Imagine trying to do your job with one hand tied behind your back. No matter what your job, it would likely make things very difficult. Now imagine trying to do your job with both hands tied behind your back, while hanging upside down, blindfolded, at night and in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language. That’s a little bit what it’s like being a municipal official in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
However, all of that is about to change.
Thanks to the Baker-Polito administration's filing of the Municipal Modernization Bill. This could be the most un-sexy piece of legislation filed in the past 200 years or so, but it garnered a crowd of nearly every Mayor in the state as well as troves of Selectmen, Councilors and municipal managers and administrators just to show support for its passage.
What does this legislation do? It unties our hands, removes the blindfold, brings out the sun and brings us back to the good old USA. The bill would allow communities to go boldly into the 20th century (it’s our dream to get all the way up to the 21st century, but you have to start somewhere) by eliminating and/or updating obsolete laws such as the need for County Government reporting, allows municipalities the ability to advertise bids for goods and services online, allows the spending of insurance recoveries without legislative authorization, allows individual communities to set liquor license quotas rather than begging the legislature for additional licenses every other week, removes the need for state approval to abate taxes on low-value land, eliminates the loop-hole that allows part-time seasonal school employees to collect unemployment, simplifies and increases state procurement thresholds, allows municipalities to exempt certain positions from Civil Service, decreases the frequency communities must update their valuations and so much more.
To the lay person, not much of this makes sense and very little of it will make headlines. But from a municipal perspective, this is nothing but common sense. I am certain that there are a few items in this bill that will ruffle some feathers and that not everything make it out in the final version of the bill, that’s just how these things go. I can tell you, without a doubt, municipal officials across the state are very happy to have a Governor and Lt. Governor that listen to our concerns and will work with us to find a solution.
Mark Hawke (R) is the Mayor of Gardner, Massachusetts, one of the first cities to sign on to the Baker Administration's Commonwealth Community Pact.