The local Mandate Law was enacted as part of the property tax limit initiative known as Proposition 2 1/2. In general terms, the Local Mandate Law provides that any post-1980 state law or regulation "imposing any direct service or cost obligation upon any city or town shall be effective only if" the community votes to accept the law or regulation, or the Commonwealth assumes the cost of compliance. G. L. c. 29, s. 27C (a). It also allows any community aggrieved by an unfunded state mandate to petition superior court for an exemption from compliance. In such a proceeding, the determination by the Division of Local Mandates (DLM) of the amount of compliance cost is considered prima facie evidence of the amount of state funding necessary to sustain the mandate. G. L. c. 29, s. 27C (e).
If you have any questions about mandates, call DLM at (617) 727-0025.
Within the Office of the State Auditor, DLM is responsible for determining the local financial impact of proposed or existing state mandates. DLM responds to written requests for opinions and cost impact analysis from cities, towns, regional school districts, and educational collaboratives, as well as the General Court and state agencies. Responses take the form of opinion letters and cost determinations. DLM also provides informal telephone consultation when appropriate.
The Local Mandate Law does not apply:
- When the new mandate imposes only incidental administration expenses on cities and towns.
- When there is a stipulation that requires municipal compliance with the mandate as a condition of state aid.
- When the new mandate imposes indirect, NOT direct costs such as the regulatory expenses imposed on commercial enterprises that are indirectly passed on to customers, including municipalities.
- When the new mandate is the result of a court decision.
- When the new mandate or amendment permits local option compliance.
- When the Legislature overrides the Local Mandate Law.
- When the new mandate is a federal pass-through mandate, such as EPA regulations governing safe drinking water standard.
- When the new mandate regulates the compensation, hours, status, conditions or benefits of municipal employment. (Article 115 of the State Constitution governs this area of state law. However, no funding is required for such laws passed by a 2/3s vote of both the House and Senate.)
The local Mandate Law is designed to protect cities, towns, regional school districts and educational collaboratives from state imposed costs. It does not protect counties, authorities, and other regional subdivisions.
- Any legislative committee or either branch of the General Court.
- The chief executive officer of a city or town (mayor, manager, etc).
- The board of selectmen, board of alderman, town council, or city council.
- The superintendent or school committee of a city or town, or regional school district, or executive director of an educational collaborative.
- Seek a legislative solution: ask the local Representative or Senator to pursue state funding or local option language.
- Seek an exemption from the statute or regulation in question in superior court.
- Only the courts can declare a law ineffective in any city, town, or regional school district.
- A DLM determination is prima facie evidence in superior court.
- According to subsection (e), any ten taxable inhabitants of any city or town in a class action suit may also petition superior court alleging the deficiency of state monies to reimburse cities and towns for mandates covered by subsections (a), (b), and (c).
In making its determinations in response to municipal petitions, DLM must apply the terms of the Local Mandate Law in light of relevant court authority. Following are the major court decisions that directly affect interpretation of the Local Mandate Law, and guide DLM in making its determinations.
- City of Worcester v. The Governor, 416 Mass. 751 (1994).
- City of Cambridge v. Attorney General, 410 Mass. 165 (1991).
- Town of Norfolk v. Dept. of Environmental Quality Engineering, 407 Mass. 233 (1990).
- School Committee of Lexington v. Commissioner of Education, 397 Mass. 593 (1986).
- Town of Lexington v. Commissioner of Education, 393 Mass. 693 (1985).
Chapter 126 of the Acts of 1984 expanded the Division's mission by authorizing DLM to examine any state law or regulation that has a significant local cost impact, regardless of whether it satisfies the more technical standards for a mandate determination. This statute is codified as Section 6B of Chapter 11 of the General Laws.
Known as municipal impact studies, Chapter 126 reviews include cost-benefit analyses and recommendations to the General Court. Examples of DLM's Chapter 126 reviews include studies on the school finance law, Medicaid payments for special education costs, and property tax relief for elderly homeowners.
- Address a letter to:
The Honorable Suzanne M. Bump Auditor of the Commonwealth
State House, Room 230
Boston, MA 02133
- Cite the new law or regulation imposing costs and the nature of the local financial impact. Provide cost data, if possible.
- State your request for a DLM determination of the fiscal impact of this new mandate under the provisions of G. L. c. 29, s. 27C.
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