Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini, representing Massachusetts mayors, speaks in Boston.
Proposal Guts Local Employee Protections, Removes Liquor License Caps, Among Other Measures
Gov. Charles D. Baker wants to improve “critical components of the partnership between state and municipal governments,” and Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini couldn’t be happier.
Baker’s legislative bill has several goals, including “eliminating or updating obsolete laws, promoting local independence, streamlining state oversight and providing municipalities with greater flexibility,” according to a statement.
“This bill removes red tape and regulatory barriers. It is something that I’ve dreamed of for the 12 years I have been mayor. It takes the handcuffs off of us and makes our job easier,” said Fiorentini, who is also president of the Massachusetts Mayors’ Association. “Easier in procurement, easier in economic development, easier in civil service and easier in so many other different ways,” he said. Fiorentini joined Baker and Lieutenant Gov. Karyn Polito at a Boston gathering Monday.
Items in the bill, such as lifting the state cap on local liquor licenses, may be welcome news to community governments. Other provisions, such as allowing cities and towns to remove jobs from civil service at will, may face opposition from employees.
The proposed bill aims to amend laws “that haven’t been modified since the early 1900s,” including repealing provisions for county government reporting and allowing electronic advertising for required notices under the Open Meeting Law, local issuance of civil motor vehicle citations electronically and the charging of interest on overdue property taxes “more equitable in terms of semi-annual versus quarterly billing.”
Haverhill Could Buy Churches Slated for Private Development
Additional themes and measures under the bill include local independence, streamlined state oversight and greater flexibility. Local independence, as examples, would give cities and towns the right of first refusal to buy charitable or church property that is slated for commercial development, and allow communities to set their own liquor license caps. In theory, for example, the proposal would allow Haverhill to purchase St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Apostolic Church, across from city hall, next time a hamburger business is proposed there.
Reduced state oversight would mean, for example, the eliminatation of the requirement the state Division of Local Services (DLS) approve certain abatements on low-valued land and properties being made available for affordable housing.
Flexibility issues center on allowing communities to enforce the prohibition on keeping double poles up after ninety days, simplify local procurement of construction contracts and increase the short-term borrowing maximum from five to 10 years.
“As two former local officials, the lieutenant governor and I promised to make partnership with cities and towns a focus and priority of our administration,” said Baker. “We were proud to establish a Community Compact Cabinet and keep our commitment to increase local aid by 75 percent of revenue growth in our first budget, the largest such boost in nearly a decade; and look forward to implementing greater independence and flexibility that empowers our local municipal officials to best serve their communities.”
“Once passed, this legislation will also allow cities, towns, or districts to adopt a local option that would require direct deposit of municipal employee compensation; will permit mayors and selectmen to initiate movement to optional forms of municipal administration or charter commission; will allow municipalities to exempt positions from civil service by vote of the governing body rather than through special legislation; and will enable cities and town to invest in CD’s for more than one year,” a spokesperson said.