BOSTON—Senator Eldridge (D-Acton) voted to pass 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. Senator Eldridge filed a similar municipal modernization reform bill and a bill that would redefine how liquor licenses are issued that was included in this bill.
“This bill would allow local officials to have the tools they need to serve their communities with greater efficiency and effectiveness,” said Senator Eldridge. “Building a strong partnership with our cities and towns by eliminating obsolete laws will enable communities to promote their local independence, streamline state oversight and provide municipalities with greater flexibility.
“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 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.