Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker made good on a proposal he put out late last year to start a regulatory review of state laws. Yesterday, the Governor signed An Act modernizing municipal finance and government (H. 4565), which will remove or update obsolete laws and aims to increase municipal independence.
As CivSource previously reported, Governor Baker put forth his regulatory review proposal after meeting with municipal officials from more than 130 localities. 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).
Some laws in the Commonwealth have been on the books since the early 1900s and no longer apply to modern life. Others limit municipal independence and hamper local service delivery. Several states have gone through a regulatory review process in recent years in an effort to streamline local laws and remove statutes that are no longer effective.
The Massachusetts law will codify some of the work already underway in the Community Compact Cabinet, a project led by Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, which has resulted in some 230 compacts between local municipalities and the Governor’s office.
In addition to regulatory review, the measure also includes updates to municipal procurement thresholds to provide more options for cities as they handle construction contracts. There are also updates to state debt statutes – increasing the short-term borrowing max from 5 to 10 years, allowing borrowing for a reimbursable state grant, and increasing the de minimis surplus bond balance that may be used to pay debt service. The changes should give more budgetary flexibility to localities.
One member of the Baker administration may find himself well positioned to leverage the changes ushered in by this bill. It was confirmed this week that Baker’s chief economic development advisor Jay Ash has applied to become the next city manager of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Ash is originally from Chelsea, Massachusetts and led that city for 14 years. If chosen, Ash would replace Richard Rossi who is resigning from the Cambridge city manager role after three years. The Cambridge City Council is expected to announce its decision on a replacement for Rossi in late September.