MMA letter to Transportation Committee urging support for provisions of ‘municipal modernization’ bill

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The Honorable William Straus, House Chair
The Honorable Thomas McGee, Senate Chair
Joint Committee on Transportation
State House, Boston
Dear Chairman Straus, Chairman McGee and Distinguished Committee Members,
On behalf of the cities and towns of the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Municipal Association is writing to offer our strong support for H. 3910, an Act Relative to Modernizing Municipal Finance and Government. H. 3910 includes select sections from H. 3905, an Act to Modernize Municipal Finance and Government, filed by the Governor on December 7, 2015. The legislation is 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.
Collection Liens on Non-Residents (sections 30 and 184)
Under current law, cities, towns and districts, by local option, may establish liens when customers of municipal utility services (gas, electricity, steam, water and sewer) do not pay user charges when due. Lighting plants, water departments and sewer departments often provide utility services to ratepayers living in neighboring cities and towns. However, only lighting plants may impose liens for customers located in those municipalities. This section would extend that option to municipalities and districts that provide water and sewer services to customers outside their borders.
Boat Excise Modernization (sections 166, 185-186, 247)
These sections would provide for the much-needed overhaul of the administration and collection of the boat excise. Boat owners would be required to supply statutorily prescribed information to the Environmental Police, and to obtain a decal. These sections would establish a procedure to require non-commercial boat owners to pay the boat excise in order to renew their registrations with the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Environmental Law Enforcement, similar to the non-renewal procedure when vehicle owners do not pay their motor vehicle excises. These sections would also allow boat owners an extra month to file their return with the city or town where their vessel is regularly moored. The provisions would also update the excise exemption for fishing boats and gear to reflect changes in the fishing industry that no longer make it the full-time occupation and sole source of income for most fishermen.
RMV E-Citations (sections 187-203)
These sections would make various changes to Chapter 90C of the General Laws, governing motor vehicle offenses, to implement the new “E-Citations” project jointly administered by EOPSS and the RMV. The changes would amend definitions and other references to paper citations to include electronically issued citations, give EOPSS authority to promulgate regulations to set standards for e-citations and associated equipment requirements, and ensure that both paper and electronic copies of citations are properly delivered by police departments to the RMV and district courts. These are straightforward and necessary steps to modernize the motor vehicle citation system.
We respectfully ask you to approve H. 3910 as soon as possible. Cities and towns are eager to use these provisions to update and modernize their municipal practices, but they cannot do so without these common-sense changes to the General Laws.
Thank you very much for your consideration.
Geoffrey C. Beckwith
MMA Executive Director & CEO