Our legislative priorities articulate the MTA's long-term vision and reflect our shared commitment to public education, fairness for all workers in our communities, and a secure retirement for public-sector employees.
The Government Relations Committee recommends these bills, broken up into five categories, for the 2021-22 legislative session. The recommendations are the result of a process that included extensive input from MTA members.
Fully Funded, Safe and Diverse Public K-12 Schools
Fully Fund the Student Opportunity Act
In November 2019, we won an enormous victory with the passage of the Student Opportunity Act (SOA). However, due to COVID-19, the state has delayed funding the SOA according to the original implementation schedule. While we do not need to pass any new legislation, advocating for full funding of the SOA will be a large part of our legislative advocacy.
An Act to ensure the health and safety of the Commonwealth’s students and educators
Lead Sponsors: Senator Paul Feeney (D-Foxborough) | Representative Jim Hawkins (D-Attleboro) | Representative Tami Gouveia (D-Acton)
Establishes new state ventilation requirements that current and future public school facilities must meet under both normal and pandemic conditions, mandates that school districts conduct assessments of school ventilation systems to ensure compliance, and creates a mechanism for state funding to support needed repairs and upgrades to school ventilation systems.
Requires the state to ensure the operation of weekly COVID-19 pooled surveillance testing programs in all public schools at no cost to school districts.
Directs the state to ensure that all public school staff and students have access to PPE at no cost to school districts.
Creates a special commission to study ventilation and air temperatures in public school facilities.
An Act expanding opportunities to demonstrate academic achievement
Lead Sponsors: Senator Jo Comerford (D-Northampton) | Representative Jim Hawkins (D-Attleboro)
Makes long-term changes to the state’s accountability system, including eliminating the MCAS graduation requirement, ensuring local control of school and district evaluations, and expanding local experimentation with school district goal setting, student assessment and evaluation.
An Act to cancel the administration of the MCAS for the 2020-2021 school year
Lead Sponsor: Representative Jim Hawkins (D-Attleboro)
Requires the commissioner of elementary and secondary education to request a waiver of federal testing requirements from the U.S. Department of Education. Following the successful receipt of that waiver, the bill further requires the commissioner to waive the MCAS test requirement in all grades.
Lead Sponsors: Senator Adam Gomez (D-Springfield) | Representative Nika Elugardo (D-Boston)
Allows the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to establish alternative measures of proficiency for candidates for educator licensure. This will include licensure for vocational technical educators.
Senator Jo Comerford (D-Northampton) | Representative Sean Garballey (D-Arlington) | Representative Paul Mark (D-Peru)
Implements the core finding of the 2014 Higher Education Finance Commission report by increasing funding to public higher education by the amount needed to return to fiscal 2001 per-student spending levels, adjusted for inflation, and establishes principles that ensure a just distribution of these funds.
An Act to provide fair working conditions for public higher education adjunct faculty
Lead Sponsors: Senator Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville) | Representative Paul Mark (D-Peru)
Provides adjunct faculty with access to health insurance and state pension options.
Requires per-course pay parity for adjunct faculty.
Establishes a minimum 7.5 percent state contribution to the SMART Plan retirement account for faculty who work less than half time.
Creates a fund and mechanism for increasing the number of tenure-track faculty on public college and university campuses and gives current adjunct faculty notice and priority consideration for new full-time positions.
An Act to ensure fair public higher education workplaces
Lead Sponsors: Senator Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville) | Representative Paul Mark (D-Peru)
Creates a new tuition and fee credit program for public higher education employees, their spouses and their dependents. The credit covers 100 percent of the mandatory costs of undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs or courses at public colleges and universities.
Streamlines the process through which public higher education collective bargaining agreements are validated and funded.
Eliminates the 60-day Group Insurance Commission waiting period for newly hired state employees and municipal employees who receive health insurance coverage through the GIC.
An Act to ensure safe and healthy public higher education campuses
Lead Sponsors: Senator Adam Gomez (D-Springfield) | Representative Liz Miranda (D-Boston)
Establishes new state ventilation requirements that current and future public higher education campus facilities must meet under both normal and pandemic conditions, mandates that campuses conduct assessments of ventilation systems to ensure compliance, and requires that the state, not the campuses, fund needed repairs and upgrades to ventilation systems.
Requires the operation of COVID-19 testing programs for staff and students on public higher education campuses. The programs will be operated at no cost to the campuses and will be paid for by the state or with eligible federal funds.
Ensures that staff and students on public higher education campuses have access to personal protective equipment. The PPE will be provided at no cost to the campuses and will be paid for by the state or with eligible federal funds.
Directs the establishment of health and safety committees on every public higher ed campus and encourages institutions to prioritize health and safety, including pandemic planning.
An Act to guarantee debt-free public higher education
Lead Sponsors: Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) | Representative Natalie Higgins (D-Leominster)
Establishes that it is state policy to guarantee free public higher education as a right for all students.
Creates a grant program to pay the equivalent of tuition and mandatory fees to an eligible student at any Massachusetts public college or university or in a certificate, vocational, or training program at a public institution.
For students who meet the income eligibility for federal Pell Grants, gives additional aid in grants to cover the additional costs of attendance, including but not limited to room and board, books and supplies, transportation, and personal expenses.
Ensures that funds from this program do not affect eligibility for other state grants, gift aid, institutional aid, or federal aid, including Pell Grants through the FAFSA process
Lead Sponsors: Senator Rebecca Rausch (D-Needham) | Representative Orlando Ramos (D-Springfield)
Allows public employees, except for public safety personnel, to legally strike should the state Department of Labor Relations determine that the strike is related to unfair labor practices committed by the employer.
Ensures that a public employee’s right to free speech is not restricted as it relates to discussing a strike.
An Act to strengthen the foundation of the Commonwealth
Lead Sponsors: Representative Mike Connolly (D-Cambridge) | Senator Jo Comerford (D-Northampton)
Increases the tax rate on unearned Part A interest and dividends and Part C capital gains income to 9 percent while also creating exemptions to protect seniors, the disabled, and low- and middle-income individuals and families.
The members of the Government Relations Committee have worked collaboratively with the Government Relations team to develop a proposed 2021-2022 legislative agenda.
The development of the agenda was an intensive, member-driven process that included significant input from educators across the Commonwealth in order to ensure that our legislation reflects the hopes and aspirations of our membership. The process commenced in September when the process and timeline for developing the agenda where established. In October, the committee began to solicit specific legislative proposals from MTA members. In total, 155 members submitted ideas, with related or similar ideas subsequently being combined into single proposals, resulting in 32 unique policies to be considered by the GRC.
Members were afforded the opportunity to provide in-person testimony in support of their submissions at a GRC hearing in November and more than a dozen members attended the hearing to advocate for their proposals. After the hearing, the GRC, in consultation with GR staff and other MTA divisions, carefully reviewed each submission and proceeded to craft a proposed legislative package. The proposed agenda encompasses wide-ranging issues that together articulate our shared commitment to public education, fairness for all workers in our communities, and a secure retirement for public-sector employees.
The first step in creating MTA legislation is the submission of proposals by members and the approval of proposals by the member-run Government Relations Committee and MTA’s Board of Directors. This session, 155 members submitted ideas resulting in 32 unique policies considered by the GRC who recommended filing 16 pieces of legislation. The Board approved this recommendation on December 5, 2020.
Bills are drafted by MTA’s Government Relations and Legal teams as directed by the GRC and the Board of Directors. The filing deadline for legislation in this session is February 19, 2021. After bills have been filed, the bills as well as summarizing fact-sheets will be posted on MTA’s website and MTA members will be urged to contact their legislators to ask them to support these important measures and encourage them to sign on as legislative co-sponsors.
Once referred to a committee, that committee holds a public hearing and hears testimony on the bill. Hearings are typically held anytime between March and November. The time before hearings are held is used to build support for our agenda. At the conclusion of this process, the committee will recommend whether the bill “ought to pass,” “ought not to pass,” be subject to further study or sent to another committee for additional review.
House & Senate
After a bill is reported favorably by its final committee, it will be sent to either the House or Senate for consideration. The bill may then go through several additional procedural steps before being debated and scheduled for a vote on the floor. If a bill passes one chamber, it will then be sent to other where it will go through a similar procedural process, potentially including a debate and vote.
Conference Committee (If Needed)
If the House and Senate pass different versions of the same bill, then the bill is sent to a bi-partisan conference committee of members from each branch who craft a compromise bill which will not be subject to amendment. Both the House and Senate then make a final vote on the compromise bill.
If both the House and Senate pass the same bill, it is then sent to the governor for his review and action. The governor then either signs the bill into law; allows the bill to become law without signing it; vetoes the legislation; or sends it back to the Legislature with amendments. A veto by the governor can be overridden with a two-thirds vote in both legislative branches.