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Under state law, if the legislature or a state agency require a local government to take on a new responsibility, the legislature is generally required to provide funding for the municipality to implement the new requirement. If the state does not provide local governments proper funding to meet the requirements of the new law or regulation, it may be considered an unfunded mandate.
The Office of the State Auditor (OSA) responds to requests from local government entities to determine if a proposed or existing state law or regulation constitutes an unfunded mandate, and if so, provides an analysis of the cost impacts of the law or regulation on cities, towns, regional school districts, or educational collaboratives.
The Local Mandate Law was enacted as part of the property tax limit initiative known as Proposition 2 1/2. The Local Mandate Law says that any state law or regulation passed or implemented after January 1, 1981 that imposes any direct service or cost obligation on a city or town is only effective when the community votes to accept the law or regulation, or the Commonwealth provides funding for the community to comply with the law/regulation.
Under this law, cities and towns can ask the Office of the State Auditor to determine if a state law or regulation constitutes an unfunded mandate, and to provide an analysis of the financial impact of such a mandate.
The Local Mandate Law also allows any community facing the unfunded state mandate to request an exemption from compliance in superior court.
While the Local Mandate Law is intended to protect cities, towns, regional school districts, and educational collaboratives from costs associated with implementing a law or regulation, there are some exemptions. These exemptions include:
Requests that the OSA review a law or regulation to determine if it is an unfunded mandate can be made by:
If the OSA determines that a state law or regulation is an unfunded mandate, the group of individual that requested the determination has several options to address the mandate:
The unfunded mandate determination from the OSA does not in itself exempt a local government entity from complying with the law or regulation. It also does not ensure funding to allow local government entities to comply with the law.