Sen. L’Italien was the lead Senate negotiator on sweeping legislation passed this past summer that reformed municipal finance and governance laws in Massachusetts. The new law, signed by Gov. Baker at a State House ceremony in July, includes provisions to eliminate or update obsolete laws, promote local independence, streamline state oversight and provides greater flexibility for cities and towns. The law was the result of comments and recommendations by mayors, selectmen, town managers and other local leaders, and evolved through meetings with these officials.
Put simply, the Muni Reform law gives cities and towns the tools they need to make local government function more efficiently and effectively.
As Senate Chair of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government, Sen. L’Italien presided over many public hearings over many months on various parts of the legislation, which consists of over two hundred sections. Each section addressed a specific need that cities and towns had in areas including: purchasing, procedures, finance, collection of revenue at the local level, assessing, tax issues, and many other important functions. This work is critically important to cities and towns and the new law is a collection of changes that is responsive to the needs of local government.
The bill eliminated or updated obsolete laws that no longer serve a meaningful purpose, including the repeal of county government finance reporting requirements. It makes changes to the civil motor vehicle infraction law to allow cities and towns to issue citations electronically. (Below in photo: Sen. L’Italien with Gov. Baker at the official signing of the Muni Bill into law).
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 streamlined state oversight of many tax collection procedures to make the process more transparent and predictable for local officials.
Finally, the bill took 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.
Here are some news stories on the passage of the Muni Reform Bill, followed by a legislative summary of the bill: