Beacon Hill spent much of 2019 dealing with legislative priorities left over from the previous year, while setting up for some major debates to come in 2020. After a slow start, lawmakers were busy towards the end of this year, passing a number of important pieces of legislation that will affect the lives of Massachusetts students, drivers, workers and even smokers.

Many of the major bills member of the House and Senate will take credit for over the holidays were expected to pass before the July 2018 end of the Legislature's formal sessions but ended up being finished just prior to Thanksgiving 2019.


The most significant policy change was years in the making, an additional $1.5 billion for cities and town school districts over seven years.

Last year's effort to rewrite the funding formula nearly became law in 2018, but the House and Senate failed to settle on a compromise plan for additional funds for English language learners, low income students and the rising costs of employee health care. In 2019, spearheaded by Wellesley Rep. Alice Peisch and Winchester Sen. Jason Lewis, legislative leaders made their major concessions before sending bills to their respective chambers and the end result was a relatively smooth process that lead to a new commitment to the state's K-12 education system.


A public health crisis spurred policymakers into action with urgency this year when nicotine vaping was suspected of causing deadly respiratory disease across the country.

Gov. Charlie Baker unilaterally banned all vape sales, something no other state repeated, while lawmakers swiftly passed a new law adding a 75 percent tax to vapes, adding new regulations for their sale and banning all flavored tobacco products.

The flavor ban, a priority of medical groups and public health advocates, including menthol cigarettes and chewing tobacco, products that were exempted from previous crackdowns on flavoring.


Several other new laws from 2019 were expected to receive passage by the General Court the year prior, but were held up.

A law allowing labor unions to recoup some funds spent on behalf of workers who chose not to be part of the union was a top labor priority and reaction to the Supreme Court's decision in the Janus case.

A ban on gay conversion therapy very nearly passed at the eleventh hour last year, but was delayed by a conservative House Republican until time ran out on the Legislature's January-to-August work calendar.

And after years of complaints that the state's texting ban on drivers was unenforceable, the law was changed to bar drivers from holding any electronic device. The distracted driving bill had been hung up over concerns a new stopping power for police would lead to increased racial discimintion. The compromise law will analyse some data about where stops occur and who they happen to, but did not satisfy civil rights groups looking for a more robust study of racism in local policing.


In 2019, the number of recreational cannabis dispensaries licensed for business increased more than tenfold, setting up a new tax generating industry for the state under the Cannabis Control Commission. The CCC weighed for further expansion of cannabis sales throughout the year, considering social consumption "cafes," home delivery and access to the industry for populations most affected by years of prohibition.

Casino gambling also expanded in Massachusetts in 2019 with the opening of the Encore casino in Everett. The gaming palace on the Mystic River, along with a slots parlor in Plainridge and smaller MGM casino in Springfield, completes the state's initial plan for establishing a gaming industry. Building a third resort casino in Southeastern Massachusetts is still legally an option that could occupy the gaming Commission in 2020 and beyond.