The House on Tuesday approved and sent back to the Senate the latest municipal bill drafted to help cities and towns manage elections and budgets as the COVID-19 state of emergency continues.

The House bill (H. 4752) made changes to key provisions in the bill approved by the Senate (S. 2680) on May 4 and added new sections related to elections and finance.

With July 1 approaching quickly, the MMA has asked that the differences be resolved by next week, as June begins, so that a final bill can be sent to the governor for approval and election and town meeting options can be used locally before time runs out.

The House bill includes remote participation language for representative town meetings and quorum reductions available in all towns. The Senate had limited the quorum provision to open town meetings.

The House removed language that would limit town meeting action, under a reduced quorum, to budget and federal grant matters.

The House bill includes a city budget provision and language related to school service contracts from S. 2680.

The House added provisions to allow further delay of municipal elections and eliminate municipal election caucuses.

The House also added language to allow cities and towns to use special revenue fund and stabilization fund amounts to pay for fiscal 2021 expenses through a two-thirds vote of the select board in a town and the council in a city and towns with a town council.

City budgets
H. 4752 would extend the deadline for mayors to submit fiscal 2021 budgets to city councils, to July 31, and allow cities to adopt up to three one-month budgets if the fiscal 2021 budget is not in place by June 30.

Open town meetings
Select boards, in consultation with their town moderator, would be allowed to lower quorum requirements for open town meetings to not less than 10% of the existing quorum level.

Representative town meetings
Representative town meetings would have the option to meet remotely, if approved by the select board and town moderator, as well as by the town meeting when it meets.

Alternate town meeting locations
Towns would be allowed to hold their town meeting in a nearby community if doing so is necessary to achieve safe physical distancing.

Elections
The House bill would further extend the deadline for 2020 municipal elections to July 31. (The deadline had already been extended to June 30 under Chapter 45, enacted on March 23.) The bill would also allow towns that hold municipal election caucuses to eliminate them this year and use nomination papers instead.

Contracts for school and education services
The bill would allow communities to make payments under existing contracts for school and education services that are not currently being delivered, if that is desired, in order to ensure that adequate capacity is available to deliver services when schools reopen. In the current version of the bill, these reworked agreements would require the approval of the municipal chief executive.

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