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Key Policy Wins Secured for Creative and Cultural Sector

Bethann Steiner, Senior Director of Public Affairs

Governor’s Economic Development Bill and Executive Order contain provisions to advance arts and culture

Mass Cultural Council’s three-year strategic plan directs Agency staff to focus on advancing the creative and cultural sector by building partnerships and identifying policy recommendations that would help our stakeholders. The Agency’s leadership has spent much time meeting with colleagues in both the public and private sectors, making connections, identifying shared priorities, and developing initiatives to bolster creative individuals and organizations across Massachusetts.

Various meetings and conversations with state government officials have led to major policy developments announced last week by the Healey-Driscoll Administration, and Mass Cultural Council wishes to mark and celebrate these victories and thank the Governor and her team for their continued partnership and support for our work to advance the power of culture.

On Friday the Governor filed a much anticipated $3.5 billion economic development bill, H. 4459, referred to as the Mass Leads Act, which strengthens Massachusetts’ leadership in several major economic sectors, such as life sciences, climatetech, and applied artificial intelligence, while also proposing robust state investments to support small businesses, rural communities, workforce development and, we are very pleased to note, arts and culture and tourism.

This legislation contains important recommendations of interest to the creative and cultural sector, including:

  • Capital spending authorizations to support a number of state grant programs administered by various state agencies, including $50 million for the Cultural Facilities Fund (CFF), which Mass Cultural Council runs in partnership with Mass Development.
  • Establishment of a new Live Theater State Tax Credit, a 5-year pilot program, subject to a $5M annual cap, which will support local live theater productions in Massachusetts.

Full bill text, summaries, and policy briefs for the Mass Leads Act are available online. To track the progress of this legislation, follow the bill on the General Court’s website.

The bill has been referred to the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies for consideration. It is expected that a public hearing will be scheduled for the panel to receive testimony and public input. Under the Joint Rules, all bills requiring a roll call vote, such as this one, must be enacted before the close of the formal session. As such, the Legislature has until midnight on July 31, 2024 to complete their work on this proposal and advance it to the Governor’s desk.

To supplement the Mass Leads Act, the Healey-Driscoll Administration announced additional actions to further support the Commonwealth’s creative and cultural sector and tourism. These initiatives are not dependent on legislative action and can occur at the Governor’s direction:

  • Executive Order Establishing the Governor’s Cultural Policy Development Advisory Council. This new body, chaired by the Executive Office of Economic Development, will bring together Mass Cultural Council, the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism (MOTT), and key stakeholders in arts and culture to coordinate efforts and prioritize initiatives. The Cultural Policy Development Advisory Council is charged with exploring policies that support artists, cultural workers, and arts organizations while promoting cultural equity in the arts; examining ways to create economic opportunities in the arts and culture sector; and recommending to the Governor a cultural development and jobs plan for Massachusetts. This Council was a policy recommendation suggested by Mass Cultural Council, to ensure all state bodies working on behalf of the creative and cultural sector were aligned and coordinating efforts together for the greatest impact.
  • Cultural District Support – At the urging of Mass Cultural Council, and as authorized by state law, the Administration will begin to give additional consideration and priority to infrastructure, planning, and other community grant proposals for projects located within state-designated Cultural Districts in the next funding rounds for Community One Stop and the MOTT Destination Development Grants.
  • The Administration also plans to announce new Artist in Residence and Poet Laureate programs, as well as provide support for Massachusetts 250th and the 2024 Governor’s Conference on Travel & Tourism.

Mass Cultural Council looks forward to continued partnership with the Healey-Driscoll Administration in these efforts to bolster our vibrant creative and cultural sector statewide.

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