September 2009 | Vol. 10
After a quiet summer break, lawmakers will return to Beacon Hill in September with an ambitious agenda. Efforts to expand casino gambling will likely take center stage as the state still grapples with how to raise revenue. Increased media attention on a series of accidents involving elderly drivers has put new momentum behind a dangerous driving bill. Other issues including CORI reform, charter schools and the second phase of pension law changes could also see movement. Added to this agenda is the politically complex issue of how formulate a succession plan for the United States Senate seat held by the late Edward Kennedy. For the first time in twenty-five years lawmakers will be faced with the dilemma of how to resolve the short term vacancy. Existing state law requires a special election be held within five months to fill a seat that becomes open before the end of a term. Unless the law is amended, the seat will remain vacant for 145 to 160 days giving candidates time to file nomination papers, raise money and mount a campaign.
Commercial Building Code Issue Successfully Resolved
A troubling provision of the state building code that imposed cumbersome new requirements on commercial buildings built prior to 1975 has been successfully amended. 780 CMR 4308 required that any building with a floor area of 20,000 square feet or 50% of the total floor area of a building undergoing remodeling or rehabilitation would be required to conduct a structural review and seismic load analysis of the entire building. This regulation was being triggered by routine tenant renovations as simple as painting or installing new carpet. GBREB was a key supporter of an amendment eliminating this requirement for non-structural work. In comments before the Board of Building Regulations and Standards, GBREB successfully argued that this requirement has imposed extraordinary hardships on the commercial real estate industry in cases where tenant space was turning over, delaying deals and adding significant cost. The BBRS voted to approve the amendment which immediately takes effect. Click here to view amendment
GBREB Fights Energy Rate Increase
With the cost of energy continuing to skyrocket, GBREB has remained focused on how to keep rates down for consumers. National Grid recently filed a petition with the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) requesting an estimated $112 million increase in rates as of January 1, 2010. It will represent an 18% increase in distribution rates (5.5% of the total bill) for residential customers and up to 17% for commercial/industrial customers. If approved the petition guarantees National Grid revenue under decoupling and a return on equity of more than 11%. GBREB expressed opposition to the measure at a recent public hearing held in Quincy. GBREB argued that it is unreasonable to assume that rate payers can continue to absorb additional cost, particularly in these challenging economic times. Existing cost structures already implemented in Massachusetts may limit the ability to attract new businesses while negatively impacting existing consumers. This is the first electricity decoupling case that may set a precedent and establish the structure of rate design. GBREB continues to oppose decoupling that guarantees utility companies recovery of predetermined revenue without regard to the number of units sold or the cause for lost revenues.
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This report describes legislative and regulatory actions and other initiatives undertaken by the Greater Boston Real Estate Board on behalf of the real estate industry. This legislative report is intended for the internal use of GBREB members. If you have questions or would like additional information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Distribution outside our membership and use by the press are not permitted.