As many of you are aware, there was a lot of beekeeper activity on Beacon Hill at the end of the formal legislative session of the 189th General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to try to pass bill H.4187 – An Act Protecting Massachusetts Pollinators. Despite the support of an overwhelming number of legislators from both chambers, Speaker Deleo was unable to bring the bill to the floor for a vote due to the overwhelming volume of overrides that had to be processed first. While this is admittedly a disappointment, it is not uncommon. Things move slowly on the Hill and it can take multiple sessions for legislation to prevail.
H.4187 was originally sponsored by Representative Carolyn Dykema as H.655, the original version of the bill. It is groundbreaking legislation that would have regulated the use of the neonicotinoid class of pesticides that an overwhelming body of world wide, peer reviewed scientific research has shown to be one of the primary causes of the death and decline of our bees and native pollinators that we are all acutely aware of. In committee, H.655 was amended to include a section to create a commission to advise the legislature on pollinator related legislation and emerged as H.4187.
In recognition of her leadership in authoring, supporting and sponsoring legislation to protect pollinators in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Representative Carolyn Dykema was presented with the Legislator of the Year award at the Massachusetts Beekeepers Association fall meeting.
On Wednesday, January 4th, 2017 the first formal session of the the 190th General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts convened. Shortly thereafter Representative Carolyn Dykema re-filed her legislation to protect pollinators in the Commonwealth. During the co-sponsorship period, her bill received an unprecedented 135 co-sponsors. As of now the bill has been formally recorded as Bill H.2113, An Act to Protect Massachusetts Pollinators and as been assigned to the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. It is currently awaiting a hearing date assignment by the committee.
Representative Dykema’s bill, Bill H.2113, An Act to Protect Massachusetts Pollinators, is still awaiting a hearing date assignment by the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture (ENRA). H.2113 is supported by the Massachusetts Beekeepers Association, NOFA, the Sierra Club, the Toxics Action Center, Environment Massachusetts and the Audubon Society. This expanding coalition of public support coupled with the initial co-sponsorship of an unprecedented 135 legislators from both chambers and both sides of the aisle are encouraging developments. There are also three other pollinator related bills that have been assigned to ENRA that establish commissions to advise the legislature on potential legislation to promote pollinator habitat or forage. In each case, although the bills are pro-pollinator, the makeup of the commissions include only a small percentage of beekeepers. The bills are:
S.451, An Act to protect pollinator habitat. – Senator Jason M. Lewis
H.457, An Act to promote pollinator forage. – Representative Keiko Orrall
H.2926, An Act to protect pollinator habitat. – Representative Mary Keefe
S.451 and H.2926 are essentially identical Senate and House versions of the same bill that were filed by their respective sponsors in collaboration with the Audubon Society. It also worth mentioning that Representative Keefe is a beekeeper and a member of the Worcester County Beekeepers Association. She is pro-pollinator and in touch with the issues that impact all beekeepers in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Although these three bills bear watching because they could be potential candidates as amendments to H.2113, they have very little direct or immediate impact on pollinators. H.2113, on the other hand, seeks to limit the use of the neonicotinoid class of systemic pesticides to licensed pesticide applicators only. It also contains disclosure components that give consumers the information they need to opt out of purchasing seeds, plant material or pesticide application services where neonicotinoids are used. The states of Maryland and Connecticut have already passed similar legislation and other states are also considering it. And in the private sector, Walmart and True Value recently pledged to stop selling products containing neonicotinoids. Your voice can be heard by calling, emailing or meeting with your legislators in person and urging them to support H.2113 and to call on ENRA to hold a hearing on H.2113 as soon as possible.