The Honorable Antonio F. D. Cabral, House Chair
The Honorable Nick Collins, Senate Chair
Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight
State House, Boston

Delivered Electronically

Dear Chair Cabral, Chair Collins, and Distinguished Members of the Committee,

On behalf of cities and towns across the Commonwealth, the MMA is writing today to express our strong support of S. 2043, An Act to modernize municipal meetings, town meetings, and local elections and H. 3025/S. 2011, An Act relative to remote access for public bodies and town meetings.

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, you and your colleagues in the Legislature acted swiftly to create a broad range of special rules that enabled cities and towns to maintain operations, continue to conduct business, hold elections, create budgets, and support residents and local economies. This critical work showed a united front in the fight against COVID-19 and catalyzed important innovations in municipal operations. Many of the pandemic-era provisions, including remote and hybrid meetings options for public bodies have continued to prove useful and as such have been extended multiple times. We are thankful that the Legislature fully understands the importance of these provisions, and extended them through March 31, 2025. Given the success of this flexibility, we respectfully ask that these provisions become permanent options, in order for municipalities to rely on them and plan any appropriate investments to serve their community’s needs.

Every city and town in the Commonwealth has dozens of councils, boards, and commissions, many of which have utilized the option of remote meetings and the use of virtual platforms to conduct business. Making the current authorization permanent would allow municipalities to determine the remote options as necessary given limited capacity and resources. We respectfully ask the Committee to favorably report out S. 2043, H. 3025, and S. 2011.

Much of the work to modernize and transition core municipal government functions into this new era has been highly successful, creating increased access, engagement and transparency in local government. However, one size does not fit all. Each municipality has different capabilities, needs, and preferences. A statewide mandate for hybrid or remote meetings would be untenable and unworkable. Municipalities, restricted under Proposition 2½, can’t absorb these ongoing costs and would be also faced with significant logistical challenges. We respectfully request you to oppose any bill that would mandate these provisions for more than 10,000 municipal public bodies.

Many municipalities have outdated, older buildings that are difficult and costly to retrofit. Ongoing costs such as additional staffing needs as well as technology fees are also unquantified. With local boards, commissions, committees, subcommittees, advisory committees and authorities in each municipality subject to the open meeting law, cities and towns need options that allow them to look at their individual equipment, meeting space, technology licenses, financial resources and the public interest when determining how to approach each meeting. This is why the Massachusetts Municipal Association (MMA) is fully aligned on this issue with the municipal leadership tasked with implementing this work, including the Massachusetts Municipal Lawyers Association (MMLA), Massachusetts Moderators Association, Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions, and all regional planning agencies as part of the Massachusetts Association of Regional Planning Agencies (MARPA).

Additionally, allowing the COVID-era changes to Representative and Open Town Meetings to be made permanent would ensure continuity for the residents of these municipalities and allow these original democratic forms of government to modernize with more flexible formats designed to encourage participation.

Thanks to your leadership, cities and towns have been able to continue their innovative use of technology to ensure resilient and flexible approaches to the conduct of municipal meetings and operations. As you know, the vast majority of municipal board and committee members are volunteers, donating their time to nighttime meetings, doing their best to serve their neighbors. The current remote options that you have extended multiple times have made an enormous impact. A finalized, permanent option would allow these benefits to continue and provide communities with the ability to implement best practices following a schedule and format that works best for them, investing in technology on a budgeted, affordable, and self-funded timeline.

Thank you very much for your support for the communities of Massachusetts, and for your consideration of this important matter. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to have your office contact me or MMA Legislative Analyst Ali DiMatteo at 617-426-7272 or at any time.


Geoffrey C. Beckwith
Executive Director & CEO