By Bob Katzen
Governor Charlie Baker signed into law a bill that would lower the number of voters needed at an open town meeting in order to have a quorum. Other provisions include allowing virtual representative town meetings to be held online; allowing towns to hold town meetings outside the geographic limits of the town if the select board determines that it is not possible to conduct town meetings within the geographic limits of the town that ensures health and safety; and giving Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Riley the power to issue emergency educator licenses.
Another key section allows a mayor who is unable to submit an annual budget for fiscal year 2021 to the city council within 170 days after his or her inauguration to submit the budget to the citycouncil within 30 days after the termination of the governor’s declaration of emergency, or on July 31, 2020, whichever is earlier.
Supporters said it is crucial to provide municipalities with the flexibility they need to run their local government. They said the bill would allow cities and towns to function while still being fiscally responsible and maintaining the health and safety of voters.
“Municipal leaders are working feverishly to manage and guide their local governments through the COVID-19 public health crisis, which has created major challenges to the process of governing and delivering service,” said Massachusetts Municipal Association (MMA) Executive Director Geoff Beckwith. “MMA and local officials deeply appreciate the tools and flexibility that our partners in state government are providing to make it possible to maintain operations. [This law] is the latest example, providing communities with options for holding municipal elections and town meetings, approving temporary budgets, and using local revenue funds. We applaud the Legislature and governor for enacting these key provisions.”