Who is a member?
Our members are the local governments of Massachusetts and their elected and appointed leadership.
The MMA’s Legislative team in late October met with its counterparts from the municipal leagues in Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont to continue a longstanding tradition of gathering to discuss trends in local government policy and law.
A big topic of discussion was finding new revenue streams to support municipal operations. Staff from each league discussed what is available in their state, such as a transportation improvement fee, local-option room and meals taxes, a gas tax, and recreational marijuana revenue.
Another lengthy discussion focused on challenges and solutions related to energy and the environment.
Recycling is an issue for each Northeast state. In New Hampshire, which may run out of landfill space by 2024, a study committee has been established to look into imposing tipping fees for recycling centers, along with other possible legislative fixes. Maine has an extended producer liability program that producers pay into, allowing municipalities to be reimbursed for 80% of their recycling costs. Vermont’s legislature is studying single-use products and possible solutions, and New York has implemented large-scale composting.
All Northeast states are also dealing with the issue of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), and how to help municipalities with contamination, testing and remediation. Massachusetts is one of the last states in the Northeast to set enforceable PFAS standards for public drinking water.
Massachusetts is the only state in the Northeast with a dedicated, state government cybersecurity center to provide tools and technical assistance to municipalities and a municipal grant program for this purpose.
Massachusetts is also unique in requiring a two-thirds majority of the local legislative body to pass a zoning bylaw or ordinance. Every other state requires a simple majority vote.
The Massachusetts team provided an update on the legalization and licensing of recreational marijuana, along with some advice and best practices for Northeast states just beginning the process.
All of the leagues discussed dealing with the threat of legal presumptions that certain injuries or illnesses are deemed to be contracted as a result of on-the-job exposures. The leagues discussed the potentially huge cost of these presumptions to municipalities.
All of the leagues shared stories about excessive public records requests from individuals. Last year, the Connecticut legislature passed a bill providing relief to public bodies dealing with numerous requests, and the bill has become a model for other states, including Massachusetts, where the bill is pending in the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight.
Before the conference, hosted by the New Hampshire Municipal Association at Portsmouth City Hall, each league had an opportunity to submit discussion topics. Staff from the neighboring leagues provide insight and advice according to the particular policy trend.