BOSTON—Today the Senate passed comprehensive legislation to modernize municipal finance and governance laws in Massachusetts, including provisions to eliminate or update obsolete laws, promote local independence, streamline state oversight and provide greater flexibility for cities and towns.
“The many provisions in this bill are a comprehensive effort to ease some of the burdens our cities and towns face in the everyday operation of local government. This bill gives them the tools and the flexibility to operate more efficiently and effectively to best serve residents across the Commonwealth,” said Senate Committee on Ways and Means Chair Senator Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland).
“The Senate continues to work with our partners at the local level to adopt best practices, identify efficiencies, and create opportunities for our cities and towns. Local government is at the front lines of delivering public services to the residents of the Commonwealth. This legislation gives our cities and towns the flexibility to better serve their residents to help their communities thrive,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst).
“What this bill does is give our cities and towns the tools they need to make local government function more effectively,” saidSenator Barbara L’Italien (D-Andover), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government. “This bill has over two hundred sections that each speak to a need that cities and towns have in areas of purchasing procedures, finance, the collection of revenue at the local level, assessing, tax issues, and many other important functions. This work is critically important to cities and towns and this bill is a collection of changes that is responsive to the needs of our partners in local government.”
“Cities and towns perform critical functions that directly touch the lives of people in Massachusetts every day. They are our partners in government, and we should take every opportunity to help them save money, operate efficiently and foster prosperous communities,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester).
The bill eliminates or updates obsolete laws that no longer serve a meaningful purpose, including the repeal of county government finance reporting requirements and changes to the civil motor vehicle infraction law to allow cities and towns to issue citations electronically.
The bill promotes local autonomy for cities and towns, allowing for more control over certain funding decisions and local regulations. For example, the bill allows municipalities to enter into joint powers agreements to provide services regionally and reduces the state’s role in setting liquor license quotas for on-premises drinking.
The bill also streamlines state oversight of many tax collection procedures to make the process more transparent and predictable for local officials.
Finally, the bill takes steps to provide municipalities with greater flexibility, including a study on double utility poles, changes to procurement laws to simplify, clarify and increase thresholds for construction contracts and updates to the way municipalities use parking revenues, to allow for use on a wide range of transportation-related issues.
A conference committee will now resolve the differences between the Senate and House versions of the bill.