Is Massachusetts ready for carbon pricing? MIT News

On Jan. 25, the MIT Climate Action Team organized a carbon-pricing panel that included (from left to right) Massachusetts State Sen. Michael Barrett, State Rep. Jennifer Benson, Climate XChange Research and Policy Director Marc Breslow, Associate Professor Janelle Knox-Hayes, Joint Program Co-director and Sloan School of Management Senior Lecturer John Reilly, and Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research Director and Sloan Professor Christopher Knittel.

On Jan. 25, a panel at MIT explored the benefits, costs, and political challenges involved in translating carbon pricing from concept into law in Massachusetts and beyond. Hosted by the student-led MIT Climate Action Team and held at the MIT Stata Center, the panel disucssion included Massachusetts state Sen. Michael Barrett and state Rep. Jennifer Benson, authors of two different carbon-pricing bills; Marc Breslow, research and policy director of the carbon-pricing research and advocacy group Climate XChange; and three experts on the topic who are affiliated with the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change — Department of Urban Studies and Planning Associate Professor Janelle Knox-Hayes, Joint Program Co-director and Sloan School of Management Senior Lecturer John Reilly, and Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research Director and MIT Sloan Professor Christopher Knittel. The panelists weighed advantages and disadvantages of carbon pricing as a climate-change solution, clarified differences between the two pending bills, and discussed political challenges faced by these bills.

“The most progressive thing to do if you care about working people is to have absolute revenue neutrality,” said Barrett, who, like Knittel, argued that solar and other renewable energy programs could best be funded through a progressive income tax. “I want to make sure that 100 percent of a carbon fee goes back to working people.” Concerned that a revenue-positive carbon pricing bill would be framed by opponents as a tax, he cautioned that such a bill would be politically unviable for fellow legislators.

Read more about this MIT event

Senate Task Force Gets Retail Pitch From Local Businesses Cape Cod Times

 Cape and Islands Senator Julian Cyr and Senator Michael Barrett of Lexington, discuss business with Lydia LeClair of Lydia LeClair Photography in Harwich Port during a Senate Task Force on Strengthening Local Retail walking tour of the village on Monday. WILLIAM F. GALVIN PHOTO   (photo: )

Cape and Islands Senator Julian Cyr and Senator Michael Barrett of Lexington discuss business with Lydia LeClair of Lydia LeClair Photography in Harwich Port during a Senate Task Force on Strengthening Local Retail walking tour of the village on Monday.

 

HARWICH — A lot needs to be done on the Cape to improve the retail climate for local businesses. That message was conveyed to the Senate Task Force on Strengthening Local Retail during a visit to town on Monday.

The task force, which also met in Hyannis, will be holding similar meetings with small business owners in the Merrimack Valley and Berkshire County as they seek to assess issues facing small businesses across the state.

Read more about the task force visit

Proposed Senate Bill Could Make Massachusetts a Climate Change Leader Boston University News Service

Lawmakers at the Massachusetts State House Tuesday presented a new bill that would allow taxpayers to donate part of their tax returns to combat the effects of climate change in developing nations.

Senate Bill 2056, if accepted, would enable lawmakers to add a box to state tax returns to give Massachusetts taxpayers the option to donate to the Least Developed Countries Fund.

“My constituents really want to strike the note of sympathy and solidarity around the world, at the very time that we have a president walking away from them,” said Sen. Michael J. Barrett, the bill’s lead sponsor.

Read the article on my bill

State legislators produce sweeping criminal justice reform bill The Bay State Banner

The legislative package aims to reduce unnecessary incarceration, and measures encourage less severe responses to offenses and remove policies that disparately burden the poor.

“We [the state] are absolutely addicted to the money we extract from you as you move through the criminal justice system. Even after you pay your debt to society and begin to knit your life back together again, we want to extract user fees at every point in the system,” Barrett said, stating that this practice must end.

The bill provides for waiving, eliminating or reducing many fees. Another reform would revise bail policies in light of increasing awareness that too often, people of little means are jailed pretrial only because of inability to afford the bail price, not due to flight risk or likelihood of causing harm if released.

Read the article on the criminal justice reform bill

State Senate names retail task force The Salem News

The task force is charged with identifying ways to help local retailers become more competitive, and is taking shape as retail sector leaders mull a ballot question to reduce the 6.25 percent sales tax to either 5 percent or 4.5 percent. 

Senators on the task force include its chairman, Michael Rodrigues, as well as Michael Barrett, Julian Cyr, Jason Lewis, Kathleen O’connor-Ives, Vinny Demacedo and Don Humason.

Read the article on the retail task force

Bill Limiting Cellphone Use by Drivers Clears State Senate U.S. News and World Report

Under the bill, motorists could only use their cellphones, or other electronic devices such as GPSs, with hands-free technology. It also would be illegal to access social media, make video calls or use any camera function while driving.

“If you are poor and your car is a little older, you should still avoid distracted driving but these fees are going to hit you very hard,” said Barrett, whose amendment to lower the progression of fines to $50, $100 and $150 was defeated on a 26-12 vote.

Read the article on the bill on distracted driving

Lexington will save $19 million with new solar farm Wicked Local Lexington

“I’m extremely happy to be here. This project was a little bit larger than the project that put solar panels on my house, and it just shows you how quickly solar energy is moving as a utility enterprise,” State Senator Mike Barrett, D-Lexington, said at the ceremony. “Massachusetts really is a leader here and it began with folks at the grassroots level that encouraged individual communities to move out front to do this.”

Read the article on Lexington’s new solar farm

Environment tops concern at Ashland event MetroWest Daily News

“We need a carbon price to get us to carbon neutral and beyond,” said Gene Fry, an environmental scientist from Brookfield. The Earth is warming, he said. Carbon dioxide needs to be reduced and, in doing so, the state can create jobs and expand the economy. His testimony drew some of the largest applause of the night.

Read the article on the Commonwealth Conversations Tour

A growing movement would force presidential candidates to release tax returns The Boston Globe

The author of the Massachusetts bill, State Senator Mike Barrett, said he, too, was inspired by the New York bill. He added a few local provisions that would also require presidential and vice presidential candidates to fill out the same statement of financial interests that all Massachusetts candidates must.

Barrett said he approaches the bill with a good-government lens, not a partisan one.

Read the article on the financial transparency movement

Senator Mike Barrett appointed to Committee of Telecom, Utilities, Energy The Lexington Minuteman

“The committee’s jurisdiction covers everything from cell phones to alternative energy to public utility reform to carbon pricing,” Barrett said. “Being Senate Chair doesn’t give me access to any more of my colleague’s votes. I’m going to have to be patient and a good listener to build needed consensus.”

Read the article on my new committee appointment

Democrats on Beacon Hill push anti-Trump agenda The Boston Globe

In January, Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson offered to send inmates to Texas to assist with Trump’s plan to build a wall along the Mexico border.

In response, Senator Michael Barrett filed a bill intended to make that plan more difficult by requiring state approval for such a program.

Barrett worries Trump’s victory will embolden longtime conservatives like the sheriff and also encourage a new slate of state and local politicians to run for office espousing the same ideals. “I think you’ll see a lot of Trumps popping up,” Barrett said.

The Lexington Democrat also filed a bill that would require people running for president to release their tax returns in order to appear on the ballot in Massachusetts. Despite public pressure, Trump bucked a decades-old tradition of doing so.

Read the article on a number of key bills

Lawmakers start to get behind carbon emission bills State House News

“The level of support is coming on a little faster than I expected, but then global warming is heating up a little faster than we all expected,” said State Senator Mike Barrett, the bill’s chief sponsor.

Read to article on the growing support of carbon pricing

Lawmakers seek to block sheriff from sending inmates to work on Trump’s wall State House News

“Until recently many Americans just assumed that the stature of the Office of the President ensured the observance of certain practices that are unwritten but responsible and well-established, one of which is the disclosure by candidates of recent tax returns and, by extension, possible conflicts of interest. The 2016 election shattered this confidence. I hope we can come together to rebuild it.”

Read the article on my bill

This Massachusetts bill could block Donald Trump from the ballot in 2020 Boston.com

“Until recently many Americans just assumed that the stature of the Office of the President ensured the observance of certain practices that are unwritten but responsible and well-established, one of which is the disclosure by candidates of recent tax returns and, by extension, possible conflicts of interest. The 2016 election shattered this confidence. I hope we can come together to rebuild it.”

Read the article on my presidential tax returns bill

No place in Mass. for prisoners of poverty The Boston Globe

The Boston Globe’s Editorial Board weighs in on my committee’s recent report on “fine time” in Massachusetts — the practice by district court judges of incarcerating defendants solely for failure to pay fines, fees or court costs.

Read the editorial on “Fine Time”

 

Committee considers impact of court fees on poor defendants MassLive

Deeply troubling: “In a minute-long appearance before a judge, James tells the Dudley District Court, ‘I’m poor.’ Without inquiring further or offering him a lawyer, the judge orders James incarcerated for as long as it takes to pay off the fine, at a rate of $30 a day.”

Read the article on the committee hearing

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Lexington High School Quiz Show team honored at Statehouse Lexington Minuteman

The Lexington High School Quiz Show team, which won both the WGBH Quiz Show State Championship this year and the Governor’s Cup vs. New Hampshire, was celebrated at the Statehouse on June 15.

Read the article about the team’s visit

Senate panel wants homeowners insurance clarity The Boston Globe

“In a time of profound public mistrust of both governmental and financial elites, the Committee finds no justification for a regulatory process marked by a no-exceptions rejection of public notice, informational access, and consumer input.”

Read the article about the report

Bedford High School students go to Beacon Hill to represent METCO Bedford Minuteman

“These kids are really the heroes of their own education,” Barrett said. “They get up much earlier than their peers at a time when research shows students should be sleeping in. I am blown away by the quiet passion of these students.”

Read the article about METCO

Bill would allow more review of homeowners insurance rate increases The Boston Globe

I want these rate increases discussed in an open forum. I don’t want million-dollar propositions handled in private, where only industry is heard.

Read the article on homeowner’s insurance