Jul 20

It is expected that the Governor will shortly sign the compromise marijuana bill.  The conference report (H. 3818) has been enacted by both the House and Senate and sent to the Governor for consideration today. The Governor has 10 days to sign the bill, allow the bill to become law without his signature, send the bill back with amendments or veto the measure. As such, the bill could become law as late as July 30, a day before the first major deadline set forth in the compromise proposal. August 1 is the deadline to appoint the 25-member Cannibis Advisory Board.

Here are links to the text of H.3818, and a brief overview prepared by David Lakeman (Mass Municipal Association):

Text of Bill:  H.3818

Bill Overview: Overview of H.3818

Mar 31

On March 10, MMLA presented a program at Clark University in Worcester, entitled “The New Marijuana Law—How Municipalities Can (and Should) Respond”.  The program, which was co-sponsored by the Massachusetts Municipal Association, attracted over 150 attendees, making it one of MMLA’s largest events.  Participants included municipal counsel, town administrators and managers, municipal and regional planners, and members of planning boards, ZBAs, and Boards of Health.

The MMLA program panelists included Attorney Brandon Moss; Assistant Attorney General Margaret Hurley, Director of the Municipal Law Unit; Sarah Kim and Shawn Collins, the General Counsel and Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs, respectively, in the Office of the State Treasurer; and Jeffrey Bagg, Principal Planner for the Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission.  The panel was moderated by MMLA Executive Board member John Goldrosen.  The panelists provided a legal overview of the statute, information on the Attorney General’s and State Treasurer’s roles, and the panelists’ perspectives on the issues to be addressed at the municipal level.  The program concluded with an extended question-and-answer period. Continue reading »

Dec 19

On December 16th, the Secretary of State released its final version of regulations intended to implement the major changes in the state Public Records Law enacted by the Legislature during its last session. Chapter 121 of the Acts of 2016 made major changes to the public records statutes which until then had remained substantially unchanged for many years, rendering them very much out of sync with contemporary electronic means of records creation, transmission, use, retention, access, and disposal. Click here to view the full text of the new regulations, which go into effect on January 1st.

Substantively, the new statutory and regulatory provisions govern the process by which state agencies and municipalities respond to and process public records requests, including detailed specifications of the charges that may be imposed on the requester. MMLA and MMA will be co-sponsoring a workshop at MMA’s Annual Meeting & Trade Show on Jan. 21 on the requirements of the law and regulations, as well as best practices that cities and towns can implement to facilitate compliance with the new rules. MMLA is in the process of fashioning informational guidelines for city and town officials including best practice in complying with the revised public records statutes and regulations.

Oct 07

On October 6th, a hearing was held at the Secretary of State’s Office on regulations proposed to implement recent major changes in the state Public Records Law.  MMLA executive board member Kevin Batt, and MMA representative John Robertson testified on behalf of both organizations, submitting a joint letter commenting on the proposed regulations. They also jointly submitted a redline version of the draft regulations showing suggested changes to the draft regulations.  Click on the following links to the relevant documents:
Chapter 121, Acts of 2016
DRAFT Regulations
MMLA-MMA Redline Version of DRAFT Regulations
MMLA-MMA Written Testimony

Jun 25

June 25, 2016 – After a year of intense debate, legislation overhauling the state’s public records law for the first time in over 40 years was signed by Governor Charlie Baker.

The new guidelines set a new time frame for producing public records, make a portion of employee time spent performing records requests exempt from reimbursement, and allow requestors to appeal directly to superior court to compel compliance.

Public entities must be prepared to comply with these new requirements as of January 1, 2017.  MMLA Executive Board member Matthew G. Feher, of Burns & Levinson (Boston), Chair of MMLA’s Legislative Committee, has provided us with a short article explaining the key provisions of the new law.  Click here for the full text of that article.

Jun 11

On June 9th, the Massachusetts Senate passed Senate Bill S.2311, “An Act Promoting Housing and Sustainable Development,” legislation that Senator Dan Wolf refers to as “changing local and state zoning laws to increase housing stock and build communities that will reduce sprawl and eliminate restrictive zoning laws.” Senator Wolf’s press release issued the same day described bills details in anticipation of the bill proceeding to the House of Representatives for further action.

Continue reading »

Jun 03

Public Records Bill Signed by Governor

After about a year of intense debate, legislation overhauling the state’s public records law for first time in over 40 years was signed by Gov. Charlie Baker earlier today.  The provisions of the new law take effect on January 1, 2017, and the Secretary of State’s office is expected to release regulations sometime later this year.

Among other things, the new law will impose greater limitations on the timeframes that state agencies and municipalities must comply with to produce public records, exempt time associated with fulfilling the request from reimbursement, allow a requester to appeal directly to Superior Court to compel compliance and expose state agencies and municipalities to monetary penalties.

MMLA is preparing a comprehensive overview of the new law and will post such to this website.

For the full text of the new Public Records Law, click on   H4333 – Public Records Law

May 24

[5.24.16] – After months of public deliberations, a conference committee charged with ironing-out differences between competing House and Senate public records law packages released a compromise bill earlier today that is expected to be voted by the House Wednesday.  The conference committee report reflects several areas pushed by MMLA and included language that requires that a request be made in writing, ensures that time spent by legal counsel assisting with the production of public records is reimbursed, and maintains a level of judicial discretion as it relates to the award of attorneys’ fees and damages.  The bill requires that cities and towns comply with a request or render a response within 10 business days, and provides as many as 55 business days to comply with the law under certain circumstances and if granted by the supervisor of public records.  MMLA will prepare a thorough analysis of the legislation – please visit this website for additional updates and information.

Apr 14

On April 12th, MMLA submitted a letter to the Legislature’s Public Records Law Conference Committee expressing the Association’s views with respect to the House and Senate bills proposing significant amendments to the state public records law which are now being considered by the Committee.  The letter sent by Executive Board Member Matthew G. Feher, Chair of the Association’s Legislative Committee,  introduced a detailed summary of the Association’s position on the provisions of both bills, by stating:

“MMLA strives to strengthen and improve the state’s public records law (“PRL”) in a balanced and easily understandable manner.  We are grateful to have had an opportunity to meet with House and Senate leadership over the past several months to discuss meaningful improvements to the PRL that will benefit all participants in the process.  With this goal in mind, we offer the following comments that correspond to the enclosed table that objectively compares the principal differences between the competing bills against current law.”

The letter was submitted as testimony to the conference committee.  MMLA Executive Director Jim Lampke, MMLA Legislative Committee Matthew Feher, and Executive Board Member Kevin Batt testified at the committee hearing.

For the full text of MMLA’s letter, click on this link:  Text of MMLA Letter to Conference Committee

Mar 24

LEG-UP # 16-05 (6.24.16) – MMLA Shared Representation Bill Advances in House – MMLA legislation that would enable cities, towns and other governmental bodies to use shared or joint legal representation in administrative and judicial proceedings of common interest was sent to Third Reading in the House earlier today. The bill, H. 1863 filed by Rep. Denise Provost (D-Somerville), builds upon recent efforts to improve government cooperation, achieve greater administrative efficiencies and better manage costs.  The use of inter-municipal agreements to share legal representation without any specific state or local  legal authority such is not permitted according to an interpretation by the State Ethics Commission of Section 17 of Chapter 268A of the General Laws.   This bill would provide statewide legal authority to share legal resources if there is no conflict in doing so and if so approved by the governmental body’s chief executive officer after consultation with their legal counsel.

Mar 20

Zoning Reform Bill (S2144) Update  –  LEG-UP # 16-04

On Feburary 25th, the zoning reform bill (S2144, previously designated S122) was reported favorably out of the Joint Committee on Community Development and Small Businesses and is now in the Senate Committee on Ways & Means.   In reporting on this favorable development, our coalition leader, Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance, wrote:

This is exciting progress—we are one important step closer to our goal of making the first significant reforms in our planning, zoning and subdivision statutes since the 1970’s!   

We appreciate your continuing support and particularly want to thank those coalition members who communicated with legislators and/or staff.  Please continue to express your support for the bill—and your hope for speedy action—to Senate Ways & Means staffers or legislators. 

The Community Development Committee Co-Chairs, Senator Kathleen O’Connor-Ives and Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante, and staff worked hard on this bill.  We are grateful that they took the time to review the bill in depth. 

We look forward to continuing to working together on zoning reform! Continue reading »

Mar 17

LEG-UP # 16-03  – (3.17.16)   –  Water Public-Private Partnership (P3) Bill Advances

On March 16, the legislature’s Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight issued its favorable report of MMLA-supported legislation that would authorize the use of public-private partnerships (P3), such as Design-Build-Operate-Finance, to deliver critically important water infrastructure projects at local option.  The bi-partisan bill, S1722, filed by Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) and others, would provide cities and towns an important tool to combat ever-increasing water, sewer and stormwater infrastructure needs at a time when traditional government resources are in decline.   Continue reading »

Feb 26

[2.26.16] – The zoning reform bill – Senate 2144 (formerly Senate 122) – was this week reported favorably out of the Joint Committee on Community Development and Small Businesses and is now in the Senate Committee on Ways & Means.   This is exciting progress—we are one important step closer to our goal of making the first significant reforms in our planning, zoning and subdivision statutes since the 1970’s!   The Community Development Committee Co-Chairs, Senator Kathleen O’Connor-Ives and Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante, and their staffs, have worked hard on this bill.  We are grateful that they took the time to review the bill in depth.  There was one change made to the bill that would allow property owners could use the “approval not required” process to create two roadside lots a year, in the event a municipality adopts minor subdivision.  MMLA has joined other advocates for zoning reform in analyzing the amendment and plans to discuss that issue, and others, with Senate Ways & Means in the coming weeks.  Here is a link to the full text of the bill: S.2144

Feb 04

February 4, 2016 – Earlier today, the Senate unanimously approved its version of public records law reform legislation that would establish tighter compliance time frames, create the potential for more litigation and impose greater limitations on record production fees than competing legislation passed by the House in November.   It is expected that the House and Senate plans will head to conference committee.  The Senate debated 64 amendments filed to the Senate Ways and Means bill released last week (S. 2120) – the list of amendments including the text and status of each can be found by clicking the following link:

https://malegislature.gov/Bills/189/Senate/S2120

For details of approved amendments, click on: 2120 Approved Amendments

Feb 02

SPECIAL LEGISLATIVE ALERT TO MMLA MEMBERS

[February 2, 2016]  –  The Senate Ways and Means Committee has released a bill – Senate 2120 – containing its proposed reforms to the Public Records law.  The Senate is scheduled to debate this bill on Thursday, February 4, 2016. Because of significant differences between the Senate bill and an earlier bill passed in the House – House 3858 – the bills may well end up in a conference committee to resolve those differences prior to the end of the current legislative session.

Although the Senate bill does have a number of improvements over the current public records law, several of its provisions are of great concern to our cities and towns and to the attorneys who represent or advise them. These concerns include unworkable time lines for response to public records requests, un-reimbursed search time, financial penalties including the award of attorneys fees and punitive damages, as well as a number of logistical deficiencies. Senate 2120 is an unnecessarily onerous and imbalanced law.

For further details relative to Senate 2120, see the following:

  • MMLA Legislative Alert to Mayors, Selectmen, Town Managers, Town Administrators, Municipal Attorneys, and Agency Counsels
  • MMLA Comparison of House and Senate Initiatives to Update Existing Public Records Law

We urge you to read these materials and share then with your local officials and others.  Urge them to contact their state house legislative delegation and echo our concerns.  Feel free to share the attachments.  It is critically important that local government concerns continue to be expressed to Beacon Hill.

MMLA remains committed to working to improve the public records law.   Please contact the MMLA office if you have any questions, comments, or information to share.

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