Gov. Charlie Baker signed off Tuesday on a major reform package aimed at cutting bureaucracy and giving cities and towns more autonomy over their finances.
Baker describes his municipal regulations reform as "weed wacking" with good reason: the bill resulted from dialogue with the state's 351 cities and towns, and has over 125 sections that total 200 pages.
It is, by Beacon Hill standards, a delightful paradox: mounds of detail that make public life a bit more straightforward. Very Charlie Baker.
"Some might look at these things and fall asleep, but for those of us standing here, mayors and select board members, this is the type of stuff that keeps you up at night," Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera said.
Rivera praised some of the law's provisions that will help cities like his better manage everything from annual budgets to payment for its audit board.
"I think the governor has made a thing about making things boring so that people can live their lives and not have to worry about government doing what it's supposed to do. So boring is working," Rivera said.
In a nation wrapped in negativity, this is akin to a shout of joy.
Lt. Gov. Karen Polito headed up Baker's "community Compact" initiative to open dialogues with more than 235 municipalities and school districts to hear 1,300 suggestions for how to improve government efficiency. Dozens of local officials, alongside lawmakers and the president of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, gathered in the State House Tuesday to witness Baker sign the law.
Rivera wasn't the only one at the signing to joke that the bill was "boring," but Baker says it'll help municipalities cut through a lot of red tape.
"A lot of the elements in this legislation represent very comprehensive and very significant changes in the ongoing relationship financially and operationally between the state and the Commonwealth's cities and towns," Baker told reporters after the signing.
Some of the highlights include now allowing cities and towns to issue motor vehicle citations electronically, instead of just on paper, and raising the amount a municipalities can spend on procurement contracts without a public vote from $10,000 to $50,000.
The measure also streamlines municipalities' ability to create and manage funding accounts, including freeing up their ability to contribute and drawn on their own stabilization funds without putting the move before a town meeting vote. The law also lets municipal managers make changes to their budgets at the end of the fiscal year to close out the year.
But lawmakers left out at least one idea that would have been a major shift of power away from from Beacon Hill: allowing local governments authority over liquor licences.
Baker says he'll see if local officials want to pursue local liquor control next year.
The thought, for some, is close to thrilling.