Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has proposed a new measure that he claims will streamline municipal regulations and remove obsolete laws. The proposal is the result of hundreds of meetings with some 130 municipalities throughout the state. The governor also sought comment from a handful of municipal organizations including the Massachusetts Municipal Association (MMA), Massachusetts Association of Public Purchasing Officials (MAPPO), Massachusetts Association of Assessing Officers (MAAO), Massachusetts Collectors/Treasurers Association (MCTA), and Massachusetts Municipal Auditors and Accountants Association (MMAAA).
The proposed modernization rests on four pillars: eliminating or updating obsolete laws; promoting local independence; streamlining state oversight, and providing municipalities with greater flexibility. The need for modernization is further reflected by the fact that the proposed bill includes amending laws that haven’t been modified since the early 1900’s.
Many of the updates included in the proposal would move notifications and other aspects of municipal administration online. These efforts include electronic issuance of traffic tickets, as well as electronic advertising of city information.
Other notable inclusions in the proposal would allow localities to modernize procurement rules for construction contracts. Local debt laws would also change to increase short-term borrowing maximum from 5 to 10 years, allow borrowing for a reimbursable federal or state grant, and increases the de minimis surplus bond balance that may be used to pay debt service. These measures could go some distance in improving municipal balance sheets.
A handful of states have undergone regulatory review efforts in recent years to account for laws that were written before the advent of the internet. Often these laws can keep city services offline and make it more difficult for local residents to get services or find information.