Governor Baker signed another bill providing municipalities with flexibility to push out various deadlines associated with the spring budget season and local land use permitting during the COVID-19 emergency. The new legislation follows a prior bill authorizing the delay of town elections and an executive order loosening provisions of the Open Meeting Law .

The bill, Chapter 53 of the Acts of 2020 , contains the following highlights:

Town Meetings, Budgets, and Local Taxes:

  • Annual town meetings may be postponed to later than June 30.
  • Town meeting moderators have authority to postpone a town meeting due to a public health emergency.
  • Towns may seek state approval to operate on “1/12th” spending plans if operating budgets are not approved by the start of the new fiscal year on July 1.
  • Municipalities may amortize budget deficits in fiscal year 2020 over the next two fiscal years.
  • Towns may spend from revolving funds after June 30 based upon the prior year’s spending caps.
  • The deadlines to act on Chapter Land rights of first refusal are suspended during and for 90 days after the end of the Governor’s March 10 Declaration of a State of Emergency.
  • Municipalities may extend upcoming property tax due dates to June 1, and waive interest and late penalties for outstanding taxes, betterments, water bills, and sewer bills due on or after March 10 but paid before June 30.
  • Municipalities may not terminate water, trash collection, or electricity service for nonpayment of a bill due on or after March 10 but paid before June 30.

Permit Extensions:

  • While municipal boards and officials are free to process applications and hold hearings as usual, various deadlines for a wide variety of permits and local approvals are now extended until 45 days after the end of the Governor’s March 10 Declaration of a State of Emergency, such as:
  • The time to start a public hearing;
  • The time to act on a pending permit application; and
  • The time to act to avoid a constructive approval.
  • Permits do not lapse or expire during the State of Emergency, and deadlines for permit conditions toll during the State of Emergency.
  • Deadlines to record certain permits are suspended while the registry of deeds is closed, and the failure to record a permit does not prevent the issuance of a building permit.
  • Permits may not be revoked for failure to comply with a condition or commence work due to the State of Emergency.
  • Permit applications may be filed with the town/city clerk and by email or website upload, notwithstanding statutes or local rules to the contrary.
  • During the State of Emergency, meetings and hearings may be conducted remotely, per the Governor’s March 12 order.

Restaurant Beer and Wine Sales:

  • Restaurants with on-premises alcoholic beverages licenses may sell beer or wine for off-premises consumption, provided that the beverages come in original sealed containers and accompany a food purchase made before midnight, with a limitation on quantity (1.5 liters of wine and 192 ounces of beer per transaction).

Retired Public Officials:

  • Retired public employees receiving a pension may work for public entities during the State of Emergency, notwithstanding the ordinary restrictions on age, hours, and compensation.

Mirick O’Connell will continue to keep clients up to date on emergency legislation addressing the COVID-19 emergency.