The House yesterday passed a $4.1 billion economic development bonding authorization bill intended to strengthen state infrastructure, create jobs and invest in cities and towns.

The bill (H. 4789) includes:
• $400 for MassWorks grants for local infrastructure, providing much-needed and flexible assistance to advance critical infrastructure projects
• $100 million for the Rural Development Fund, which provides financial support for infrastructure improvements and community planning efforts in rural towns
• $150 million for the Public Library Construction Program to help municipalities update and rehabilitate these essential facilities
• $100 million for grants, through the Seaport Economic Council, to provide support for the state’s 78 coastal municipalities to withstand and adapt to the impacts of climate change

The House adopted an amendment requested by the MMA regarding local consultation on “priority development sites,” which are currently created through a lengthy, deliberate process by local officials. The amendment would ensure that the state’s permit regulatory office continues to seek local insights from municipal officials and regional planning agencies.

The House bill also added much-needed reforms to the outdated Civil Service system in order to modernize many municipal public safety hiring practices. The proposal reflects years of work among a comprehensive group of stakeholders.

The MMA reported on several key aspects of this proposal in March, including a new “hybrid” pathway that Civil Service departments could use to more easily identify and hire candidates for municipal police and fire positions outside of the traditional exam process. Other reforms include expanded flexibility for residency requirements, support and expansion for cadet programs, and more.

The economic development bill, approved by a vote of 155-2, now moves to the Senate.

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