Senate Acts on Surplus Land Bill
Bill more friendly to communities than House version
On May 4, the Massachusetts Senate passed a version of the surplus land bill that differed in many ways from the House’s Jones-Stanley bill (H4491) that was passed by the House last November. The text of the bill was not available to the public in time for public comment, but it is clear that the concerns with Jones-Stanley expressed by community advocates were heard by the drafters of the bill. While not all of the problems with Jones-Stanley are resolved, the Senate bill makes an important step toward acknowledging the importance of local planners and citizens, and in recognizing that the reuse priority for public land should be the public good, not privatization. For more information see Notes on Senate Surplus Land Bill and Text of the Senate Surplus Land Bill.
Action now moves to the joint Senate/House conference committee that must reconcile the two versions. Well-connected lobbying forces will be vying to discard the improvements made by the Senate. There is a possibility that the conference committee will insert provisions not passed by either chamber (This is how the controversial fast-track auction law was passed.) Concerned citizens need to thank the Senate leadership for passing the bill, and urge them to stand firm for it in conference committee. If you live in Senator Susan Fargo’s district, be sure to thank her for her hard work in getting the improved bill out of the Senate. The House leadership should be asked to accept the Senate’s improvements.