Green Newton leaders were honored to join state legislators and environmental activists at the Massachusetts State House on January 23, 2023 to celebrate the enactment of the Public Lands Protection Act, a bill that was sponsored by State Representative Ruth B. Balser with her Senate partner Jamie Eldridge to strengthen Article 97 of the state constitution by protecting our public parkland. It took 20 years of their dedicated work to succeed at getting this law across the finish line for it to be signed by Governor Baker in November 2022. Credit also goes to Speaker Ron Mariano, Ways and Means Chair Aaron Michlewitz, Senate President Karen E. Spilka, Senate Ways and Means Chair Michael Rodrigues and a coalition of dedicated advocates.
The final bill, which is now Chapter 274 of the Acts of 2022:
- requires replacement of public parks and conservation land that are converted to a different use with land of equal natural resource and market value in a comparable location,
- requires prior notification to the public and the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs of proposals to transfer the land,
- requires an alternatives analysis to demonstrate there is no feasible alternative, and
- allows cash payments in lieu of replacement land in limited cases so long as the cash is no less than 110% of the value and the money is spent within 3 years on replacement land.