Republican delays action on climate change bill
Tarr’s move prompts angry retorts from Dems
THE SENATE REPUBLICAN leader, raising concerns about an attempt by Democrats to push climate change legislation through the chamber quickly on Thursday, used a parliamentary maneuver to delay action until next week.
The move triggered a strong reaction from Senate Democrats, who accused Sen. Bruce Tarr of Gloucester of unnecessarily delaying action on climate change legislation which they said desperately needs to pass.
Tarr said he moved to table the legislation until the Senate’s next session to give members of the Senate and the public more time to review the bill. The bill was not released publicly, he said, until 10:22 p.m. Wednesday. Officials said the bill’s release was delayed as Senate and House negotiators ironed out final language. To take up the bill on Thursday, the Senate voted to suspend its rules.
Tarr said his tabling of the bill was not an attempt to stall or block the legislation, which rejects a number of amendments put forward by Gov. Charlie Baker, who is also a Republican. Tarr, who has voted for previous incarnations of the climate change bill, said his intent in slowing the process down was to inject more transparency into the legislative process by providing a few more days to study what was being voted on.
Sen. Michael Rodrigues of Westport, the chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said in a speech on the Senate floor that he was rising to express disappointment, “bordering on anger,” at what he called an injustice to the process. He said there was nothing in the bill that had not been debated before.
Sen. Michael Barrett of Lexington, the Senate’s point person on climate change, also voiced his disappointment. “Today, when I thought we would take an ambitious leap into the future, we are reduced to crawling once again,” he said.
Tarr said he was surprised at the strong reaction, noting the bill has hardly been on a fast track. He said the Senate passed its initial version of the climate change bill in January 2020 and it wasn’t until January 2021 that it was finally sent to the governor. Baker vetoed the bill at the end of the last session, so the Legislature sent him the same bill again this session. Baker sent it back with amendments, which the Senate and House are addressing now with the current legislation.
Barrett said on Wednesday that the bill accepted a number of technical changes proposed by the governor, but he said on some of the major issues – particularly the goal for a 50 percent emission reduction by 2030, separate emission targets for six industry subsectors, and a stretch energy code for municipalities – the Legislature is standing pat.Paul Diego Craney, a spokesman for the conservative Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, hailed Tarr’s action. “At some point, the opaque maneuvering has to come to an end and we hope today’s actions serve as a wake-up call to leadership in the Legislature,” he said.
The 40-member Senate is made up of 37 Democrats and three Republicans. One of the Republicans, Sen. Patrick O’Connor of Weymouth, served on the conference committee that worked out differences between the two branches on their bills last year.