and improving upon the vitality of downtown,” said Senator Lovely.

In securing these amendments to fund improvements in both Peabody and Beverly, Senator Lovely worked closely with Representatives Thomas Walsh and Jerry Parisella along with Beverly Mayor Mike Cahill and Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt respectively. Senator Lovely was also pleased to work with Representative Paul Tucker to secure $150,000 for improvements to the Route 107 corridor in Salem in the House version of the bill.

A conference committee will now resolve the differences between the Senate and House versions of the bill. All appropriations are subject to authorization by Governor Charlie Baker.

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