Eldridge provision to uncap liquor licenses to communities included
BOSTON –Senator Eldridge (D-Acton) on Tuesday, July 1st, joined his Senate colleagues to pass legislation, 37-1, to promote economic development and make investments to create jobs, stimulating the Massachusetts economy. The bill makes targeted investments in the state’s economic drivers including innovation and Big Data, workforce development, tourism and marketing.
“I am proud that the Senate voted today to jumpstart economic growth and development in every corner of the Commonwealth,” said Senator Eldridge. “This jobs bill will invest in our workforce, provide valuable job training skills for the unemployed and underemployed and provide more financial assistance to small businesses.” The bill also removes the statutory limitations on the number of liquor licenses a local liquor authority can issue and places the authority in the hands of municipalities, which is a bill that Senator Eldridge filed at the beginning of the session at the request of many of his communities.
“This bill combines investments in emerging industries like advanced manufacturing and Big Data with support for a strong, educated workforce to maintain the Commonwealth’s competitive environment,” Senate President Therese Murray (D-Plymouth) said. “We are outlining a path to success for our residents by equipping them with the tools and resources necessary to capitalize on our state’s existing and developing industries. Through this bill, we are not only supporting economic development across the state, but also making great strides in our efforts to promote ourselves as leaders in the world economy.”
“By breaking down barriers to business, training our unemployed and underemployed workers, and supporting the innovation economy, the economic development package passed today will build an economic foundation for success in every corner of the Commonwealth,” said Senator Gale D. Candaras (D-Wilbraham), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies.
Innovation and Big Data are crucial to supporting job growth in the Commonwealth. The bill includes $100,000 for the Chief Information Officer in the Division of Information Technology to establish an online business portal, which provides a step-by-step guide to starting a business in Massachusetts and the tools needed to complete this process.
The bill also establishes the Big Data Innovation and Workforce Fund through the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative to bring together academic institutions, industry and public sector organizations to make recommendations on how to educate and prepare a workforce for careers in Big Data. It further outlines $2 million for the operation of the John Adams Institute within the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative and $1 million for the program to identify and promote regional e-health technology clusters.
To help students prepare for higher education after high school, the bill includes $750,000 for the Early College High School Initiative to allow students to enroll in college credit courses. It also requires the Department of Higher Education to assess stackable credentials programs offered at public higher education institutions in the Commonwealth to connect students with local businesses.
In addition, the bill allocates $1.5 million for the Massachusetts Technology Park Corporation, currently doing business as the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, to develop and establish computer science education in public schools across the state and $2 million for the Massachusetts Technology Park Collaborative with $1 million directed to establishing an entrepreneurship and startup mentoring program in consultation with the Massachusetts Technology Development Corporation.
The bill establishes the Innovation Commercialization Seed Fund to provide opportunities to test business ideas in the marketplace. The fund will work as a competitive grant program for researchers and students at the University of Massachusetts and other public and private research universities in Massachusetts.
Many of the fastest-growing jobs in the Commonwealth are middle-skill jobs, which require more than a high school education but less than a 4-year college program. The bill includes $10 million for the Advanced Manufacturing and Information Technology Workforce Training Trust Fund and sets a goal of training 4,000 workers in 4 years. To further address this need, $2 million is allocated for the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund and $150,000 for an employment training program for unemployed young adults with disabilities.
The Senate reformed the rules around employment non-competition agreements to provide reasonable protections for employees regarding duration of employment and geographical location, include notice and disclosure requirements, and preserve legitimate business interests. In addition, a noncompete provision cannot be enforced against an employee who is non-exempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act, such as hairdressers, camp counselors and daycare workers.
To support tourism and marketing efforts, the bill includes $5 million for the Massachusetts office of Travel and Tourism to establish an International Tourism Marketing Campaign and replaces the current Massachusetts Tourism Fund Formula with a new formula at the recommendation of the Tourism Formula Commission, carrying an effective date of July 1, 2016. To support the Commonwealth’s fishing industry, the bill creates a seafood marketing program and establishes a Massachusetts Seafood Marketing Program Fund within the Division of Marine Fisheries to go towards the Commonwealth’s fishing and seafood industry.
The bill also does the following to promote economic development across the state:
• Includes $10 million for the Brownsfields Redevelopment Fund;
• Increases the Housing Development Incentive Program’s annual cap from $5 million to $10 million through December 31, 2018 and eliminates the 50 unit cap on housing units;
The Senate bill and the House bill, passed June 11th, will now go to a conference committee to produce a compromise bill for final passage and consideration of the Governor.