The legislative calendar comes in fits and spurts, with multiple tracks and parallel courses for legislative priorities to make their way through the State House in order to become law. MassBike works through the complication and confusion in our pursuit of several legislative priorities this session, including bills that would make for safer roads, to clarify electric bicycle regulations, promote bike commuting, and to fund rail trails and other infrastructure. We are also supportive of programs that promote health and wellness, support equity and combat racism, and tackle the existential crisis of climate change.
At this point in the two-year legislative session timeline that started in January, the bills have been filed and have made their ways to various committees, and we are awaiting hearings on the bills so we can present our support (and opposition) to specific pieces of legislation. This will happen in the coming months in spring and early summer.
However, more rapidly approaching is the debate about the State’s budget, which is being presented both from the Governor’s Budget as well the House Ways and Means. These budgets are big and dense, full of amendments, and cover pretty much the entirety of what the State is attempting to accomplish in the coming year. These budget bills also include provisions that MassBike is tracking related to bicycle safety, and this is where you come in!
We are asking our members to contact your State Representatives to co-sponsor two key amendments, and support these amendments in the budget debate.
The House of Representatives is scheduled to begin debate on April 26th on the Fiscal Year 2022 budget that begins on July 1st. Over 1100 amendments have been filed for consideration, including several important transportation-related amendments that we hope will be adopted.
Amendment #1039: Commuter Transit Benefits (Rep. Vitolo)
- This amendment aligns Massachusetts law with federal law on commuter pre-tax benefits, and expands the tax deductions for monthly transit passes to include RTAs, and will provide benefits for a bikeshare membership, for buying a bike including electric bikes, for bicycle improvements, repair, and storage.
Amendment #164: Mass in Motion (Rep. Sabadosa)
- This amendment supports healthy eating and active living through the Mass in Motion program by increasing funding for Mass in Motion to $1 million in the FY22 state budget.
We are also opposed to Amendment #278 (Rep. Peisch) which would make bicycle violation fines comparable to penalties given for motor vehicle fines. Though MassBike supports road safety initiatives, we believe that is best done through education and design, and not enforcement, since we know that the potential for danger of illegally driven motor vehicles far outweighs the potential of an errant bicycle rider, and that when given opportunity to enforce traffic violations on the roads, police officers unfortunately are subject to biases (implicit or otherwise) in how these violations are handled. We have also worked to create specific rules of the road for bicyclists which do not pertain to motor vehicle drivers, and this amendment would create confusion over the various modal distinctions.
Why take action?
Both Amendment #1039 and #164 are crucial to MassBike’s work, as we strive to encourage more bike commuting to work as we come back from the pandemic, and we partner with Mass in Motion communities throughout Massachusetts to support community bicycling initiatives including our mini-grant program which was funded through this program.
Taking action is easy, and your representative wants to know what you think:
- Find your Representative by following this link: https://malegislature.gov/Search/FindMyLegislator
- Request that they add their name as a co-sponsor to amendments #1039 and #164, and oppose #278, which would help create a greener, more equitable and more sustainable bike-friendly Massachusetts.
- Say thank you! And let us know how it went by emailing us at [email protected]
Going forward, we encourage you to follow some of our priorities on our webpage, and keep up with our action alerts. Politics is all about relationships, so please get involved with the offices of your local State Senator or State Representative and express your concerns and get to know their offices and their points of view.
Thank you for your support in this effort and our ongoing pursuit of better bicycling through legislation in Massachusetts.