On Nov. 8, 2022, the MMA Board of Directors approved a slate of 24 local government bills recommended by the MMA’s five policy committees to be filed for the 2023-24 legislative session that starts in January.

Each bill filed for the new session will be assigned to a legislative committee sometime after the session convenes in January. Public hearings for many bills will be held in the spring and early summer.

The MMA legislative package represents just a few of the hundreds of bills affecting local government that will be filed for the new session. MMA policy committees and staff will be evaluating these bills, preparing testimony and working with other local government groups on a range of bills over the two-year session.

MMA legislative package for 2023-24 legislative session (150K PDF)

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

Fiscal Policy Committee

Municipal and public safety building authority (new)
This bill would establish a new independent state authority, the Massachusetts Municipal and Public Safety Building Authority, chaired by the state treasurer, that would assist municipalities with the construction of or improvements to public safety or municipal buildings and facilities.

Local-option meals tax (refile)
This bill would increase the local-option sales tax on meals from 0.75% to 1.5%. Approval would be by vote of the local legislative body. The receipts from the tax would continue to be for the municipal general fund.

Local-option excise on alcohol for substance abuse prevention and public health programs (refile)
This bill would allow cities and towns to adopt a sales tax of up to 2% on the retail sale of alcoholic beverages, including sales in bars, restaurants, package stores and other non-pouring establishments. Approval would be by vote of the local legislative body. The revenue would be dedicated to help pay for local substance abuse and other public health programs.

Policy Committee on Energy and the Environment

Sustainable water resource funds (refile)
This bill would clarify and strengthen the authority of cities and towns to establish water, stormwater and wastewater utility fees to support the cost of expanded or upgraded water infrastructure, protect public health, and meet federal Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act requirements and other state and federal environmental requirements.

Net metering (refile)
The state’s net metering law currently allows utility companies to submit proposals to the Department of Public Utilities for a monthly minimum reliability contribution (“MMRC”) payment to be included on electric bills for customers who receive net metering credits, subject to the review and approval of the DPU. This bill would exempt municipal ratepayers, low-income, community solar and small-scale ratepayers from paying a monthly minimum reliability contribution.

Extended producer responsibility for paint (new)
This bill would require producers of paint to submit a plan for a post-consumer paint collection and stewardship program and would direct the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to promulgate regulations related to enforcement procedures and to publish plan information on its website.

Protecting water systems through the labeling of flushable wipes (new)
This bill would require manufacturers of disposable products such as diaper wipes, toilet wipes, household cleaning wipes, personal care wipes and facial wipes to label wipes that do not meet performance standards for flushing as non-flushable. The bill would also set standards for required labeling, require manufacturers to test products and verify that they meet performance standards, set penalties for violations, and allow the attorney general to enforce the law.

Policy Committee on Municipal and Regional Administration

Permanent option for remote public meetings (new)
This bill would create a permanent option for remote meetings and participation. Members participating remotely would be considered present and in attendance when determining a quorum and would participate as full members. Meetings of public bodies that are held remotely or in a hybrid format would be required to make provisions to ensure public access and ensure that any party entitled or required to participate by law, local ordinance or bylaw may do so through remote means as well. The executive body of a municipality must develop and adopt standards and guidelines for remote participation prior to any remote meeting being held pursuant to this law.

Local option increase of civil penalty (refile)
This bill would allow a municipality to increase the cap for civil penalties under Section 21D of Chapter 40 from up to $300 to up to $500 by local option to account for cost-of- living increases since this law was last adopted.

Shared services and regionalization bonus points (refile)
This bill would direct the Division of Local Services to work with all state agencies to assign bonus points to rural communities who, as part of an application process for a discretionary grant or incentive program, indicate that they intend to share services or regionalize with another community in order to be eligible for the grant. Rural communities for the purposes of this bill are municipalities with population density of less than 500 persons per square mile.

Legal notices (new)
This bill would allow a municipality which does not have a local print edition newspaper to satisfy the publication requirement for legal notices by publication on its own website, or on the websites of a local, regional or statewide online newspaper that does not maintain a print publication.

Procurement parity and technical corrections to public construction law (new)
This bill would increase the procurement cap under the Uniform Procurement Act (Ch. 30B) from $50,000 to $100,000, to bring all municipal purchases (not including property) in line with the changes made in the recently passed school operational efficiency law. It would also close the RFP loophole by allowing RFP or qualifications-based selection for purchases made between $10,000 and $100,000.

Outdoor dining flexibility (new)
This bill would make permanent flexibility for outdoor dining ordinances, many of which were introduced and later extended as part of COVID-19 pandemic recovery bills. The bill would allow for a city or town to approve a request for the expansion of outdoor table service and allow local licensing authorities to grant approval for the change in description of the restaurant for purposes of permitting outdoor alcohol service.

Payment of veterans’ benefits (refile)
This bill would streamline the state’s system for financing benefits paid to veterans consistent with sound direct payment practices adopted by other state agencies. A single state appropriation for payment of 100% of benefits directly to veterans would simplify the financing and administration of this program with the Department of Veterans’ Services. This change would reform current law, which requires cities and towns to separately try to predict and finance the needs of the Commonwealth’s veterans and adjust during the course of the year.

Extending the right of first refusal timeline (refile)
This bill would extend the right of first refusal timeline under Chapter 61A to give a city or town more time to determine whether it is able to purchase agricultural or horticultural land from the landowner before sale.

Municipal control of liquor licenses (refile)
This bill would give a municipality’s legislative body the authority to set the number of liquor licenses available each year, eliminating the need to go to the Legislature with a home rule petition to increase the number. The licensing board or other local body responsible for issuing licenses would still control the granting of such licenses.

Alternative delivery of infrastructure projects (refile)
This bill would provide an alternative delivery method to traditional project delivery systems. This would allow for greater private sector participation in the financing and delivery of projects, offering efficiency and innovation.

Policy Committee on Personnel and Labor Relations

Membership on State Retiree Benefits Trust Fund Board of Trustees (refile)
This bill would add a municipal seat and a “schools” seat to the State Retiree Benefits Trust Fund Board of Trustees. Municipalities and regional school districts have the option to invest in the SRBTF to meet their other post-employment benefit (OPEB) liabilities. This proposal would ensure that municipal and regional school district perspectives are properly recognized on the board.

Municipal unemployment insurance reforms (refile)
This bill would make teachers, professional and nonprofessional educational employees who work on behalf of the school system, but are paid through municipal budgets, ineligible to collect unemployment insurance benefits when school is not in session by extending them a “reasonable assurance” of employment. The bill would also reduce unemployment benefits by an amount equal to 65% of a retiree’s weekly pension for retirees collecting both unemployment benefits and a pension from the same public or private employer.

Structure of the Commonwealth Employment Relations Board (refile)
This bill would modify the membership of the Commonwealth Employment Relations Board to require that the three members include a management representative, a labor representative and a neutral party. Currently, the only stipulation for membership is that no more than two members can be from the same political party. Party affiliation, however, is not an adequate proxy for an individual’s leanings toward management or labor.

Revocation of Civil Service by local option (new)
This bill would allow for the revocation of the Civil Service statute by local option without the approval of the Legislature. This bill would also require a city or town to provide documentation to the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Service outlining the local policy or policies that would replace the Civil Service system in that municipality. The bill would also allow cities and towns to address a veterans’ preference at the local level, and would exempt any municipalities that have already withdrawn from Civil Service through a home rule petition.

Policy Committee on Public Works, Transportation and Public Utilities

Municipal authority in public rights of way (refile)
This bill would give municipalities increased authority over utilities that operate in the public right of way. The bill specifies that, if utilities delay the relocation of poles and wires, municipalities have the authority to move them and may charge utilities for non-performance. The bill would also give municipalities the ability to assess fees and levy taxes on utilities that operate in the public right of way and give municipalities the ability to pass local bylaws or ordinances related to the licensing and permitting of utilities in the right of way. Finally, the bill would give municipalities and public utilities the right to purchase utility poles from investor-owned utilities at a price that takes depreciation into account.

Assisting municipal and district ratepayers (refile)
This bill would establish a mechanism through which the state must identify and enumerate any costs, benefits and financial impacts of rules and regulations proposed by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs before they take effect. The bill would require a more detailed cost-benefit analysis than what is currently required by the rule-making process.

Chapter 90 bond authorization (new)
This bill would fund the Chapter 90 local road program at a minimum of $300 million per year for two years (fiscal 2024 and fiscal 2025), with timely disbursement to ensure that money is available by April 1.