Beacon Hill often passes legislation designed to benefit local communities, although there are no certainties until the laws are put into practice. What is certain is that too little is known about their financial impact.
A review by state Auditor Suzanne Bump's Division of Local Mandates (DLM) found that 97 statutory provisions became law between 2011 and 2015 had an impact to some degree on municipalities. However, the division is only allowed to review whether legislation constitutes an unfunded mandate. While that is valuable, there is a large middle ground between funded and unfunded.
The study found that the majority of the 97 laws were related to education, employment benefits, elections and public safety. That too, covers a lot of ground.
Ms. Bump is proposing that state agencies be required to file municipal impact statements with the DLM, the Secretary of State and the Local Government Advisory Council whenever regulations are passed into law or current regulations amended. The auditor also proposes that the DLM be given the ability to provide information on the fiscal impact of proposed legislation on communities to lawmakers.
With the state tightening its belt in the next fiscal year, it becomes more important than it not burden financially struggling communities with unfunded or underfunded mandates. The two proposals by Auditor Bump will be introduced as amendments to the budget this month and the Legislature should act favorably upon them.