The quorums at upcoming town meetings may be reduced under a new municipal relief act signed by the Governor late last week.

Most towns have bylaws requiring that a minimum number of voters must be present in order for town meeting to conduct business. The number varies by town, but it is usually between 50 and 150 voters. While town meetings are exempt from the state’s restriction on public gatherings during the COVID-19 emergency, many town officials are concerned they may be unable to muster enough voters to pass budgets given the pandemic and social distancing requirements.
Under Chapter 92 of the Acts of 2020 , a town may reduce the quorum to not less than 10% of the usual number, by vote of the select board and with the approval of the town moderator. A reduced quorum would not prohibit more voters from attending, but would allow town meeting business to proceed if turnout is low. A reduced quorum would be able to pass any article on the town meeting warrant (operating budgets, capital projects, bylaw amendments, etc.).
Further Municipal Relief Provisions:
In addition, Chapter 92 of the Acts of 2020 includes additional relief for municipalities during the COVID-19 emergency, including:
  • Town elections may be delayed as late as August 1 (extended from June 30).
  • Towns may eliminate municipal election caucuses.
  • Town meetings may take place outside the geographic limits of the town (such as a venue with better social distancing options for attendees).
  • Select boards may suspend the dedication of revenues to stabilization funds (rainy day funds) for fiscal year 2021.
  • Select boards may spend from stabilization funds for any lawful purpose, rather than the specific purpose of the fund, during fiscal year 2021.
  • Municipalities and school districts may make payments under vendor contracts for education-related services through June 30, even if such services were not provided due to school closings (bus contracts, special services, etc.).
If you have specific questions about this latest municipal relief bill, please contact a member of Mirick O’Connell’s Public and Municipal Law Group.