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Our members are the local governments of Massachusetts and their elected and appointed leadership.
Education finance and regional school transportation, the fiscal 2019 supplemental budget bill, climate change and renewable energy, the Chapter 90 road maintenance program, and housing were some of the leading topics of conversation during the MMA’s Legislative Breakfast Meetings this fall.
Other hot topics included health insurance and other post-employment benefits (OPEB), local-option taxes, broadband, marijuana, a statewide plastic bag ban, and cable regulations, franchise fees and local-access programming.
More than 100 local officials and nearly 25 legislators (or their staff) attended the six MMA meetings, held on Sept. 20 in Becket and Wilbraham, on Sept. 27 in Fitchburg and Marlborough, and on Oct. 4 in Halifax and Lynnfield.
Attendees and MMA staff discussed the highlights and disappointments of the first half of the two-year legislative session. The MMA provided updates on some of the myriad bills the MMA is tracking – particularly bills that are expected to move before the formal session ends on Nov. 20.
At the Lynnfield meeting, MMA Senior Legislative Analyst Brittney Franklin explained why the MMA has been strongly supporting the Housing Choices Act, stressing that it’s a tool to promote housing production in communities, but “there are no mandates.”
Rep. Brad Jones of North Reading said a comprehensive education finance bill and the FY19 supplemental budget are among the top priorities that legislators are working to get done before the formal session ends next month.
Wakefield Town Administrator Steve Maio asked where he could find accurate projections for his town’s schools based on the Legislature’s recently unveiled Student Opportunity Act (S. 2350), as the impact of the seven-year, $1.5 billion bill would vary considerably from one school district to another.
Wakefield Town Council Chair Ed Dombroski raised the need for more state assistance in the area of public safety, where communities are needing to provide new and additional services to deal with issues such as the opioid crisis.
“The needs are real,” he said. “Capital investment is required to meet those needs.”
In Marlborough, Sen. Jamie Eldridge of Acton outlined the main provisions of the Student Opportunity Act, saying the bill attempts to boost state aid in every district.
“I think it’s a very strong bill,” he said. “I think it’s a historic bill.”
Rep. Tami Gouveia of Acton discussed the ongoing “transit crisis” and how she spent part of her summer standing on train platforms, talking to frustrated commuters, and holding a town hall on the issue in July.
Rep. Jack Lewis of Framingham discussed his bill to authorize municipalities to assess certain taxes for financing regional transportation investments. He said the bill (H. 2535) would help communities collaborate on projects.
In Becket, MMA Legislative Director John Robertson explained the Student Opportunity Act just the morning after the wide-ranging bill had been released.
The MMA hosts the series of breakfast meetings twice a year in communities across the state to give local leaders, legislators and MMA staff the opportunity to network, exchange information and discuss issues of importance in state and local government in an informal setting.
The MMA has now hosted 211 Legislative Breakfast Meetings in 174 communities since 2007, with a goal of hosting a meeting in each of the state’s 351 cities and towns. If your community has not hosted a Legislative Breakfast and would like to do so, contact Alandra Champion at email@example.com or 617-426-7272, ext. 121.