June 14 2020

New State Bill Gives More Flexibility for Town Meetings and Local Elections


Governor Charlie Baker signed into law a bill that was supported by Burlington’s officials in the State House meant to help municipalities deal with the COVID-19 situation. 


The Massachusetts Legislature recently passed a bill to provide governance and fiscal flexibility for many municipalities grappling with public health challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, a joint release from State Sen. Cindy Friedman and State Rep. Ken Gordon states. 


“This bill builds on the Legislature’s ongoing commitment to supporting our cities and towns as we continue to confront the COVID-19 public health crisis together,” said Senator Friedman (D-Arlington), a member of the COVID-19 Senate Working Group. “I’m grateful to my colleagues in the Senate and House for working together to pass a bill that will give municipal leaders throughout our district the tools and flexibility they need to continue serving our residents.”


“I’m proud that the Legislature took this important step to allow our cities and towns to adapt to the challenges of the COVID-19 emergency,” said Representative Gordon (D-Bedford). “With the passage of this bill, our local government leaders can meet these challenges and continue to keep our residents safe.” 


Building off other legislation that gave municipalities operating flexibility during the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis, the bill further protects public health and preserves the Town Meeting structure despite continued disruptions caused by the state of emergency, the release states. 


The bill permits representative Town Meeting to take place virtually, permits quorum reduction for open Town Meeting to no less than 10 percent, extends the quorum reduction to representative Town Meeting, allows Town Meeting to be held outside the geographic limits of the town and permits a municipal election scheduled through June 31 to be extended to August 1 at the latest.


“By providing our municipalities with this much-needed flexibility, the bill preserves public access to the proceedings of town governance and protects the public from the continued health risks associated with the COVID-19 outbreak,” the release states. 


Finally, among other provisions, the bill strengthens the prohibition on terminating essential services for residents during the COVID-19 emergency and provides municipalities and regional school districts flexibility in paying school bus and other vendor contracts.


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