On climate change bill, it might be ‘groundhog day’
Lawmakers vow to pass same bill again if Baker vetoes it
THE LEADERS of the House and Senate on Wednesday put pressure on Gov. Charlie Baker to sign a climate change bill into law by warning him that the two branches will pass the same bill again in the coming days of the new legislative session if he vetoes the measure.
The climate change bill was passed by lawmakers on January 4 and the 2019-2020 version of the Legislature went out of existence in the wee hours of January 6. The Baker administration reportedly has concerns about several elements of the bill, but with the 2019-2020 Legislature no longer in existence he can only sign the bill into law or veto it – no amendments are allowed. He is required to make a decision by Thursday.
Baker said he was still reviewing the legislation on Wednesday, trying to decide what to do. But House Speaker Ron Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka took an unusual but commonsense approach to remedying the situation. They told the governor to sign the bill on his desk. If he instead vetoes the measure, they pledged to have the 2021-2022 Legislature pass the same bill and send it to Baker again. The implication seemed to be that legislative leaders were determined to pass the bill over any Baker objections.
“Climate change is the greatest existential threat facing our state, our nation, and our planet, and so Gov. Baker should sign the climate change bill that is now on his desk. Should he not take this important step, the Senate and House are united in our intention to refile and pass the conference committee bill in its entirety and get it onto the governor’s desk in the coming days,” the two leaders said in a joint statement.
“This is new. This is a testament to two relatively new leaders. I’ve never seen this type of collaboration and it bodes well for the future,” he said.
At a State House press conference on Wednesday, Baker was asked his thoughts about the process. He mentioned bills from the past that were approved toward the end of a legislative session where the administration and lawmakers were able to carve out enough time to reach common ground.
“You can’t always write the ticket about how this stuff is going to happen when you get to the end of the process,” he said. “At this point, we have two choices. We can either sign the whole thing or veto the whole thing.”
Baker said he would prefer to suggest changes for the Legislature to consider, as he did with the police reform bill earlier this year. But he said he doesn’t have that option. “It is what it is,” he said.
Asked specifically if he was going to sign the bill, he said he was still studying it.
Reports emanating from the administration suggest there is concern about the legislation’s goal of reducing emissions 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. The administration had called for a 45 percent reduction and said anything above that level could destabilize the economy.
There are reportedly also concerns about other elements of the bill, including its requirement that emission goals be set every five years and also be set for six specific industrial sectors.
The Baker administration’s roadmap says the goal is “avoiding new infrastructure or construction that is based on fossil fuels for heating which would not be 2050 compliant, as well as ensuring that new equipment and products within buildings are on the path towards 2050 compliance.”