Functions of the Attorney General's Municipal Law Unit
Whenever a town adopts or amends its general by-laws or zoning by-laws, within 30 days of adjournment of town meeting, the Town Clerk is required to submit them to the Attorney General for review and approval. The Attorney General then has 90 days in which to decide whether the proposed amendments are consistent with the constitution and the laws of the Commonwealth. If the Attorney General finds an inconsistency between the proposed amendments and state law, the amendments or portions thereof will be disapproved. The Municipal Law Unit is responsible for undertaking this review and for issuing a written decision approving or disapproving by-law amendments.
Whenever a city or town seeks to adopt or amend its charter pursuant to the Home Rule Procedures Act (General Laws, Chapter 43B), the proposed charter or charter amendments must be submitted to the Attorney General for his opinion as to the consistency between the charter (or charter amendments) and state law. The Attorney General then has 28 days in which to make this determination. The Municipal Law Unit is responsible for undertaking this review and for issuing a written decision.
In addition to the above statutory functions, the staff of the Municipal Law Unit advise the Attorney General on a wide range of matters relating generally to municipal law and local government. This includes pending or threatened litigation in which the legality of state or local laws is challenged. The Attorney General is permitted by statute to intervene in such cases.
Collaboration with Cities and Towns
The staff of the Attorneys General's Municipal Law Unit strive to work collaboratively with city and town attorneys and local public officials in countless ways to help communities to avoid legal problems, to comply with state law, and to function effectively in the best interests of the citizens of the Commonwealth. Unit staff are not authorized to give legal advice other than as prescribed above. Nevertheless, time permitting, we are willing to discuss municipal law issues generally with your municipal attorney and local public officials and to suggest other resources that might offer appropriate guidance and help.
Municipal Law Unit staff may be reached at: Office of the Attorney General, Municipal Law Unit, 10 Mechanic Street, Suite 301 Worcester, MA 01608-2417. Telephone: 508-792-7600, FAX: 508-795-1991.