Category Archives: Massachusetts Municipal Association

House speaker says ‘no” to municipal cuts

From the Massachusetts Municipal Association -


November 20, 2014

SPEAKER DeLEO REJECTS $25.5 MILLION MUNICIPAL AID CUT

On Thursday morning, less than 24 hours after Governor Deval Patrick filed legislation to impose a $25.5 million mid-year cut in Unrestricted General Government Aid, House Speaker Robert DeLeo issued a strong statement in opposition to the measure.

“Understanding the vital role cities and towns play in providing services and jobs, I will not support a reduction of unrestricted local aid,” said Speaker DeLeo.  “Local aid is integral to helping municipalities accurately assess and plan their budgets so they can contribute to the overall growth of the Commonwealth’s economy.”

The Speaker’s opposition to mid-year cuts to local aid will effectively kill the proposal for the remainder of the legislative session.  “This is very good news for communities across Massachusetts,” said MMA Executive Director Geoff Beckwith.  “We applaud and deeply appreciate the leadership of Speaker DeLeo and his colleagues in the Legislature for rejecting the Administration’s unwise and damaging proposal to slash unrestricted municipal aid.”

On Wednesday, November 19, the Governor announced his desire to close a $329 million state budget deficit by imposing over $65 million in mid-year cuts to cities and towns.  He used his statutory budget authority to reduce key municipal and education reimbursements and aid programs by $40.3 million, and filed legislation seeking a $25.5 million reduction in unrestricted local aid.  Speaker DeLeo’s opposition to the cut in unrestricted local aid will block that proposal, yet communities will still be hit with the $40.3 million reduction because the Governor Patrick can implement those cuts unilaterally without legislative approval.

The Governor’s $40.3 million in mid-year cuts to key municipal and education programs includes the following:

  • $18.7 million from regional school transportation, a 27% cut;
    • $7.1 million from the regionalization and efficiencies reserve, which will shelve most, if not all, of the Community Innovation Challenge Grant program;
    • $3.86 million from the Special Education Circuit Breaker program, a 1.5% cut;
    • $2.88 million from the Chapter 70 “Pothole” account, an 85% cut;
    • $2.24 million from vocational school transportation, a 100% cut;
    • $1.3 million from public school military mitigation grants, a 100% cut;
    • $1.2 million from charter school reimbursements, a 1.5% cut in a program that is already underfunded by $33 million;
    • $1.1 million from sewer rate relief funding, a 100% cut;
    • $1 million from extended learning time grants, a 6.8% cut;
    • $359 thousand from kindergarten expansion grants, a 1.5% cut;
    • $287 thousand from METCO, a 1.5% cut; and
    • $283 thousand from library aid, a 1.5% cut.

Every city, town and school district will be hit with one or more of these cuts.  In most cases, the cuts will feel deeper because the reductions are being implemented five months into the fiscal year.

MMA on the proposed budget cuts

Gov. Patrick has proposed cuts to the current year spending in order to balance the state budget, which include about a 2% reduction in state aid to municipalities.  This is the Massachusetts Municipal Association’s response  -


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

GOV. PATRICK IMPOSES SWEEPING MID-YEAR BUDGET CUTS, TARGETS LOCAL AID AND SCHOOL ACCOUNTS

  • Gov. Says State Must Close $329M Fiscal 2015 Budget Gap
    • Gov. Uses His Budget Powers to Slash Education & Municipal Accounts by $40M
    • Gov. Files Bill With Legislature to Cut Unrestricted Local Aid by $25.5M

Two days after the November 4th state election, in the waning days of his tenure, Governor Patrick disclosed a $329 million deficit in the state’s fiscal 2015 budget, a shortfall caused mostly by state budget administrative and management issues, and not by declining tax revenues. Earlier today, the Governor released his plan to close the budget gap by slashing state and local funding by $65 million mid-year. He announced that he is using his budget powers to implement approximately $200 million in immediate cuts to state-funded programs in executive agencies under his control, including $40.3 million in cuts to important municipal and school reimbursement and grant programs.

In addition to the $40.3 million in immediate cuts, the Governor has proposed legislation to slash $25.5 million from Unrestricted General Government Aid, a measure which must be approved by the Legislature to take effect. This would translate into a 2.7 percent cut in UGGA funding for every city and town. His plan relies exclusively on budget cuts and does not draw on the state’s $1.2 billion rainy day fund.

While the Administration has said they are not proposing any cuts to Chapter 70 school aid, the reality is clear: the unilateral budget cuts will impose serious mid-year reductions in many important K-12 education accounts, and will be harmful to schools. In addition, his proposal to cut Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA) would further hit local schools, because cities and towns use their municipal aid to fund local education budgets.

Click here to link to the A&F website that contains the list of emergency budget cuts: http://www.mass.gov/anf/budget-taxes-and-procurement/state-budget/fy15-budget-info/fy15-budget-cut-information/

The MMA has issued a statement opposing the Governor’s cuts to cities, towns and school districts, and is calling on the Legislature to reject his proposal to slash UGGA funding.

A copy of the MMA’s statement can be downloaded by clicking here.

A copy of the MMA’s letter to the Legislature can be downloaded by clicking here.

GOVERNOR IMPLEMENTS $40.3 MILLION IN IMMEDIATE MID-YEAR CUTS TO KEY SCHOOL AND MUNICIPAL PROGRAMS

Using his statutory authority to reduce executive branch spending, the Governor has unilaterally reduced funding for state budget accounts under his control by approximately $200 million, including $40.3 million in painful mid-year cuts to accounts that provide direct funding to cities, towns and school districts. The MMA has identified the local government accounts impacted the most, listed in order of size:

  • $18.7 million from Regional School Transportation (a 27% cut)
    • $7.1 million from the Regionalization and Efficiencies Reserve (a 49% cut)
    • $3.86 million from Special Education Reimbursements (a 15% cut)
    • $2.88 million from the Chapter 70 “Pothole” account (an 85% cut)
    • $2.24 million from Vocational School Transportation (a 100% cut)
    • $1.3 million from Public School Military Mitigation Grants (a 100% cut)
    • $1.2 million from Charter School Reimbursements (a 1.5% cut)
    • $1.1 million from Sewer Rate Relief (a 100% cut)
    • $1 million from Extended Learning Time Grants (a 6.8% cut)
    • $359 thousand from Kindergarten Expansion Grants (a 1.5% cut)
    • $287 thousand from METCO (a 1.5% cut)
    • $283 thousand from Library Aid (a 1.5% cut)

Every city, town and school district will be hit with one or more of these cuts. In most cases, the cuts will feel much deeper because the reductions are being implemented five months into the fiscal year. For example, with only seven months left in fiscal year 2015, a 10% cut in an account will translate into a 17% cut from now to the end of the year, and a 50% cut in a program will translate into an 85% reduction in remaining reimbursements due to cities and towns.

PLEASE ASK YOUR LEGISLATORS TO OPPOSE THE GOVERNOR’S LEGISLATION TO IMPOSE A $25.5 MILLION MID-YEAR CUT TO UNRESTRICTED GENERAL GOVERNMENT AID

In a move that surprised the Legislature and local officials, the Governor has also filed legislation requesting $25.5 million or 2.7% cut in Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA) for every city and town. The MMA will strongly oppose any cut to unrestricted municipal aid, because that would destabilize local budgets in the middle of the fiscal year, and force reductions in community services. Unrestricted municipal aid is already $400 million below original fiscal 2009 levels, and any additional cuts will be painful for cities and towns across the state.

Please call your legislators today and explain that cities and towns should not be hit with mid-year cuts, especially since the shortfall is in no way related to local government or the overall performance of the economy, and is primarily due to state spending decisions and the administration of state government. At this point in the year, cuts in municipal or school funding accounts would be extremely painful at the local level.

PLEASE CALL YOUR REPRESENTATIVES AND SENATORS TODAY AND ASK THEM TO OPPOSE THE GOVERNOR’S PROPOSED $25.5 MILLION MID-YEAR CUT TO UNRESTRICTED MUNICIPAL AID

 

$325 m. state budget gap per MMA

This from the Massachusetts Municipal Association -


Thursday, November 13, 2014

GOVERNOR’S OFFICE REVEALS $325M STATE BUDGET DEFICIT IN FY 2015

• Gov. Patrick Plans to Announce $325M in Budget Cuts Next Week
• Municipal and Education Accounts Could be Targeted for Mid-Year Cuts

$325M State Budget Shortfall Announced – Last week, Gov. Patrick’s Secretary for Administration & Finance announced that the state is facing a $325 million shortfall in its fiscal 2015 budget, and said that the Administration would be unveiling plans to close the budget gap at some point during the week of November 17th.  He said that the plan would not draw from the state’s $1.2 billion stabilization fund, but instead would rely exclusively on mid-year spending cuts.

          The MMA has Called on the Patrick Administration to Avoid any Mid-Year Cuts Targeted at Cities and Towns – In a face-to-face meeting with A&F Secretary Glen Shor and top Administration officials at the November 12 meeting of the Local Government Advisory Commission meeting, the MMA and local leaders presented a strong case that cities and towns should not be hit with mid-year cuts, especially since the shortfall is in no way related to local government or the overall performance of the economy, and is primarily due to state spending decisions and the administration of state government.  At this point in the year, cuts in municipal or school funding accounts would be extremely painful at the local level.  However, Administration officials responded that they appreciated the “input,” but did not take local funding off the table.

State Budget Gap Caused by Shortfall in “Non-Tax” Revenues, Spending in the New Economic Development Act, and a Cut in the Income Tax Rate –A&F Secretary Glen Shor stated that the $325 million shortfall is caused by several factors.  First, although state tax revenues are still expected to meet expected levels, the state income tax rate will be automatically reduced from 5.2 percent to 5.15 percent, effective on January 1, a cut that will be triggered by existing law.  This will reduce the state’s fiscal 2015 tax revenues by $70 million.  Second, lawmakers and the Governor approved an $80 million economic development bill late last summer, and state revenues are not growing fast enough to offset the cost.  Finally, and most importantly, the Patrick Administration is now reporting a $175 million shortfall in non-tax revenues and agency fees.  While the Administration is providing no specific explanation of the non-tax shortfall, independent budget analysts expect that a significant cause is the breakdown in the state’s health insurance exchange website, which forced state officials to enroll thousands of residents in temporary Medicaid plans, for which the state will not receive full federal reimbursement.

          Governor Can Impose Mid-Year Cuts on Spending in State Agencies Under His Control, and Ask Legislature for Authority to Cut Local Aid, the Judiciary and Others – Facing a $325 million budget shortfall, the Governor has the authority to unilaterally cut spending in executive branch agencies under his control.  In addition, the Governor can ask the Legislature to grant him expanded budget-cutting authority over other accounts outside of the executive branch, such as Unrestricted General Government Aid, Chapter 70 school aid, constitutional officers, the judiciary and independent agencies, a step he has taken in the past.  With the Legislature in informal session and only able to pass items with unanimous consent, it is unlikely that legislators would grant Gov. Patrick expanded budget reduction powers targeting local aid, but if that is one of the Governor’s proposals, local officials will need to contact their Representatives and Senators immediately.

          Important Municipal and School Aid Accounts May be Targeted for Mid-Year Cuts – The last time Gov. Patrick faced a mid-year budget deficit was in December 2013, when state was projecting a $540 million deficit.  The Governor used his budget powers to impose $28.75 million in mid-year cuts to important municipal and school aid accounts, which left cities and towns reeling from unexpected revenue losses.  In 2013, the mid-year reductions included a 5% cut to the Special Education Circuit Breaker program, a 47% cut to the McKinney-Vento homeless student transportation account, a 70% cut to the Chapter 70 pothole account, a 3% cut in Veterans’ Benefits reimbursements, a 1% cut in regional school transportation funding, a 1.4% cut to charter school reimbursements, and other important accounts.  In addition, the Governor asked the Legislature to cut $9 million from Unrestricted General Government Aid, a request that lawmakers rejected.

          PLEASE ASK YOUR LEGISLATORS TO OPPOSE ANY PROPOSAL TO IMPOSE MID-YEAR CUTS TO UNRESTRICTED GENERAL GOVERNMENT AID OR CHAPTER 70 EDUCATION AID – The MMA will strongly oppose any cut to unrestricted municipal aid or Chapter 70, because that would destabilize local budgets in the middle of the fiscal year, and force reductions in community services.  Unrestricted municipal aid has already nearly $400 million below original fiscal 2009 levels, and any additional cuts would be painful for cities and towns across the state.  In addition, please tell your legislators that you are very worried about potential cuts to important municipal and school accounts in the state budget, including the Special Education Circuit Breaker, McKinney-Vento funding, charter school and regional school transportation accounts, and other programs.

Please Call Your Representatives and Senators Today and Ask Them to Oppose Any Proposals to Cut Municipal or Education Aid, and Share Your Concerns About the Impact of Mid-Year Cuts to Local Programs and Services

contents copyright 2014, Massachusetts Municipal Association

MMA on needed steps

The Massachusetts Municipal Association‘s alert today tries to focus candidates for office on the broken elements in the state and municipality relationship.  Having watched and lived the problems for fourteen years now as a selectman, I agree that all of the ten issues are deserving of repair.


September 11, 2014

MMA ISSUES 10 PARTNERSHIP POLICIES TO BUILD A STRONGER COMMONWEALTH

MMA Urges All Candidates for Governor and the Legislature to Support These Important Policies to Ensure a Powerful and Productive State-Local Partnership

Please Encourage All Candidates Seeking Office to Embrace These 10 Partnership Policies to Invest In and Support Local Government

Local leaders across Massachusetts are committed to working very closely with the Commonwealth’s next Governor and all incoming legislators to deepen and strengthen the partnership between cities and towns and state government, because a powerful state-local partnership is absolutely essential in order for Massachusetts to achieve lasting social and economic progress and prosperity for our communities and residents.

On behalf of the cities and towns of Massachusetts, the MMA has issued 10 Partnership Policies to Build a Stronger Commonwealth, and is asking all of the candidates for Governor and the Legislature to publicly embrace this powerful agenda. These policies cover a wide range of vital issues, reflecting the extraordinary breadth of shared responsibilities that are held by state and local leaders.

The MMA’s 10 Partnership Policies are explained in a special 12-page publication that was posted on the MMA website and mailed to local officials, legislators and the candidates for Governor earlier today. You can download a copy of the MMA’s 10 Partnership Policies to Build a Stronger Commonwealth by clicking here.

Taken together, these 10 Partnership Policies will rebuild a strong and lasting state-local financial relationship, invest in communities for economic development and progress, ensure effective and sustainable government administration, and create a working state-local partnership for the future.

THE 10 PARTNERSHIP POLICIES TO BUILD A STRONGER COMMONWEALTH ARE:

1 – RESTORE REVENUE SHARING. We must build a new and enduring state-local fiscal partnership that shares future state tax revenue growth with cities and towns in order to fund local government services and reduce our overreliance on the property tax.

2 – FIX THE SCHOOL FINANCE LAW. We must update and modernize the Chapter 70 school finance law to ensure that all students have access to high-quality and adequately funded public education programs, and state and local governments share fairly in the cost.

3 – FUND KEY PROGRAMS AND OBLIGATIONS. The state must meet its commitments and obligations to fund essential aid accounts for targeted municipal and school programs, including full funding of all state mandates.

4 – SUPPORT FAIRNESS IN LOCAL TAXATION. We should reform and improve the cumbersome state-local system of property exemptions, abatements and tax relief to ensure that needy taxpayers are protected from an excessive property tax burden, and to provide that local property tax exemptions are only granted where truly warranted.

5 – OPPOSE UNFUNDED MANDATES. State government must fully fund all mandated programs, laws and regulations, and must commit to a process that reviews and identifies the cost of all proposed mandates and regulatory changes prior to their enactment.

6 – INVEST IN ESSENTIAL PUBLIC INFRASTRUCTURE. State government needs to increase its investment in the “bricks and mortar” underpinnings of our public infrastructure at the local and state level to ensure that we can sustain and expand a modern economy and vibrant communities.

7 – INVEST IN ESSENTIAL PUBLIC TECHNOLOGY. State government needs to invest in public technology at the local and state level to ensure that Massachusetts will be competitive in the modern global economy.

8 – EMPOWER CITIZEN-DRIVEN PLANNING AND ZONING. State government should carefully update the state’s Zoning Act and related laws to provide cities and towns with new authority and flexibility to guide residential and business land use decisions toward local and state goals.

9 – ALLOW CITIES AND TOWNS TO EFFECTIVELY MANAGE. State government should recognize that the archaic personnel management and benefit system in Massachusetts imposes burdens on municipal budgets, makes it difficult to attract and retain qualified employees, and is in need of “stem to stern” modernization.

10 – COMMIT TO CONSTANT COMMUNICATION AND DIRECT DIALOGUE. Municipal leaders ask the Governor and Lt. Governor to both attend and actively participate in the Local Government Advisory Commission.

A strong and enduring partnership between cities and towns and state government is essential to a healthy and expanding economy and to the ability of local government to provide world-class education and municipal services, ensure safe streets and neighborhoods, and maintain local roads and vital infrastructure. This partnership is fundamental to our state’s economic success and competitiveness, which is why the MMA is offering these 10 Partnership Policies.

By Working Together, Local and State Leaders Can Build a Strong and Prosperous Future for Massachusetts

Please Encourage All Candidates and Community Residents to Embrace These 10 Partnership Policies to Invest In and Support Local Government

MMA on new bills

This alert today from the Massachusetts Municipal Association with a summary of the onslaught of legislation just passed before the legislative session ended at midnight last night -


Friday, August 1, 2014

LEGISLATURE ENDS ITS FORMAL SESSIONS

Lawmakers Work Past Midnight to Complete Action on Major Bills

The Following Bills Were Passed Last Night and are on the Governor’s Desk:

• Economic Development Bill
• Gun Violence Reduction Bill
• Local Housing Authority Reform Bill
• Environmental Bond Bill
• Water Infrastructure Finance Bill
• Solar Net Metering Bill
• Information Technology Bond Bill
• MMA Analyzing “Shift Swapping” Collective Bargaining Bill


With a midnight deadline looming on Thursday night, members of the House and Senate worked past that time into the early hours of Friday morning to enact dozens of bills, including several major pieces of legislation that had been the subject of extensive negotiation between the branches.  The Legislature’s rules set July 31 as the last day for formal sessions and roll call votes.  From August 1 until a new Legislature is seated in January 2015, the House and Senate can only meet in “informal” sessions to consider issues that have unanimous support and do not require recorded roll call votes.

Among the dozens and dozens of bills that received attention and action this week, six major bills passed that will impact cities and towns, and the MMA is analyzing a seventh bill that would add “shift swapping” to collective bargaining.  These measures are on the Governor’s Desk and will require his signature in order to become law.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT BILL PROVIDES SOLID TOOLS FOR CITIES AND TOWNS
MMA Succeeds in Preserving Local Zoning and Permitting Authority for Wireless Antennas
Final Bill Omits the Proposal to Eliminate the Cap on Local Liquor Licenses

The final compromise economic development bill passed by the Legislature includes $10 million for Brownfields remediation, expands the successful I-Cubed infrastructure program and increases eligibility for the Economic Development Incentive Program, increases tax credits for the Housing Development Incentive Program from $5 million to $10 million and creates and capitalizes the Transformative Development Fund at $16 million for Gateway Cities, and retains broad eligibility standards for MassWorks grant funding.

In a major victory for the MMA and local officials, the Legislature rejected language that would have allowed the telecommunications industry to site wireless antennas in virtually any location regardless of local zoning.  This provision, which was included in the House bill and was not in the Senate version, was held in conference and did not become part of the final bill.  Thank you for your calls and letters to your legislators to maintain the fundamental right of local control of land use.

Unfortunately, the final compromise economic development bill passed by the Legislature does not lift the cap on the number of liquor licenses each municipality may issue, despite the strong support of the MMA and municipal leaders for this important economic development tool for local governments.  The Governor and Senate supported this important measure, but the House opposed it.  The MMA will continue fighting to return liquor licenses to local control in the next legislative session.  The bill did include changes reported in the media to allow Boston to appoint its own licensing board, and to add a limited number of licenses in Boston, provisions that originated in local legislation filed by the City.
Click here for a copy of the economic development bill
http://malegislature.gov/Bills/188/House/H4377

AN ACT RELATIVE TO THE REDUCTION OF GUN VIOLENCE
Final Bill Includes Major Program Expansions in Local School Districts
Discuss the Potential Impact with Your Superintendent as Soon as You Can

The media attention on the compromise gun violence legislation passed by lawmakers focused on the provision to allow police chiefs to go to court to prevent “unsuitable” individuals from accessing a firearms identification card for rifles and long guns.  However, the bill also contains a number of sections that apply to public schools and would add new responsibilities at the local level.  We urge you to immediately discuss the implications of the new mandates and programs in the gun control bill with your school superintendent to determine how the measure could impact your public schools and local budgets.

The law contains a Safe and Supportive Schools (S3) framework, which supporters claim will foster a “safe, positive, healthy, and inclusive whole-school learning environment.” DESE is required to develop guidelines and regulations outlining how the program should be implemented locally.  Cities, towns and school districts are not mandated to accept and implement the program, because the law stipulates that S3 must first be adopted by a vote of a school committee, and is subject to local appropriation.

The legislation does require that each school district must have at least one school resource officer and that each school possess a two-way radio communication device for use in communicating solely with police and fire departments in the event of an emergency, although these requirements are both subject to local appropriation. The MMA successfully advocated for the inclusion of language limiting potential legal liability for districts in both sections.

Under the bill, each school is required to create a mental health plan for its students, families, teachers, and administrators.  DESE is charged with developing the guidelines and requirements for implementation.  There is no state funding, and the program is a new mandate on cities, towns and school districts.  The MMA requested that this provision be held in conference because it is an unfunded mandate with major complexity, but the language remained in the final bill.  Similarly, each school must also provide suicide prevention training of at least 2 hours every 3 years for all licensed school personnel.  The MMA was successful in sponsoring language to limit legal liability for districts on both of these new requirements.

Click here for a copy of the gun violence prevention bill
http://malegislature.gov/Bills/188/House/H4376

HOUSING AUTHORITY REFORM

A compromise housing authority reform measure passed by the House and Senate would require the state Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to create a comprehensive training program focused on proper management for all housing authority board members. Further, DHCD will be responsible for creating a performance-based monitoring program for all housing authorities. The bill establishes a program based on best practices in collaborative capital, maintenance, and repair planning, with participation required for those housing authorities with under 500 state-aided units. An annual plan will be required of each housing authority for submission to the state. Each housing authority must contract with an external auditor, but must not use the same auditor for more than 5 consecutive years without a waiver. DHCD will develop a voluntary regional public housing innovation program open to up to 4 regional housing authorities, with the goal of achieving innovative models for public housing development and management. DHCD will also implement a centralized waitlist for state-aided public housing within a year.

Click here for a copy of the housing authority bill
http://malegislature.gov/Bills/188/House/H4374

$2.2 BILLION ENVIRONMENTAL BOND BILL

The Legislature enacted a sweeping $2.2 billion environmental bond bill that includes a broad range of resources that cities and towns can access, if the Administration releases the funds under its capital plan.  The initiatives include: $49 million for dam removal and repair; $120 million for coastal infrastructure projects; $111 million for urban parks; increases in conservation tax credits to facilitate local land preservation; and a provision sponsored by Sen. Richard Moore to require DEP to report to the Legislature on the costs created by the new Sustainable Water Management Initiative (SWMI) regulations.

Click here for a copy of the environmental bond bill
http://malegislature.gov/Bills/188/House/H4375

WATER INFRASTRUCTURE FINANCE BILL

The Legislature’s water infrastructure finance bill would add $50 million to the state revolving loan fund administered by the Water Pollution Abatement Trust (now renamed the Clean Water Trust).  Currently, the SRF program is capped at $88 million a year, and the bill would raise the program up to $138 million.  In the past, the WPAT did not release all available funds, and this legislation requires the state to release at least 80% to cities and towns. Further, the program will provide subsidized loans and/or principal forgiveness to more communities due to the increased capacity.  The bill also includes, at local option, the ability for communities to assess up to a 3% property tax surcharge to raise funds for water infrastructure related projects.  Unfortunately, the final bill did not include “water banking,” an innovative funding mechanism that would allow communities to create additional capacity for economic growth by charging fees to fund necessary water and sewer infrastructure improvements for new developments.  The Senate included water banking in its version of the bill, but the House, under pressure from the development community, balked and with time running out in the session, the measure did not remain in the bill.  The MMA will continue to prioritize this important tool.

Click here for a copy of the water infrastructure finance bill
http://malegislature.gov/Bills/188/Senate/S2342

SOLAR NET METERING BILL

Cities and towns have been very successful in promoting important solar energy projects, so successful that municipalities are now being stalled because of the statutory limit in the amount of solar energy that can be returned to the grid or sold to the utilities.  The statutory cap on “net metering” needs to be lifted in order to make additional solar projects viable.  Municipalities, environmentalists and solar developers joined forces to remove the cap on solar net metering, but some large utilities resisted strongly.  In the end, the Legislature passed a compromise bill that would offer a temporary solution by raising the net metering cap by enough to allow those municipal projects that have been stalled to now go forward.  However, it is expected that this problem will re-emerge next year, which will renew calls for a permanent solution.

Click here for a copy of the solar net metering bill
http://malegislature.gov/Bills/188/House/H4385

MMA ANALYZING “SHIFT SWAPPING” COLLECTIVE BARGAINING BILL

With breakneck speed, the Legislature acted in the final hours of the session to pass S. 1218, Sen. Ken Donnelly’s bill that would make shift swapping a subject of collective bargaining under Chapter 150E of the General Laws.  The bill was strongly supported by the fire unions, and had been lodged in the Senate Ways and Means Committee until the last day of the session.  The bill simply includes “employee and employee exchange of tours” in the list of items subject to collective bargaining under section 7 of Chapter 150E.  The MMA is analyzing the potential impact, and expressing its concern over the measure with the Governor’s office.

Governor’s Opioid Task Force

This article on the opioid addiction issue was in the Massachusett Municipal Association’s monthly newsletter, The Bulletin -


 

Opioid Task Force releases recommendations

Print Email

July 16, 2014

The governor’s Opioid Task Force on June 10 released recommendations in the areas of prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery that are intended to strengthen the state’s ability to respond to the opioid crisis.

The 36-member task force met three times over a period of 60 days. The task force comprised state and local officials, insurers, first responders, providers, patients, and the judiciary. Mayors Martin Walsh of Boston, Domenic Sarno of Springfield and Thomas Hoye of Taunton participated.

The task force was created following the governor’s declaration in March of a public health emergency relative to opioid overdoses. In response to the crisis, the governor pledged $20 million in state funding to boost treatment and recovery services. He asked the task force to develop priorities for how the funding should be spent.

The task force found that:
• There is a need for increased education for youth and families about the dangers of drug use.
• There is a need for increased education for prescribers to ensure safe and effective pain management.
• There are opportunities to improve the prescribing and dispensing of controlled substances.
• There is a need for centralized treatment resources, while individuals and families report challenges in accessing services beyond simply knowing where they are.
• Providers and consumers express concerns about barriers to access.
• Correctional facilities are an important site of care for opioid addiction.
• There is a need for peer support in the recovery process.
• There is a need for expanded recovery services across the state.

The task force recommended the allocation of the $20 million to 24 separate initiatives. The top three priorities of the task force included:
• Development of a central navigation system that could be accessed through a toll-free number to provide information about treatment options and current availability (at an annual cost of $1.45 million)
• Creation of pilot regional centers that provide assessment, drop-in counseling and referral to treatment on demand, leveraging existing treatment organizations (at an annual cost of $1.8 million)
• Development of prescription drug monitoring program infrastructure to support safe practices for the prescription of opioids and new regulations related to the Public Health Emergency and accelerated enrollment of prescribers (at an annual cost of $1.5 million)

The increase in fatal opioid overdoses in Massachusetts parallels a national trend, with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services deeming prescription opioid overdose deaths an epidemic in 2013.

For the full task force report, visit: www.mass.gov/eohhs/docs/dph/substance-abuse/opioid/report-of-the-opioid-task-force-6-10-14.pdf

Written by MMA Legislative Analyst J. Catherine Rollins

Medfield meals tax started 7/1/14

This article from the Massachusetts Municipal Associaiton -


192 communities have adopted local-option meals tax

Print Email

July 16, 2014

On July 1, eight communities joined the 182 that already assess a local-option meals tax, with at least two additional communities set to have the tax go into effect in October.

This brings the number of communities statewide that have adopted a local meals tax to 192, including the 19 communities that chose to enact a meals tax in the past year.

Though the meals tax is only three-quarters of 1 percent, it provides an opportunity for communities to bring in significant additional revenue. For example, revenue estimates from the Division of Local Services for fiscal 2013 show that Provincetown earned $518,320, Burlington earned $1.34 million, and Northampton earned $664,346.

Using revenue estimates from the Division of Local Services, the MMA calculated that the potential revenue that could have been collected by cities and towns if all communities had a meals tax was $110 million. Based on the number of communities that have adopted the tax so far, the MMA estimates that 90 percent of potential revenue is being collected and returned to cities and towns.

The towns of Dracut and Essex had the meals tax go into effect last October. Five communities – Grafton, Granby, Pembroke, Salisbury and Sharon – instituted the meals tax in January. Ashland and Marlborough had the tax go into effect in April.

Attleboro, Berlin, Bourne, Georgetown, Holyoke, Medfield, Plymouth, and Spencer had the tax go into effect on July 1. Carver and West Bridgewater will begin assessing the tax starting this October.

Using revenue figures from the DLS, the MMA calculated that 18 of these 19 communities are projected to collect more than $5 per capita from the meals tax, and 10 will collect more than $10 per capita, according to the Division of Local Services. Essex is expected to bring in $47 per capita, and Salisbury and West Bridgewater are projected to collect $28 per capita.

More than 260 communities in Massachusetts have the opportunity to collect at least $5 per capita from the meals tax. Out of these 263 cities and towns, 182 have adopted the meals tax, which means that 69 percent of cities and towns in Massachusetts that could collect significant revenue have taken advantage of the meals tax.

The local-option meals tax became law in 2009. Cities and towns that accept the provisions of Chapter 64L may levy a local meals tax of three-quarters of 1 percent, which takes effect on the first day of the calendar quarter following 30 days after acceptance.

Written by MMA Reasearch & Legislative Assistant Victoria Sclafani