Who is a member?
Our members are the local governments of Massachusetts and their elected and appointed leadership.
The Honorable Kenneth I. Gordon, House Chair
The Honorable Michael D. Brady, Senate Chair
Joint Committee on Public Service
State House, Boston
Dear Chair Gordon, Chair Brady, and Distinguished Members of the Committee,
On behalf of the cities and towns of the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Municipal Association appreciates the opportunity to submit the following comments on several bills currently in your committee. We appreciate your careful consideration of the local government position on these important matters regarding Civil Service.
Civil Service Reform
The MMA strongly supports H. 2652 and S. 1686, An Act relative to Civil Service. These companion bills would allow cities and towns to exit Chapter 31 (the state’s Civil Service statute) by local approval, rather than through the Home Rule petition process via the Legislature. The legislation would also require a city or town to provide documentation to the Joint Committee on Public Service outlining the local policies replacing Civil Service in that municipality. Further, it requires cities and towns utilizing this option to maintain a preference for military veterans.
The high volume of petitions from across the Commonwealth to exit Chapter 31 is strong evidence that cities and towns need an expedited local process to modernize municipal personnel practices. We also continue to be deeply concerned by the lack of movement in the past few legislative sessions of these inherently local Civil Service bills. These home rule petitions reflect local decisions, including agreements between municipal officials and their local unions.
Civil Service in Massachusetts is an increasingly obsolete personnel system, one that does not reflect current human resources and personnel management best practices. Recently, it also has been proven to be discriminatory, where the Tatum v. Commonwealth case highlights overwhelming evidence of bias of promotional exams against Black and Latino officers:
“The best test-takers are not necessarily the best police sergeants. Yet, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts through the Personnel Administrator, Human Resources Division (“HRD”) regularly administered written exams, knowing that its testing format had an unnecessary, plain and obvious adverse impact upon Blacks and Hispanics, compared to White candidates.”
In the decision, the Superior Court clearly condemned the actions of HRD, who provided this promotional exam through the Civil Service system:
“The evidence is very clear. It defeats any justification for HRD’s heavy reliance upon biased exams to identify the best candidates for promotion to sergeant. Moreover, HRD knew of clearly superior assessment methods, but continued to use the same, unnecessarily discriminatory format anyway. The massive amount of evidence proving the known and unjustified disparate impact of HRD’s format leaves no doubt in this court’s mind that the Commonwealth has interfered with the plaintiffs’ rights to consideration for promotion to police sergeant without bias due to race or national origin.”
This case is just one example of the seismic challenges provided within the current Civil Service system, but also one that has negatively impacted countless Black and Latino officers and will cost taxpayers $40 million in just compensation through a recent settlement. Reform to the Civil Service system is desperately needed, and we respectfully request that the Committee provides both H. 2652 and S. 1686 with favorable reports out of Committee.
Additionally, the MMA strongly opposes H. 2654, An Act relative to exemptions for Civil Service laws. This bill would exempt Civil Service from Section 4B of Chapter 4 of the Massachusetts General Laws. Section 4B relates to the rescission of laws previously accepted by municipalities. This empowers cities and towns to revoke the adoption of most laws in the same manner they were accepted (i.e., town meeting, local election, special act/home rule petition). This has been a fundamental tool for cities and towns, and the change proposed in H. 2654 would subvert the will of citizens across the Commonwealth and the decision making powers of local officials. We respectfully urge the Committee to provide H. 2654 with an unfavorable report.
Public Safety Residency Requirements
The MMA opposes H. 2541 and S. 1692, two bills that would change the rules related to residency requirements for municipal public safety employees. H. 2541, An Act relative to residency, would set a 15-mile residency requirement for employees not subject to Civil Service under Chapter 31. The bill would also authorize cities and towns to increase the 15-mile residency limit through collective bargaining. S. 1692, An Act relative to residency, would require any public safety employee appointed after 1978 to reside within 15 miles of the town in which they serve, and would authorize cities and towns to increase the 15-mile residency limit through collective bargaining.
Currently, Section 58 of Chapter 31 of the General Laws permits cities and towns to request that residents be placed on an entry-level Civil Service eligible list for police and firefighters before non-residents. Under that statute, a person must reside in the same city or town within nine months of the date of appointment, or in any other city or town in the Commonwealth that is within 10 miles of the city or town’s perimeter. Civil Service communities may increase the 10-mile residency limit under a collective bargaining agreement.
Public safety employees in communities not subject to Civil Service must reside within 15 miles of the city or town limits under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 41, section 99A, subject to the provisions of local ordinances, bylaws or collective bargaining agreements. These bills would change residency requirements, undermine local bylaws and ordinances, as well as undo changes made in 2013 to laws governing residency requirements that already significantly expand the ability of municipal public safety employees to reside beyond the 10-mile limit (and even live in other states). These bills would also erode local flexibility in determining the best policy regarding residency requirements for municipal public safety employees, which are decisions that should be made at the local level with input from residents, not by the Commonwealth. We urge the Committee to provide these bills with unfavorable reports.
Imposition of Veterans Hiring Preference on Non-Civil-Service Cities and Towns
The MMA opposes S. 1754, An Act protecting veterans’ preference in hiring practices, which would require cities and towns that are exempt from Civil Service laws to provide a preference to veterans when hiring police officers and firefighters. This bill would usurp the ability for municipal officials to manage their workforce in a way that makes sense at the local level for individual cities and towns. The Civil Service law currently gives veterans preference on the list of eligible public safety positions, but cities and towns that are exempt from the statute do not have to provide the preference. Most municipalities that leave Civil Service, however, adopt a policy affording some type of preference in hiring for veterans on their own terms. This bill would retroactively take this ultimate hiring authority away from municipalities that have already opted out of Chapter 31 as well as municipalities that have never been in the Civil Service system. This state intrusion into an inherently local hiring process is unwarranted and unjustified. We ask the Committee to provide S. 1754 an unfavorable report.
We greatly appreciate your consideration of these important local government priorities and concerns. In regards to Civil Service, a comprehensive reform is imperative, and we look forward to working with this committee and the Special Legislative Commission on Civil Service to make important progress toward that goal this legislative session.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to have your office contact me or MMA Senior Executive and Legislative Director Dave Koffman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-426-7272, ext. 122, at any time.
MMA Executive Director and CEO