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Since 1952
we have been the voice of private, independent schools, colleges and universities at the State House. MANSC represents members’ interests, advocates on their behalf with lawmakers, and informs members about bills that threaten their independence and economic security.
 

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Legislative Update


So far, the most notable event on Beacon Hill relative to our focus was the passage of the sexual violence bill this past January.  As we have previously reported, it establishes requirements for colleges and universities pertaining to preventing and dealing with sexual misconduct on campus. 

Though the 2021-2022 legislative session has only just begun, there are 71 bills that we’re tracking on your behalf. They are varied in scope but some of the bills pertain to payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT), students use of protective headgear for certain sports, and mandatory safety equipment on buses. 

Primarily, we focus on preventing bills that: 

  • erode the protections of the Dover Amendment
  • mandate any Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) 
  • give local government the ability to tax our nonprofit institutions 
  • seek to reclassify or take away our nonprofit status
  • have the effect of infringing upon our independence as nonprofit institutions
MANSC has been serving our members for nearly 70 years, and we will continue to advocate and inform private, nonprofit, schools and colleges in Massachusetts.
State Senator Michael Moore To Speak at Virtual Luncheon

You're invited to the first in a series of web events connecting you to the state's leaders. On Friday, Feb. 19th Senator Moore will be our guest speaker, and a Q & A session will follow.

Sen. Moore was a sponsor of the recently passed bill pertaining to sexual violence on college and university campuses. We'll be discussing this and other topics. Although the bill is limited in scope, this should be of interest to any school with a resident student population, as future legislation impacting them is not outside the realm of possibility.

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Sexual Violence Bill Has Become Law for MA Colleges And Universities


In January of 2020, the State Legislature passed SB2979 - An Act relative to sexual violence on higher education campuses. Governor Baker signed the bill into law shortly thereafter, among several others, making for a busy tail end to an unusually slow legislative session.


The bill, aimed at colleges and universities, is focused on resources available to victims and sets forth standards for the handling of cases. It requires such institutions to provide prevention and awareness training to students and employees, follow established investigative and disciplinary processes, and enter into a memorandum of understanding with local law enforcement agencies.


Colleges and universities have until August 2021 to comply with the new laws.


One of our goals is to keep our members up to date on any legislative activity which could impact your independence and economic security. We will continue to post updates here on our website to better serve our members.



Legislature Puts Forth Budget

As the calendar year draws to a close, the Massachusetts Senate has finally approved its version of a $46.2 billion proposed state budget. The fiscal year began on July 1 but pandemic-related delays forced the Commonwealth to function on temporary budgets to keep the state government up and running.

Although the 2020 budget is roughly a 5.5 percent increase from the previous spending plan, it closes a $3.6 billion revenue shortfall without imposing major tax increases or fees.

The fiscal plan includes a focus on bolstering the Commonwealth's recovery from the Covid-19 health crisis by making important investments in early education and childcare, food security, housing supports, and public health, according to Senate leaders.






The budget now goes to the Governor to review and then either sign into law or veto it. One of the most contentious amendments in the budget is a last-minute amendment expanding abortion rights. Governor Baker has not indicated where he stands in relation to the amendment.

When the new two-year session of the legislature begins in January, thousands of new bills will be filed, assigned numbers, and referred to committees for study.  Legislators will  have little time to catch their breath before they need to start work on the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2021.


Massachusetts Secretary of Education To Speak
at 2020 Annual Meeting
Massachusetts Secretary of Education James Peyser will be the guest speaker at our 2020 Annual Meeting. As a health precaution, this year’s meeting will be held remotely on October 8th from 12PM-1PM and can be accessed via Zoom. The meeting is free to attend and will feature a Q&A session, a rare chance to have a direct discussion with the Secretary of Education.

Topics of discussion Secretary Peyser will address include the challenges private schools, colleges, and universities face during the COVID-19 pandemic, and what the Commonwealth is doing to help them.

James Peyser oversees early education, K-12, and higher education.  He is Governor Charlie Baker’s top advisor on education and helps shape the Commonwealth’s education reform agenda. In addition, Secretary Peyser developed Massachusetts’ policies of standards and assessments, school accountability, and charter schools.




Legislative Report

We would like to take a moment to update you on some of the bills we are following on Beacon Hill, and highlight other bills successfully defeated. Keeping track of the shifting legislative landscape has never been more crucial than it is now, as even well-meaning legislation may have negative consequences for nonprofit schools, colleges and universities.


Bills relating to the following are of particular interest to MANSC as the Legislative Session winds down at the end of the year:

  • Sexual violence response standards for colleges/universities

  • Standards for concussion protocol among student athletes

  • Protection of student data privacy

  • Multiple bills relating to student safety (buses, carbon monoxide detectors, etc.)


Currently the legislature is behind schedule due in part to the COVID pandemic, and has yet to even pass a full Budget as is customary in the spring. In light of this, we are unclear at this point if there will be any progress on the above mentioned bills, but we continue to monitor and will keep you informed. 


In addition to tracking legislation, MANSC actively represents the interests of our members on Beacon Hill.  Legislative Counsel John J. Spillane has been the advocate for MANSC members on Beacon Hill since 2007. His efforts, which include daily communication with legislators, have helped oppose numerous bills which would have had potentially severe repercussions for some of our members. 


Recent bills effectively opposed/blocked would have:

  • Allowed municipalities to collect payments on tax exempt school properties (HB2581 & HB1565)

  • Imposed an excise tax on nonprofit universities whose endowments are more than $1 billion (SB1669)

  • Forced nonprofit institutions to make payments to their communities equal to 25% of what they would have paid if they were not tax exempt (HB2407) 

  • Severely hampered the protections offered to our institutions under Dover Amendment (SB94 & SNB219)

  • Made salary information of charitable organization officials public and imposed a commercial rate of real estate taxes on some specific acquired non-profit real estate holdings (HB2581)


MANSC will continue to monitor bills and inform our members about developing issues of concern as the session progresses.



 

An Overview
MANSC on Beacon Hill


MANSC members and guests got an insider’s look at the new Massachusetts legislative session recently from the organization’s veteran legislative counsel, John J. Spillane. 


Speaking at a board-sponsored informational meeting at Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall School, Spillane also outlined his work at the Statehouse, advocating for the interests of Massachusetts nonprofit schools, colleges and universities. 


“Even the best-intentioned bills may have serious financial implications or erode the historic independence of our institutions,” Spillane said.  “I represent the interests of MANSC members and keep them informed 

about issues of concern on Beacon Hill.  Legislators also look to me as a resource to help them understand the effects these bills will have on our institutions – and on our communities.”


The articles in this newsletter will give you an idea of how the legislature works, the trends in bills that Spillane sees and what he does at the Statehouse to represent the interests of MANSC members.


You’ll also find information about new regulations approved recently by the state Board of Higher Education regarding financial oversight of nonprofit colleges and universities.


What MANSC Does on Beacon Hill

For many years, MANSC Legislative Counsel John J. Spillane has had unparalleled success in stopping bills that would negatively affect Massachusetts nonprofit schools, colleges and universities.


He is either at the Statehouse or in close contact with legislators on a daily basis, and even spends time with them in their district visits.


Spillane tracks and follows all bills and last-minute amendments that affect MANSC members.  He monitors and attends committee hearings, prepares opposition testimony on bills of concern, confers with legislators and observes legislative sessions from the gallery.


He also keeps track of bills that apply only to public schools, because they can easily be changed to include nonprofit institutions.


Spillane works closely with AICUM and other trade organizations to develop a strategic approach to stopping bills of concern.



How the Legislature Works

The 191st session of the legislature began on January 2, 2019 and is slated to conclude January 6, 2021. In the 160-member House, there are 127 Democrats and 31 Republicans and 1 Independent; the Senate has 40 members, including 34 Democrats and 6 Republicans. John Spillane expects 5,000 to 5,500 bills will be filed.  Generally, speaking, legislators file bills:

>     In response to a problem in a district
>     Based on legislation in other states,
       policy issues, studies or white papers


Once filed, the bills are assigned to committees. After studying the issues and implications of the bills, as well as getting input at public hearings, committees either report out the bills as “ought to pass” or “ought not to pass,” or they may be put to study or discharged to other committees.


Both the House and Senate must pass a bill and agree on the final language before it is sent to the Governor for signing.  If the Governor vetoes a bill, the veto can be overridden by two-thirds 

votes in the House and Senate.


Each legislative session runs for two years and includes formal and informal sessions.  Formal sessions run from January through the end of July and deal with bills that have been vetted by committees.  The informal sessions run from August through December 31.  Bills may still be voted on in the informal session but require unanimous approval to pass.


Discussions on the state budget typically begin in the spring, but this year the COVID-19 Pandemic has delayed passing of the budget. Both the House and Senate create and vote on budgets, which then go to a Conference Committee to iron out the differences between the two versions.


Our legislative counsel closely monitors the lengthy and complex budget process every year because of the financial implications the state budget may have for nonprofit education, and also because failed bills may be tacked onto the budget as last-minute amendments.


Trends in Bills Affecting MANSC Members

Even if they are turned aside in one session, bills often return in the following years, filed by determined legislators who are unwilling to give up on them.  MANSC Legislative Counsel John J. Spillane has noted the following historic trends in bills that would affect independent schools and colleges:


Zoning, often involving changes to the Dover Amendment. These bills are a major concern for MANSC, and John will be watching for any measures that cede authority to local communities.


Taxation of Nonprofit Schools, Colleges and Universities, including efforts to tax property, operating income and endowments, or defining what institutions should be taxed based on officer salaries. Bills also may seek to establish percentages on what is deemed taxable, including taxation of short-term rentals of school facilities.


990s, including bills that seek greater transparency on what is disclosed on them.

 

PILOT Programs, empowering local communities to require nonprofit institutions to make payments in lieu of taxes.  Other bills may give communities the right of first refusal when our institutions sell property in certain situations.


Safety in Schools, including numerous bills affecting school buses, such as seat belts, embarking and disembarking, motor vehicle conduct regarding school buses, and bus driver conduct and certification.

Student Health, involving concussion prevention, head injuries, allergy response, vision and dental screening, and the prevention of tobacco use.


Prevention of Violence in Schools, defining when violence occurs and the action and response, security measures, student data privacy, sexual violence protocol, and CORI issues.


ADA Compliance,
usually directed at the Architectural Access Board, which is charged with making facilities accessible to people with disabilities
.