Net neutrality proponents consider state action Wicked Local Lincoln

The Federal Communications Commission in December adopted an order repealing past rules that deemed internet service a public utility and required internet providers to treat all traffic equally. Daniel Lyons, a Boston College Law School professor, told lawmakers the order also “expressly preempts any state or local measures” attempting to reinstate those rules.

Noting that he pays between $50 to $60 per month for his Verizon internet access, Sen. Michael Barrett said he wanted the committee to figure out what would happen to the market without net neutrality if the legal challenges fail. He asked Healey if there is a way of “extracting any good” out of the rollback, such as lower prices for a “basic” package that could make technology more accessible to low income consumers.

Read the article on the net neutrality debate

Solar charge angers Chelmsford legislative reps Wicked Local Chelmsford

New England’s biggest utility has won approval for new charges on future solar customers starting next January — but in the process Eversource has angered some lawmakers with jurisdiction over its industry, including members of the Chelmsford’s delegation.

Vote Solar and Attorney General Maura Healey have both appealed the department’s approval of the new Eversource rates.

Mahony, who is Healey’s senior policy adviser for energy, suggested lawmakers should craft legislation that discourages customers from using electricity when demand on the grid is high. Demand fluctuates throughout the day as consumers turn on lights, flip on air conditioning and run electrical appliances. The demand charge in the Eversource rates does not vary based on time of day.

Sen. Michael Barrett, a Lexington Democrat and the Senate chairman of the committee, had a similar perspective to Mahony on the demand charges, questioning Eversource about why it wasn’t linked to when demand was highest on the grid as a whole.

Read the article on Eversource’s new charges

Barrett Grills Eversource on its New Charge on Solar Users Press Release

Boston – State Senator Mike Barrett (D-Lexington) and Representative Thomas A. Golden, Jr. (D-Lowell) quizzed Eversource Energy and the state Department of Public Utilities (DPU) at a formal oversight hearing last Tuesday, January 30.

Senate Chair Barrett joined House Chair Golden and their colleagues on the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy at the public hearing, following the DPU’s approval of a request from Eversource for a new fee on solar users.

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Lawmakers revisit new solar power fee Boston Globe

Most committee hearings on Beacon Hill are mild affairs, planned out well in advance, to solicit input on various bills. Not this one.

Senator Michael Barrett and Representative Thomas Golden decided last week to revisit Eversource’s new solar fee. Barrett says precipitating factors included a Globe story and a particularly unhappy constituent.

Lawmakers authorized the adoption of this kind of solar charge back in 2016. But Barrett and Golden made it clear they believe Eversource has taken that permission beyond what the Legislature initially intended.

Read more about the Eversource solar fee hearing

As I See It: A win-win for Worcester, the Commonwealth, and the world Worcester Telegram

An opinion piece from the Worcester Telegram supporting bills S.1821 and H.1726, which are designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Massachusetts in an efficient and equitable manner. 

Read the opinion piece on “An Act combating climate change” and “An Act to promote green infrastructure, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and create jobs” 

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

Mass. Residents May Be Able to Fight Climate Change Via Their Tax Returns Press Release

Joined last week by prominent researchers and humanitarian leaders, State Senator Mike Barrett (D-Lexington) asked the Legislature’s Committee on Revenue to approve legislation tweaking Massachusetts tax forms and letting taxpayers direct voluntary contributions, over and above their regular payments, to poverty-stricken countries faced with worsening conditions caused by global warming.

The full title of Barrett’s bill is An Act enabling taxpayer donations to the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF), an initiative of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

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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

Mass. Climate Math: Getting to Paris Reductions Goal Won’t Get Us Further Press Release

Sounding a note of caution on today’s debate in the Mass. House of Representatives, the Senate chair of the joint committee that deals with energy matters cited “an inconvenient truth about Massachusetts climate change math: our share of the U.S. emissions goal set in Paris for 2025 is almost identical to a state-specific emissions goal we’ve already set for ourselves for 2020.  By 2025, Massachusetts will need to have progressed well beyond this point, or we will have little chance of meeting our ultimate emissions goal set for 2050.”

“Merely running in place on emissions reductions between the years 2020 and 2025 will throw us off pace and forfeit Massachusetts’ hopes to lead on this crucial issue,” said State Sen. Michael Barrett (D-Lexington).

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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

Barrett calls for an end to modern debtors’ prisons at State House rally Press Release

Boston – State Senator Mike Barrett (D-Lexington) joined his colleagues and advocacy groups in the State House yesterday to rally behind a criminal justice reform bill that seeks to keep people from ending up back in prison.

The comprehensive bill includes significant reforms to the common practice by district court judges of incarcerating defendants solely for failure to pay fines, fees or court costs, commonly referred to as “fine time”.  This is an issue that has been championed by Barrett and he has worked closely with the Joint Committee on the Judiciary to ensure that the problem is addressed.

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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

Barrett proposes limits on Mass. inmates being sent out-of-state Press Release

Boston – Yesterday the Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security heard from State Senator Mike Barrett (D-Lexington) about his bill to prevent sheriffs from sending inmates out of Massachusetts without meeting certain requirements.

In January, Sheriff Thomas Hodgson of Bristol County volunteered his inmates to help build a border wall proposed by President Trump. This would effectively mean sending prisoners — many serving short sentences for relatively minor crimes — nearly 3,000 miles away, far from rehabilitation services and their loved ones.

Senator Barrett is the author of An Act protecting inmate safety and the expenditure of state funds (S.1279), which would prohibit any sheriff from sending an inmate in his custody out-of-state without meeting certain requirements.

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Barrett seeks state funds for homeless veterans Press Release

During a recent public hearing, State Senator Mike Barrett (D-Lexington) testified on behalf of his bill that would guarantee state funding for a Bedford housing complex that caters to homeless veterans.

Barrett is the chief sponsor of a bill (S.2009) that would ensure 100% reimbursement to Bedford for the financial assistance it provides veterans who move into Bedford Green, situated on the grounds of the VA hospital.  The complex provides apartments to 69 homeless veterans from all over Massachusetts.

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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