Senator Sal DiDomenico and Representative Daniel Ryan announced that the Massachusetts State Senate and House of Representatives passed legislation to provide governance and fiscal flexibility for municipalities grappling with public health challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. This legislation has now been signed by Governor Baker.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for our local communities, and delivering for our cities and towns has remained a top priority for all of us in the Legislature,” said Senator DiDomenico. “I am proud that my colleagues and I in the Senate and House have taken action to pass this bipartisan bill and give our municipalities additional flexibility to ensure they can continue serving the immediate need of our residents.”
“This public health, and economic crisis, has also effected the way our cities and towns function,” said Representative Ryan. “By giving structural flexibility to our city officials, we are allowing the people closest to our constituents the ability to provide the services needed without worrying about immediate bureaucratic deadlines.”
Building off of other legislation that gave municipalities operating flexibility during the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis, the bill further protects public health and preserves the town meeting structure from continued disruptions caused by the state of emergency.
The bill includes the following provisions:
•Permits representative meetings to take place virtually;
•Permits quorum reduction for open meetings to no less than 10% and extends the quorum reduction to representative town meeting;
•Allows meetings to be held outside the geographic limits of the municipality; and
•Permits a municipal election scheduled through June 31 to be extended to August 1 at the latest.
By providing our municipalities with this much-needed flexibility, the bill preserves public access to the proceedings of town governance and protects the public from the continued health risks associated with the COVID-19 outbreak.
The bill also provides our city governments with fiscal relief by allowing mayors to delay their normal budget submission deadline for FY 2021 in light of the state of emergency.
Finally, among other provisions, the bill strengthens the prohibition on terminating essential services for residents during the COVID-19 emergency and provides municipalities and regional school districts flexibility in paying school bus and other vendor contracts.