Legislative Alert: End-of-session summary
January 13, 2021
Dear AICUM General Counsels and Government Relations VPs/Directors:
The 2019-2020 legislative session finally came to a close last week, capping off an unusual legislative session that was extended through January 5th to give the Legislature more time to better respond to the many disruptions caused by the pandemic.
As noted in our previous update, the House and Senate reached agreement on campus sexual assault legislation (attached) on the last day of session and, as expected, Governor Baker signed the bill into law Tuesday night. We have prepared a detailed summary of the legislation (attached) and are in the process of scheduling a facilitated roundtable discussion to do a deep dive on key elements of the bill and its likely interplay with existing federal regulations.
In addition to the campus sexual assault legislation, the Legislature reached agreement on a two high-profile bills that also are of interest to colleges and universities. The key provisions of those bills are summarized below:
- Economic Development legislation – As the economic development bill worked its way through the legislative process this session, a number of issues of interest to AICUM members were part of those discussions. We are pleased to report that the final legislation includes a student loan bill of rights (including an important clarification requested by AICUM) and does not include provisions to allow for sports wagering in Massachusetts.
- Student Loan Bill of Rights: The economic development legislation establishes a Student Loan Ombudsman with the Division of Banks to provide assistance to individuals with student loans and assist in resolving complaints regarding student loans. The legislation also places restrictions on persons or entities that can act as a student loan servicer and requires servicers to obtain a license. We were able to ensure that language was included to exempt colleges and universities, both public and private, from the licensing requirements for student loan servicers.
- Sports Wagering: In July, the House included language in its economic development proposal that legalized sports betting in Massachusetts, including wagering on Division 1 college athletics. AICUM and our members with Division 1 programs voiced strong concerns regarding the inclusion of collegiate betting. Those concerns seem to resonate with Senate leadership because the Senate did not include similar language in its economic development proposal, and the final conference report did not include the legalization of any sports betting in Massachusetts. However, we fully anticipate that this issue will garner fresh attention early in 2021, as both the House and Senate look to create additional tax revenue opportunities for the state. AICUM will continue working with the Legislature in the new session to reiterate our concerns with including collegiate athletics in any sports wagering legislation.
- Research Grant Funding: The economic development legislation includes funding for two important grant opportunities for institutions of higher education in partnership with the MassTech Collaborative.
- $10 million to supports collaboration among manufacturers and institutions of higher education in Massachusetts, with eligible entities including participants in the Manufacturing USA program under the National Network for Manufacturing.
- $52 million for projects receiving assistance from the Scientific and Technology Research and Development Matching Grant fund. Funding under the program is intended to foster additional scientific and technology research and development throughout the Commonwealth.
- Police Reform legislation – In December, the House and Senate passed compromise police reform legislation, which was amended by Governor Baker and subsequently passed again by both branches before being signed into law by the Governor. The overarching purpose of the legislation was to standardize the certification, training and decertification of police officers throughout the Commonwealth. It is important to note that a college or university police department (public and private) is included within the definition of “law enforcement agency”, and the definition of “law enforcement officer” captures an officer of any such agency and any special state police officer appointed pursuant to MGL c.22C, §63.
Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions about the above-mentioned legislation or other bills that you were tracking in the 2019-2020 legislative session.