Legislative Package

The MMA’s 24-bill legislative package for the 2013-2014 legislative session was developed and recommended by the MMA’s five policy committees and approved by the MMA Board of Directors.

The package represents just a small portion of the hundreds of bills affecting local government that will be filed during the legislative session. MMA policy committees and staff will be evaluating these bills and working with other stakeholders to improve the laws affecting cities and towns.

The following are the MMA’s proposed bills, listed by policy committee:

Fiscal Policy Committee

Municipal borrowing procedures
The MMA bill would make modest but important changes to three different areas of municipal borrowing.

Rules for use of revolving funds
The MMA bill would eliminate the annual approval requirement for the use of departmental revolving funds and replace it with a one-time authorization by the local appropriating authority that would be revisited only to change the dollar limit or revoke the authorization. The bill would also increase the cap on expenditures from revolving funds by individual municipal departments from an amount not more than 1 percent of the local property tax levy to an amount not more than 5 percent of the levy.

Stabilization funds
The MMA bill would reinstate the simple majority vote rule for appropriations into any stabilization fund.

Taxation of businesses on state authority and agency property
The MMA bill would extend the provisions governing taxation of Massachusetts Turnpike Authority property to other state authorities, including the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and other transit authorities, the Massachusetts Port Authority, the Woods Hole Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Steamship Authority, the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, and the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority. It would also extend similar provisions to property owned by state agencies.

Payments in lieu of taxation by organizations exempt from the property tax
The MMA bill would allow cities and towns, upon local acceptance, to require certain tax-exempt charitable organizations to make payments in lieu of taxation (PILOTs) to host cities and towns equal to 25 percent of what they would pay if their property were not exempt. The bill would require cities and towns to adopt bylaws or ordinances to provide for agreements between the municipality and the tax-exempt property owners that may provide for exemptions, consideration of community benefits, and administration of payments.

Policy Committee on Energy and the Environment

Revolving loan fund for water, sewer projects
The MMA bill would replace language in the general laws setting the interest rate at 2 percent with language allowing the rate to be set at 0 percent.

Contracts for design, construction, financing and operation of wastewater and water treatment facilities
The MMA bill would allow cities and towns, at local option, to issue a request for proposals, in compliance with the Uniform Procurement Act, for the design, construction, financing and operation services of wastewater and water treatment facilities. Such contracts would be exempt from public building and public works construction laws. Projects that use this process would be required to sign a project labor agreement and would be subject to the prevailing wage law. The primary benefit of the bill would be to allow innovative and cost-effective options for the construction of local environmental projects.

Assisting municipal and district ratepayers
The MMA bill would establish a mechanism through which costs, benefits and financial impacts of proposed environmental rules and regulations must be identified and described before they take effect. The bill would require a much more detailed analysis than currently exists in the rule-making process and would require the state to provide a cost-benefit analysis for every dollar expended.

Dam safety, repair and removal
The MMA bill would establish a $17 million state revolving loan fund for dam owners for the repair or removal of unsafe dams. It would also authorize municipalities to assess betterments and issue bonds for dam repair or removal projects.

Sustainable water resource funds
The MMA bill would grant cities and towns the authority to adopt ordinances and bylaws to establish water, stormwater and wastewater utility fees. The bill would give communities another tool to meet their federal Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act requirements.

Policy Committee on Municipal and Regional Administration

Designer selection thresholds
The MMA bill would increase the designer selection thresholds from $10,000 to $50,000 (based on the fee) and from $100,000 to $500,000 (based on project cost).

Local acceptance of easements
The MMA bill would allow towns to grant to the board of selectman the authority to accept and grant easements.

Public works mutual aid
The MMA bill would expand the scope of the municipal public works mutual aid statute to cover maintenance, in addition to “public works incidents.”

Deliberations of public bodies at town meeting
The MMA bill would clarify that public bodies have the right to deliberate at town meeting on town meeting matters without violating the open meeting law.

Zoning law modernization
The MMA bill proposes changes in four key areas of Massachusetts zoning law: land-use disputes, subdivision control, larger lot zoning and associated compact development to protect communities whose natural resources are at stake, and reduction of the freeze on zoning rules earned by filing a subdivision plan from eight years to five.

Municipal control of liquor licenses
The MMA bill would give municipal legislative bodies the authority annually to set the number of liquor licenses available in that municipality. The licensing board or other local body responsible for issuing licenses would still control the granting of such licenses.

Special Commission to Study Veterans’ Benefits
The MMA bill would create a special commission to study the entire scope of benefits offered to veterans under Chapter 115, including which benefits are offered, how they are administered, and the role of local veterans’ service officers. This special commission would be charged with creating legislative recommendations.

Payment of veterans’ benefits
The MMA bill would shift the responsibility for the payment of veterans’ benefits to the state, while the local or district veterans’ service officer would continue to be responsible for determining each veteran’s need for benefits and then would issue a payment request to the state. Under Chapter 115, municipalities currently pay for 100 percent of a veteran’s benefits and then are reimbursed 75 percent by the state on the following year’s Cherry Sheets, a system that creates cash flow problems for many communities.

Policy Committee on Personnel and Labor Relations

Quinn Bill payments
The MMA bill would clarify that cities and towns are not obligated to pay the state’s share of the Quinn Bill.

Municipal personnel system reform
The MMA bill would place public safety personnel in the workers’ compensation system and eliminate the separate benefits of Chapter 41, Section 111F. The bill would also provide that preference for employment for public safety personnel would be restricted to employees who have been laid off by communities within 15 miles of the hiring community.

Health Care Security Trust Board of Trustees
The MMA bill would add a municipal seat to the Health Care Security Trust Board to speak for the interests of municipalities investing in the fund. The board oversees the State Retiree Benefits Trust Fund, into which municipalities may invest other post-employment benefit funds.

Chapter 32B, Section 9A1/2
The MMA bill would clarify how cities and towns can use the statutory option to charge back other communities for a portion of a retiree’s health insurance. The bill would make charging other municipalities a local option, would use a simple charge-back rate of 50 percent, and would mandate that local retirement boards send out creditable service notices.

Policy Committee on Public Works, Transportation and Public Utilities

Allowing the director of Labor and Workforce Development to set the prevailing wage
The MMA bill would amend the statute governing how prevailing wage rates are set. It would require the director of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development to determine a prevailing wage rate after taking into consideration rates paid through collective bargaining contracts. Currently, collective bargaining contract rates serve as the minimum amount and the standard.

Double poles
The MMA bill would establish the authority of cities and towns to enforce the provisions of Section 34B of Chapter 164 to require utility companies to remove “double poles” within 90 days or be subject to a fine of not more than $1,000 per occurrence.