Who is a member?
Our members are the local governments of Massachusetts and their elected and appointed leadership.
The Honorable Carole A. Fiola, House Chair
The Honorable Jake Oliveira, Senate Chair
Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government
State House, Boston
Dear Chair Fiola, Chair Oliveira, and Distinguished Members of the Committee,
On behalf of cities and towns across the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Municipal Association would like to offer strong support for H. 2043 and S. 1295, An Act Relative to the Effective Enforcement of Municipal Ordinances and By-laws.
Local ordinances and by-laws are often related to maintaining public health and safety, general welfare, and building and zoning regulations. They include municipal issues such as animal control, litter and trash disposal, snow removal, camping, and land use. These “small” rules are the minutiae that communities are built around to serve the public good.
Section 21D of the Chapter 40 of the General Laws was adopted in 1977, and the current cap on non-criminal violations of $300 was set in 1981. While a $300 fine may have been an appropriate deterrent in 1981, it simply isn’t an adequate tool for local government in the 21st Century. Based on the significant lost value and effectiveness of the $300 cap, it’s often not worth the administrative time and effort to collect these fines. H. 2043 and S. 1295 would address this by providing municipalities the ability to charge a maximum of $500 for non-criminal violations of local by-laws, ordinances, and rules under Section 21D.
The bills also allow for a municipality to bring violators of these laws before a court for the assessment of civil penalties and reasonable attorney’s fees and costs. This presents an important and prudent tool for cities and towns to crack down on known habitual offenders. Businesses and individuals who consider an occasional modest fine as part of the cost of doing business would now be deterred by this change in enforcement. In turn, municipalities should see more compliance with these important local rules and regulations.
We respectfully urge the Committee to favorably report out H. 2043 and S. 1295. Raising the cap and allowing for additional fees will give municipalities real tools to combat the abuse of municipal laws.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to have your office contact me or MMA Legislative Analyst Ali DiMatteo, at email@example.com at any time. We are grateful for your support of local government in the Commonwealth and deeply appreciate your consideration of the municipal perspective on this important issue.
MMA Executive Director and CEO