Senate President Karen Spilka and Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Michael Rodrigues

The Senate today approved legislation to address a number of municipal governance challenges related to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

City budgets
The bill (S. 2680) 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
The bill would also allow select boards, in consultation with town moderators, to lower quorum requirements for open town meetings to not less than 10% of the existing quorum level. These lower-quorum town meetings would only be able to act on warrant articles approved by the select board, limited to the town’s budget and acting on federal deadlines.

Representative town meetings
The bill would give representative town meetings the option to meet remotely, if approved by the select board and town moderator, and by the town meeting when it meets.

Alternate town meeting locations
The bill would also allow towns to hold their town meeting in a nearby community if that is required to achieve safe physical distancing.

Contracts for school and education services
Finally, 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 the capacity 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.

Legislative process
The bill now goes to the House, and final action on the bill could come as early as this week.

The House and Senate are unable to meet in person, and are still developing rules for holding virtual formal sessions during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Thus legislation will continue to move in informal sessions, during which any one legislator can stop the process.

The MMA continues to work with the administration and legislators to quickly advance this important bill and further legislative “fixes” to municipal challenges, including the safe conduct of municipal elections.

Link to Legislature’s website to view the text of the bill