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General Laws

Section 20. (a) A city or town within or contiguous to an abolished county or to be abolished county, which accepts the provisions of this section by vote of the city council with the approval of the chief executive officer or by vote of the town meeting or by vote of the board of selectmen may enter into agreement to join a regional charter commission. Each city or town electing to join said commission shall send a representative appointed by the chief executive officer or board of selectman, and said commission shall convene and shall develop a charter proposal recommending (1) a structure, including organization and method of selecting members for said regional council of government and (2) provision for the method of determining approval of the charter proposal in said cities and towns; provided, however, that said charter shall be adopted and binding only on those cities and towns where a majority of voters approve it by popular vote.

The charter shall also include provisions for towns to enter or leave participation in the council of governments. Said charter shall be placed before the voters in an election. The charter shall also include a method of determining approval of any increase or decrease in the county assessment authorized in this section but such method shall include approval of such increase or decrease by the member municipalities of the council of governments in a popular vote if such increase is in excess of 102.5 per cent of the previous fiscal year assessment. The charter may also include a method of determining approval of an annual budget, including fees, grants, assessments and other revenues. The charter may provide that a council of governments shall retain any powers previously conferred upon the county and its county commissioners and shall have any additional powers authorized by this section; provided, however, that said councils shall not retain any power concerning functions transferred to the commonwealth under sections 1 or 4 of this chapter, retain power to levy a county tax, or retain powers specifically denied under this section.

(b) Notwithstanding subsection (a), the following provisions shall apply to Hampshire county. The charter proposed by the county commissioners and approved pursuant to a direct vote of the people of Hampshire county in November 1998 is hereby ratified and shall be deemed to have taken effect on January 1, 1999. The election held in Hampshire county at the biennial state election ballot in November 1998 adopting a charter is hereby ratified, validated and confirmed. All actions, proceedings, contracts, agreements, expenditures and assessments made by the Hampshire council of governments prior to July 1, 1999 are hereby ratified, validated and confirmed. The Hampshire council of governments shall retain any powers previously conferred upon Hampshire county and its county commissioners including, but not limited to, the powers and duties of county commissioners with regard to county roads; provided, however, that said council shall not retain any power concerning functions transferred to the commonwealth under sections 2 and 4, retain power to levy a county tax, or retain powers specifically denied under this section or under the charter. Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, road actions taken by Hampshire council of governments after Hampshire county was abolished and before January 1, 2007 are hereby ratified, validated and confirmed. The county commission of Hampshire county shall hereafter be known as the council of governments and each municipally elected official serving on the council may serve until the end of the current term to which elected as a county commissioner or until a successor council official is elected in that municipality. The council shall organize as provided by the newly approved charter. The executive committee shall have the powers of selectmen under sections 52 and 56 of chapter 41. Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, the county treasurer, appointed by the county administrator under the prior county charter, shall become known as the director of finance for the council of governments, and shall have the powers and duties of a municipal treasurer under section 35 of said chapter 41 and under sections 54, 55, and 55A of chapter 44. The director of finance shall be a member of the county retirement system advisory board with all the rights, privileges, and duties as other members of the advisory board.

(c) Upon approval of the new charter, the county commission of a county shall become known as the council of governments and each municipally elected official serving on the council may serve until the end of the current term to which elected as a county commissioner or until a successor council official is elected in that municipality. The council shall organize as provided by the newly approved charter. The executive committee shall have the powers of selectmen under section 52 and 56 of said chapter 41.

(d) The council of governments may accept or participate in any grant, donation or program available to any political subdivision of the commonwealth, and may also accept or participate in any grant, donation, or program made available to counties by any other governmental or private entity.

(e) Notwithstanding the provisions of any special or general law to the contrary, any political subdivision of the commonwealth may enter into agreement with the council of governments to perform jointly or for the other, or in cooperation with other entities, any service, activity or undertaking which the political subdivision is authorized by law to perform. For the term of the agreement and subject to the terms thereof, the council of governments shall be authorized to perform the service, activity or undertaking and may designate appropriate representatives to oversee the performance, provided that the functions and duties of the representative or representatives are set forth in the agreement.

(f) The parking provisions of chapter 90 shall apply to the parking areas subject to the control of the council of governments, and the council shall have the powers and duties of that chapter as they apply to parking.

(g) A regional council of government established pursuant to this section may administer and provide regional services to cities and towns and may delegate such authority to subregional groups of such cities and towns. Regional councils of government may enter into cooperative agreements with regional planning commissions or may merge with such commissions to provide regional services.

(h) Regional services provided to member municipalities shall be determined by each regional council of government and may include, but are not limited to, the following services: engineering, inspectional services and planning, economic development, public safety, emergency management, animal control, land use management, tourism promotion, social services, health, education, date management, regional sewerage, housing, computerized mapping, household hazardous waste collections, recycling, public facility siting, coordination of master planning, vocational training and development, solid waste disposal, fire protection, regional resource protection, regional impact studies, and transportation.

(i) For the purpose of organizing and administering in the county or a portion of the county a cooperative or regional entity to provide, purchase or otherwise make available services on a regionalized basis, the council of governments may impose a regional assessment as set forth in the charter submitted to the voters and approved by said voters pursuant to this section. The regional assessment shall be allocated among the members of the council of governments in proportion to their respective equalized valuations as reported to the general court by the commissioner of revenue in accordance with section 10C of chapter 58 unless the charter includes provisions that set the assessment based upon other factors including, but not limited to, population or base cost per municipality. The regional assessment shall be based upon the budget adopted by the council of governments, net of estimated revenues. The regional assessment shall be retained by the council of governments and shall be used for the purpose of providing regional or municipal services or programs, or planning, organizing and administering such services or programs, and maintaining abolished county or regional council of government property in connection with said services or programs, under the authority granted herein.

(j) The council of governments may increase or reduce the regional assessment on each member municipality from the base year of fiscal year 2000, subject to the limits of sections 20A and 21C of chapter 59.

(k) The council of governments may incur temporary debt in anticipation of revenue for a term not to exceed one year, with the approval of a majority of the council of governments. The temporary debt shall not exceed one-half of the amount of the council of governments assessment under subsection (h). Sections 16 to 19, inclusive, and sections 21 to 22C, inclusive, of chapter 44 shall, so far as possible, apply to debt issued under this section.

(l) The provisions of chapter 268A and 268B that are applicable to a county agency and county employees shall apply to a regional council of government and its employees.

(m) Nothing in this chapter shall authorize, require or permit any regional council of government to abrogate, in whole or in part any agreement, including any collective bargaining agreement, negotiated with any employee organization under chapter 150E or to interfere with or detract from the rights of any employee under chapter 31. Nothing in this chapter shall supplant or supersede any rights of any employee organization under any law, including, but not limited to, said chapter 150E, including any agreements negotiated under said chapter 150E, or any employee under chapter 31.

(n) a council of governments shall maintain or contract with others to maintain records relating to county roads within its jurisdiction.

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