The legislative session that came to an end early in the morning on December 8th capped a very successful stretch for municipalities over the past two years. In recent months we have secured billion of dollars in funding for water and sewer projects, parks and recreation, housing, economic development, revenue sharing and legacy costs. Important policy changes have been put into place to give us more tools to develop attainable housing, fund public safety costs, and respond to the impacts of covid.
Lame duck added to this success as we once again held off legislation that would erode the ability for municipalities to reasonably regulate short-term rentals. For six years we have fought this battle, and our members, through their voice and advocacy on this issue, have prevailed again in protecting local control.
We also completed an eight-year journey to improve waste management, increase recycling rates, accommodate for new forms of materials management, and prioritize local input within the planning process. In a surprising post-election pivot, the Part 115 solid waste and materials management rewrite was revived from Senate Regulatory Reform and swiftly discharged to the Senate floor on Wednesday morning. On the Senate floor, amendments were adopted to accommodate advance recycling and meet the needs of our members to manage the location of materials management facilities by protecting local zoning authority. The bills were passed with minimal opposition and concurred with strong support in the House. The full package will now move to the Governor’s desk and it is expected she will sign it.
After an election that saw both the House and Senate flip control to democrats, the consensus was that lame duck activity would be minimal. That proved to be true as the legislature only met for three days during lame duck. The amount of potential activity was predicated on the ability for the Governor and legislative leaders to negotiate one final budget supplement. Negotiations ebbed and flowed over the course of the last week, but eventually fell apart late in the evening on Wednesday. With a deal unable to be secured, many of the bills scheduled for legislative action were shelfed for the year. This included a few pieces of legislation the League was supporting.
On the Personal Property Tax front, the League had worked collectively with the Administration, the Senate, the House, and other stakeholders to create a mechanism to reimburse locals for lost revenue that will now occur do the expansion of the small taxpayer exemption from $80k to $180K. These bills passed the Senate unanimously and were on the House agenda to be passed in lame duck but received no action after the budget negotiation ended. Senate Bills 1060, 1061, and 1062 will need to be reintroduced next session.
One other item that was also a casualty of the failed budget negotiations was shifting the cost of the disabled veteran property tax credit from the locals to the state. Last week Senate Bills 783 and 1184 passed the Senate with broad bipartisan support. It was anticipated that these bills would also receive similar support in the House. On the last day of session, these bills were amended on the House floor to expand the exemption, increasing the cost by over $150M. While the bills were able to pass the House with the expanded exemption, agreement with the administration could not be reached to cover this additional cost. These bills did not receive the needed concurrence vote in the Senate and this issue will have to be address in the next legislative session.
As 2022 comes to a close, and we begin to look forward to 2023, there will be a tremendous opportunity to build on the success of the last two years. We will continue to focus on issues that improve our communities, address structural issues within our municipal finance system, and protect local decision making so municipalities can create specific solutions to meet their individual needs.
John LaMacchia is the League’s director of state & federal affairs. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 517-908-0303.