MMA letter to House members expressing strong support for ‘municipal modernization’ bill

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Dear Representative,

On behalf of the cities and towns of the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Municipal Association is writing to offer our strong support for H. 4397, an Act Relative to Modernizing Municipal Finance and Government.

This comprehensive legislation contains over 200 provisions intended to improve the effectiveness of local government by removing obsolete state laws and updating existing statutes to allow for greater efficiency at the local level. From procurement, human resources, finance and administration, to economic development, this legislation offers a substantial range of statutory updates and refinements to benefit cities and towns. Taken together, these proposals will allow our communities to enhance their management systems and streamline many operations.

We applaud the chairs and members of the six legislative committees that devoted many hours to studying the dozens and dozens of issues encompassed in H. 4397, and appreciate the House leadership’s commitment to this legislation.

We are reviewing all of the amendments that have been filed, and in the meantime would like to highlight the MMA’s position on a number of the amendments that you will be debating this afternoon, and offer a summary below.

Please SUPPORT the following amendments:

Amendment #4 – This amendment filed by Rep. Jones would eliminate requirements that state agencies limit certain grants to cities and towns that are pursuing regionalization projects.

Amendment #15 – This amendment filed by Rep. Jones would close two significant loopholes in the municipal unemployment system, addressing the situation that allows school employees funded in the municipal budget to collect unemployment during summer vacations and holiday breaks, and closing the loophole that allows retirees on a public pension to also collect unemployment benefits once they reach the 960-hour cap on post-retirement work. This is not a new issue – the House has already voted to support these reform provisions in previous legislation.

Amendment #19 – This amendment filed by Rep. Peisch would add a municipal representative on the State Retiree Benefits Trust Fund Board of Directors, a needed step, as an increasing number of cities and towns are investing their OPEB with that agency.

Amendment #28 – This amendment filed by Rep. Dykema would clarify that cities and towns can establish water and sewer banks to help finance needed improvements to critical environmental infrastructure systems.

Amendment #29 – This amendment filed by Rep. Dykema would establish a commission to study the issue of veterans’ preference within the civil service system.

In addition to the above amendments, we also urge you to support the following: Amendment #26 filed by Rep. Linskey to clarify that parking revenues may be used for transportation-related investments; Amendments #30 and #32 filed by Rep. Hunt and Rep. Provost to establish appropriate speed limits in certain zones to provide for greater public safety; Amendment #34 filed by Rep. Hunt to allow for penalties for commercial entities that fail to responsibly remove snow and ice; and Amendment #35 filed by Rep. Scaccia to clarify age eligibility for police cadet programs.

Please OPPOSE the following amendments:

Amendment #21 – Current law requires cities and towns to purchase very expensive advertisements in newspapers, a mandate that costs local taxpayers millions of dollars every year. Unfortunately, Amendment #21 would impose an even greater burden on cities and towns by requiring communities to use their public websites to publish direct links to the websites owned by private newspapers. In effect, the amendment would mandate that public employees and taxpayer funds be used to increase circulation and internet traffic on profit-making websites owned and operated by the newspaper publishing industry.

Amendment #31 – This amendment would further restrict the ability of cities and towns to use joint powers authority to improve and enhance the quality of local services to veterans.

Amendment #39 – This amendment would require cities and towns to pay for a portion of the health insurance costs of retired regional school district employees. Amendment #39 would partially restore a system that is being repealed in H. 4397 because it has proven to be unworkable and conflict-laden.

Amendment #40 – This amendment would increase the cost of constructing and renovating public buildings.

Municipalities across the Commonwealth eagerly look forward to using the provisions in H. 4397 to update and enhance municipal practices, and we thank you very much for your support and consideration of this key legislation.

Thank you very much.

Sincerely,

Geoffrey C. Beckwith 
MMA Executive Director & CEO