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MWRA Advisory Board’s Legislative Successes
The number one priority of the MWRA Advisory Board is to represent and protect ratepayers within the communities where they reside. The AB plays a critical role in the Legislative Advocacy Program because ratepayers deserve a voice at the State House. During the early 90s, on the heels of ratepayers’ revolt, the AB worked closely with Representative DeLeo and created the MWRA Legislative Caucus to develop a pro-ratepayer agenda in the State House. To this end, the creation of the Commonwealth Sewer Rate Relief Fund, which is also known as Debt Service Assistance was enacted. Since its inception, over $417 million has been appropriated by the Legislature and the Governor to directly offset wholesale water and sewer community assessment in the MWRA service area.
The AB continues to work closely with the Legislative Caucus to ensure Debt Service Assistance stays in the budget in lean years and is in a position to grow as the state’s economy grows.
The AB will also look at any and all new sources of revenue to help offset rising rates. The AB has filed the three bills below to specifically address funding needs:
- An Act to Expand the Bottle Bill, which seeks to include a five-cent deposit on bottled water containers. In addition to the numerous environmental benefits to this bill, it would also provide much needed rate relief to MWRA’s ratepayers in 60 cities and towns in Massachusetts by using unreturned deposit receipts to fund water and sewer infrastructure repair and rehabilitation projects in the MWRA Service area.
- Water Resources Funding Act, which inserts taxation of bottled water into the Massachusetts General Laws and creates a dedicated fund available to municipalities, water districts, and the MWRA to be used for water and sewer infrastructure repairs and projects.
- Septic Tax Credit, which would allow homeowners a tax credit of 20% of the debt service portion of their retail sewer bill; akin to Chapter 62; Section 6 (i) (The Septic Tax Credit).
The Legislature has also looked upon the AB to mediate significant challenges facing its communities. When urban and suburban communities were at odds over an outdated sewer rate methodology, the Legislature empowered the AB to develop a new methodology which was fair to all communities in the AB’s service area.
When Governor Weld was in office, there was an attempt to impose a “per gallon charge” for water drawn from the Wachusett Reservoir, inflate the value of a pre-existing debt and direct MWRA to deposit employee furlough receipts into the State’s General Fund. The AB sprung into action taking on the Governor in the State Supreme Court and the Legislature on these issues. The AB not only won the preliminary court proceedings, but also saved ratepayers over a quarter of a billion dollars.
When opposition mounted on the need and location for covered storage for treated drinking water, the Legislature turned to the AB to develop the case and site the locations. Today, MWRA communities have the best drinking water in the country.
The AB has also successfully amended the enabling legislation on three separate occasions to strengthen the voice of ratepayers on the MWRA’s Board of Directors.
If you are interested in viewing the AB’s Legislative Package, please click on the attached document: 2013-2014 Legislative Package PDF.
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MWRA Legislative Caucus
The MWRA Legislative Caucus is comprised of elected officials within the Massachusetts Legislature who represent communities within the MWRA district. One of the main priorities of the MWRA Caucus is to continue to advocate for funding the Commonwealth Water and Sewer Rate Relief program in the state budget This important line-item helps offset water and sewer rates for the residents throughout the Commonwealth. The treatment and disposal of wastewater is of critical importance, not only for the health of the citizens of the Commonwealth, but also to preserve the environment. Not that long ago, this program was funded at almost $60 million but due to the challenges in balancing the state budget in a difficult economic climate, this amount has been reduced to $500,000 in the last two budget cycles. The MWRA Advisory Board is aware of the difficulties the Legislature is continuing to face in the budget but will continue to advocate for these funds as well as other important legislative matters that arise.
Chair Ronald Mariano
Ronald Mariano was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in a special election in December, 1991. He represents the 3rd Norfolk District, which is comprised of Quincy (Ward 2 and Precinct 5 of Ward 4); Weymouth (Precincts 5, 6, 9, 12, 16); and Holbrook (Precincts 2, 3, 4).
Throughout his career, Representative Mariano has served as the House Chairman of the Joint Committee on Financial Services (previously the Joint Committee on Insurance), where he was a key architect of the Commonwealth’s landmark health care reform in 2006 and principal proponent of transitioning the state’s auto insurance market to managed competition in 2008. As chair, Mariano oversaw all legislative matters pertaining to banking and insurance. In February 2009, Mariano was promoted to Assistant Majority Leader and led the House negotiations on education reform and health care cost containment legislation. Mariano was appointed Majority Leader in 2011 by Speaker Robert A. DeLeo and currently still holds this position.
Representative Ronald Mariano was named the Chair of the MWRA Legislative Caucus in 2005. Mariano, previously served as Vice-Chair of the Caucus, and replaced Robert A. DeLeo who is currently the Speaker of the Massachusetts House. Mariano and DeLeo were the original founders of the Caucus which was established in 1991, the year when ratepayers were very vocal about objecting the increased costs of rates.