What constitutes local approval of a home rule petition?
August 31, 2006
Q: What constitutes local approval of a home rule petition?
A: In order to act on a home rule petition, the Legislature must have evidence that the proposal has been approved at the local level. Typically, authorization comes from Town Meeting or a town or city council (subject, in some cities, to the mayor’s approval). Direct voter approval is allowed in cities and towns where the charter provides for a local initiative, or for a referendum on a decision by the local legislative body.
The Supreme Judicial Court has ruled that the state constitution “evinces no intention to prescribe different legislative procedures” for a home rule petition “from the procedures otherwise followed by the [municipal] legislative body.” In a 1974 case, the court ruled that a town manager or administrator in a town council form of government could not be given the power to veto a home rule petition. In 1978, the court ruled that the mayor of Cambridge did not have veto power over a home rule petition because the city’s charter did not grant the mayor veto power over other city legislation.
Answer from third edition of Massachusetts Senate’s “Legislative Drafting and Legal Manual,” published in 2003. The manual can be viewed at www.mass.gov/legis/drafting.htm#home.