Baker-Polito Administration Introduces Municipal Modernization Bill
Legislation reflects input of hundreds of local officials across the Commonwealth following months of outreach
BOSTON – Today, Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito introduced “ An Act to Modernize Municipal Finance and Government ,” aimed at improving critical components of the partnership between state and municipal governments by eliminating or updating obsolete laws, promoting local independence, streamlining state oversight and providing municipalities with greater flexibility. This bill reflects the fact that expectations have changed concerning municipal government, ushering in significant improvements in professional management, and that advances in technology have profoundly changed the manner in which municipalities operate. Today’s announcement follows hundreds of meetings, conversations, and proposals between the administration and municipal officials, including over 130 municipalities the Lt. Governor has met with as part of her “Building Stronger Communities” tour.
“As two former local officials, the Lieutenant Governor and I promised to make partnership with cities and towns a focus and priority of our administration,” said Governor Baker. “We were proud to establish a Community Compact Cabinet and keep our commitment to increase local aid by 75% of revenue growth in our first budget, the largest such boost in nearly a decade, and look forward to implementing greater independence and flexibility that empowers our local municipal officials to best serve their communities.”
Governor Baker cemented the administration’s commitment to municipal partnerships and seat at the table in his first executive order after taking office, establishing the Community Compact Cabinet, and appointing Lt. Governor Polito as its chair to enable greater communication and collaboration with local officials. Since its establishment, 150 communities have applied, representing over 300 best practices, and the Lt. Governor has signed compacts with 71 communities.
“Over the past eleven months, I have travelled across the Commonwealth meeting with and listening to local officials as Chair of the Community Compact Cabinet,” said Lieutenant Governor Polito. “Signing over 70 commitments to promote best practices at the local level has afforded me the tremendous opportunity to connect with local officials and hear many great ideas that are reflected in this bill, including streamlining state oversight and eliminating obsolete laws.”
“The Baker-Polito Administration’s investment in local aid will go beyond funding in each year’s budget,” said Kristen Lepore, Secretary of the Executive Office for Administration and Finance. “Groups like the Massachusetts Municipal Association and the Massachusetts Mayors’ Association were instrumental in helping us identify unnecessary mandates and laws in desperate need of modernization. The legislation we are proposing today incorporates a tremendous amount of feedback and a common sense approach to addressing reforms and strengthening our partnership with Massachusetts cities and towns.”
In April, through the Division of Local Services (DLS), the administration posed to local officials what the Commonwealth could do to improve their ability to deliver quality services to their constituents and the feedback included more than 550 individual responses and more than 1,300 suggestions from over 215 municipalities and 20 regional school districts. The administration has also completed internal reviews and met with numerous professional associations, including the Massachusetts Municipal Association (MMA), Massachusetts Association of Public Purchasing Officials (MAPPO), Massachusetts Association of Assessing Officers (MAAO), Massachusetts Collectors/Treasurers Association (MCTA), and Massachusetts Municipal Auditors and Accountants Association (MMAAA).
“The Act to Modernize Municipal Finance and Government is history-making in its depth and breadth,” said Geoff Beckwith, Executive Director & CEO of the Massachusetts Municipal Association. “The bill would benefit nearly every aspect of local government, from day-to-day administration to economic development in our downtowns, and reflects the kind of local-state partnership that would make Massachusetts a model for the rest of the nation.”
“This bill is terrific for cities, towns and local taxpayers because it will remove unnecessary and obsolete barriers to efficient government and effective service delivery,” said MMA President and Orleans Selectman David Dunford. “These proposals will allow our communities to modernize their management systems, streamline their operations, and move faster than ever to grow our local economies. All of this will make our state stronger and more competitive than ever.”
“From day one, Governor Baker and Lt. Governor Polito have embraced our cities and towns, and worked hard to build a strong and powerful partnership with local leaders,” said Haverhill Mayor James Fiorentini, President of the Massachusetts Mayors’ Association. “The Baker-Polito Act to Modernize Municipal Finance and Government will benefit every city and town, from the largest to the smallest, and will give Mayors, Selectmen, Managers and all local officials the tools to lead their communities with greater efficiency and effectiveness. That’s what a great state-local partnership looks like.”
The four foundational themes for the proposed municipal modernization bill are: eliminating or updating obsolete laws; promoting local independence; streamlining state oversight; and providing municipalities with greater flexibility. The need for modernization is further reflected by the fact that the proposed bill includes amending laws that haven’t been modified since the early 1900’s.
Eliminate or Update Obsolete Laws
Promote Local Independence
Streamline State Oversight
Provide Municipalities with Greater Flexibility
The legislation also proposes changes that would modernize procurement at the local level and allow municipalities to use Operational Services Division contracts for construction contracts under $50,000. Once passed, this legislation will also allow cities, towns, or districts to adopt a local option that would require direct deposit of municipal employee compensation; will permit mayors and selectmen to initiate movement to optional forms of municipal administration or charter commission; will allow municipalities to exempt positions from civil service by vote of the governing body rather than through special legislation; and will enable cities and town to invest in CD’s for more than one year.