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  • Acts
  • 1998
  • Chapter 300 AN ACT ABOLISHING THE COUNTY GOVERNMENTS OF HAMPSHIRE, ESSEX, AND BERKSHIRE COUNTIES, AND TRANSFERRING ESSENTIAL COUNTY FUNCTIONS TO THE COMMONWEALTH.

Whereas , The deferred operation of this act would tend to defeat its purpose, which is immediately to provide for the abolition of the county governments of Hampshire, Essex and Berkshire counties and to transfer their essential functions to the commonwealth, and to authorize the formation of regional councils of governments to administer and provide regional services, therefore it is hereby declared to be an emergency law, necessary for the immediate preservation of the public convenience.


Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:


N.B. This section has been vetoed by the Acting Governor
SECTION 1. Section 91 of chapter 32 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 1996 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting after the word "people", in line 16, the following words:- for service rendered as the first members as of July 1, 1999 pursuant to section 28 of chapter 48 of the acts of 1997 and any consecutive reappointment.

SECTION 2. Chapter 54 of the General Laws is hereby amended by inserting after section 143 the following section:-

Section 143A. Registry of Deeds. Upon a vacancy by removal or otherwise in the office of register of deeds in a county or district in which said office is under the general superintendency or jurisdiction of the secretary of the commonwealth shall in like manner issue precepts for an election to fill such vacancy at the next biennial state election for which precepts can be reasonably issued, unless the term of said office expires on the first Wednesday of January following such state election, and the state secretary shall appoint some person to fill such office until a person is elected thereto and qualified. The person so appointed shall give bond as provided in section 3 of chapter 36.

SECTION 3. Section 13 of chapter 64D of the General Laws, as appearing in the 1996 Official Edition, is hereby amended by striking out, in line 5, the word "primarily" and inserting in place thereof the following word:- solely.

SECTION 4. Section 26 of chapter 74 of the General Laws, as so appearing, is hereby amended by striking out, in lines 3 and 4, the words ", the Essex agricultural and technical institute,".

SECTION 5. Said section 26 of said chapter 74, as so appearing, is hereby further amended by adding the following paragraph:-

The board of trustees for the Essex agricultural and technical institute shall consist of seven trustees, who shall be residents of Essex county, appointed by the governor for a term of four years, of which not more than two or fewer than one term shall expire each year. The administrator of the Essex agricultural and technical institute may submit a list of potential candidates for selection to said board prior to appointment by the governor. Said institute shall be under the general supervision of the department of education and said board shall develop said institute's curriculum in consultation with teachers of said institute. The trustees shall appoint a treasurer who shall receive and take charge of all monies due to said institute, and who shall give a bond for the faithful performance of his duties in accordance with the provisions of section 35 of chapter 41. The fiscal year of said institute shall be the same as the fiscal year of cities and towns.

SECTION 6. Section 28 of said chapter 74, as so appearing, is hereby amended by adding the following paragraph:-

Notwithstanding the preceding paragraph, in Essex county, the total budget estimates approved by the board of education shall govern the spending of the Essex agricultural and technical institute, which shall not incur liabilities in excess of the approved amounts without first obtaining the approval of the board of trustees of a revised budget. Said board shall not approve a budget of said institute, or revisions thereof, unless said board is satisfied that said institute's revenues and available funds are sufficient to meet the proposed expenditures.

SECTION 7. Section 30 of said chapter 74, as so appearing, is hereby amended by striking out, in line 2, the words ", the Essex agricultural and technical institute".

SECTION 8. Said chapter 74 is hereby further amended by striking out section 31C, as so appearing, and inserting in place thereof the following section:-

Section 31C. The trustees of the Essex agricultural and technical institute are hereby authorized to enter into agreements providing for the payment of insurance covering dismemberment or death and the reasonable hospital, medical and surgical expenses incurred by, or in behalf of, any student in the institute by reason of injuries sustained by him while participating, or practicing or training for participation, in any game, meet, or contest conducted or held as part of or in connection with the physical education, athletic program, or interscholastic sports program of said institute.

SECTION 9. Section 33 of said chapter 74, as so appearing, is hereby amended by inserting after the word "county", in line 13, the following words:- or the treasurer of the Essex agricultural and technical institute appointed by the trustees pursuant to section 26.

SECTION 10. Said section 33 of said chapter 74, as so appearing, is hereby further amended by striking out, in line 18, the words "Essex county" and inserting in place thereof the following words:- the Essex agricultural and technical institute.

SECTION 11. Section 1 of chapter 48 of the acts of 1997 is hereby amended by striking out section 1 and inserting in place thereof the following section:-

Section 1. The government of each of the following counties, in this act called an "abolished county" is hereby abolished as provided in this act as of the following date, in this act called the "transfer date", or on such earlier date 30 days after the commissioner of revenue certifies in writing that the county has failed to make a required payment on an outstanding bond or note: (a) Middlesex county, as of the effective date of this act; (b) Hampden and Worcester counties, as of July 1, 1998; (c) Hampshire county, as of January 1, 1999; provided, however, that all functions, duties and responsibilities for the operation and management of the jail, house of correction and registry of deeds of Hampshire county and all duties and responsibilities for operation and management of property occupied primarily by the sheriff, registry of deeds and the trial courts in Hampshire county are hereby transferred to the commonwealth, effective July 1, 1998, subject to the provisions of this act; (d) Essex county as of July 1, 1999; and (e) Berkshire county as of July 1, 2000.

SECTION 12. Section 2A of said chapter 48 is hereby amended by striking out the words "task force established in section 19 of this act; provided however that said funds appropriated herein shall only be expended for the expenses of an independent audit and valuation of the total liabilities and assets of each county in the commonwealth pursuant to section 19" and inserting in place thereof the following words:- required under section 21 of this act; provided however that said funds appropriated herein shall only be expended for the expenses of an independent audit and valuation of the total liabilities and assets of each county in the commonwealth pursuant to section 21.

SECTION 13. Section 3 of said chapter 48 is hereby amended by adding the following paragraph:-

In fiscal year 1999, the county tax to be levied in Hampshire county shall not exceed one-half of the amount computed pursuant to sections 30 and 31 of chapter 35 and section 20A of chapter 59 of the General Laws and shall be payable on November 1, 1998, to the Hampshire county government. Notwithstanding the provisions of any general or special law to the contrary, all powers and duties of the Hampshire county government not transferred to the commonwealth pursuant to section 1 shall be transferred to the Hampshire council of governments effective on the date of its establishment pursuant to section 30. If the Hampshire council of governments is not approved pursuant to section 30, all powers and duties of Hampshire county government shall be transferred to the commonwealth effective January 1, 1999.

N.B. This section has been vetoed by the Acting Governor
SECTION 14. Section 4 of said chapter 48 is hereby amended by striking out the second sentence and inserting in place thereof the following two sentences:- There shall be no increase in the salary of any abolished county's elected official, prior to the transfer of the abolished county to the commonwealth. Subsequent increases shall be governed by appropriate provisions of the commonwealth's general and special laws.

SECTION 15. The first sentence of section 5 of said chapter 48 is hereby amended by inserting after the words "transfer date", in line 5, the following words:- or, in the case of Hampshire county, September 1, 1998.

SECTION 16. Said section 5 of said chapter 48, as so appearing, is hereby further amended by striking out the second sentence, added by section 87 of chapter 88 of the acts of 1997, and inserting in place thereof the following three sentences:- All persons employed by the former Franklin county or by an abolished county, or by Hampshire county as of September 1, 1998, whose work functions primarily concern the operation and maintenance of said county's court facilities shall be transferred to the commonwealth under the administrative office of the trial court as of the effective date of the transfer, which in the case of Hampshire county shall be September 1, 1998, in the manner provided in section 21 of chapter 203 of the acts of 1988, as amended by chapter 379 of the acts of 1992, and with no impairment of employment rights held immediately before transfer, without interruption of service, without loss of earned vacation and sick time, without reduction in compensation or salary grade, and without impairment of seniority, retirement or other rights of employees. Nothing in this section shall be construed to confer upon any employee any right not held immediately before the transfer. Said employees shall be reclassified as state employees for the fiscal year in which their transfer is effective, and shall be compensated from funds appropriated to the trial court.

SECTION 17. Section 6 of said chapter 48 is hereby amended by inserting after the word "commonwealth", in line 6, the following words:- , except as otherwise provided in this act.

SECTION 18. Said section 6 of said chapter 48 is hereby further amended by adding the following three sentences:- Valid liabilities and debts of Hampshire county pertaining to the functions and employees transferred to the commonwealth on September 1, 1998 pursuant to section 1 of this act, which are in force on the date of transfer, are obligations of the commonwealth as of September 1, 1998. Said liabilities and debts shall include the operating and capital debt of Hampshire county, and operating and capital debt attributable to the Hampshire care nursing facility; provided, however, that the total of such debt shall not exceed $2,145,000 and any such debt in excess of $2,145,000 shall not be the obligation of the commonwealth; and provided further, that such debt described herein shall not include Medicaid overpayments, the unfunded pension liability of abolished county employees and retirees, and the unfunded pension liability of nursing home employees and retirees. All assets of Hampshire county pertaining to the functions and employees transferred on September 1, 1998 pursuant to said section 1, including revenue received pursuant to chapter 64D of the General Laws and such other revenue said county receives pertaining to said functions and employees transferred pursuant to section 1, as of immediately before September 1, 1998, shall become assets and revenue of the commonwealth, except as otherwise provided in this act.

SECTION 19. The first paragraph of section 7 of said chapter 48 is hereby amended by inserting after the words "transfer date", in line 3, the following words:- and, in the case of Hampshire county, the date of transfer of certain Hampshire county functions and property pursuant to section 1.

SECTION 20. Said section 7 of said chapter 48 is hereby further amended by adding the following two paragraphs:-

If, however, the Hampshire council of governments is approved pursuant to section 30 of this act, said council shall acquire ownership of the following property: the historic courthouse at 99 Main Street in the city of Northampton the Hampshire Care nursing facility on River Road in Leeds, and the land on which they are situated as currently platted, and the fixtures and improvements located thereon; provided, however, that the commonwealth shall assign no fewer than ten parking spaces in the Gothic Street Parking lot to the Hampshire council of governments, to be distributed at the discretion of the Hampshire council of governments; and provided, further, that in the event that said council has an aggregate equalized valuation as certified by the commissioner of revenue pursuant to section 10 of chapter 58 of the General Laws, as of January 1, 1996, of less than 30 per cent of the total equalized valuation of municipalities in the county on such date, said property shall revert to the commonwealth. Said council shall, in consultation with the chief justice for administration and management of the trial court and the commissioner of the division of asset management and maintenance, provide for the lease or rental of space in the historic courthouse now occupied by the law library for use and occupancy of the trial court law library for a period of 99 years at nominal cost, and shall allow the trial court to schedule use of the court room to the extent needed by said court up to two times the number of days used by the trial court in fiscal year 1998; and provided further that any lease agreement shall be subject to the approval of the commissioner of the division of asset management and maintenance.

Until December 31, 1998, the offices of the Hampshire county's cooperative insurance trust, cooperate group purchasing, Hampshire care, regional services, human services, treasurer and commissioners shall continue to occupy, at no cost, the office space occupied by said offices immediately prior to September 1, 1998.

SECTION 21. Said chapter 48 is hereby further amended by inserting after section 7 the following section:-

Section 7A. (a) Notwithstanding the provisions of any general or special law to the contrary, any agricultural school or agricultural and technical institute of an abolished county shall be subject to the provisions of this section and shall operate in accordance with chapter 74 of the General Laws, except to the extent that said chapter 74 is inconsistent with the provisions of this section. Said school shall continue to receive funding under the chapter 70 formula.

(b) Notwithstanding the provisions of any general or special law or rule or regulation to the contrary, employees of a county agricultural school or agricultural and technical institute transferred to the commonwealth shall be transferred with no impairment of employment rights held immediately before the transfer date, without interruption of service, without impairment of seniority, retirement or other rights of employees, without reduction in compensation or salary grade and without change in union representation. All such employees shall continue their right to collectively bargain pursuant to chapter 150E of the General Laws, and shall be considered employees for the purposes of said chapter 150E. Any collective bargaining agreement in effect immediately before the transfer date shall continue in effect and the terms and conditions of employment therein shall continue as if the employees had not been so transferred, until the expiration of said agreement. Thereafter, the board of trustees of said school or institute shall be the "employer" for purposes of said chapter 150E, and shall bargain under the Horace Mann charter school model pursuant to section 89 of chapter 71 of the General Laws.

(c) Notwithstanding the provisions of any general or special law to the contrary, title to all real estate and personal property held by an abolished county for the use of its agricultural school or agricultural and technical institute is hereby transferred to the said school or institute upon the abolition of said county pursuant to this act and the board of trustees of said school or institute shall assume responsibility for the management of its real and personal property.

(d) A transition task force shall be established as of the effective date of this act, which shall manage the daily operations of said school or institute in the year prior to transfer. Said task force shall consist of the following five members: the chairman of the board of trustees, the dean, the director, the principal, and the business manager of said school or institute. Said business manager shall serve as acting treasurer during the fiscal year prior to the county's abolition.

(e) The transition task force established pursuant to subsection (d) shall propose in consultation with the department of education a Horace Mann charter school model for said school or institute, including provisions relative to employee collective bargaining, and submit its proposal to the department of education by November 15 of the year preceding the abolition of a county government pursuant to section 1. Upon receipt of said proposal, said department shall file its comments and recommendations, and legislation necessary to carry out its recommendations, with the clerk of the house of representatives and senate, and the house and senate committee on ways and means not later than January 1 of the year in which the county will be abolished.

(f) The chairperson of the board of trustees of said school or institute serving immediately prior to the abolition of the county, shall continue to serve on the board of trustees for a term not less than two years after the effective date of this act. Thereafter, the governor may appoint said chairperson to an additional term or terms.

(g) The board of trustees of the Essex agricultural and technical institute is authorized to establish an excess and deficiency fund commencing in fiscal year 2000.

(h) The department of education is hereby authorized and directed to promulgate regulations for the operation, maintenance, improvement and development of agricultural schools of abolished counties, including:

(1) Regulations pursuant to which the department's supervisory authority with respect to said agricultural schools shall be exercised, including governance, programs, facilities, transportation and any other matters related to the appropriate operation of said schools.

(2) Regulations concerning the appropriate method for funding said agricultural schools which shall include provisions for imposing reasonable annual assessments on each city and town within the county in which said schools are located, upon each city and town in which students of the schools reside, or a combination of both. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the minimum aggregate local assessment shall be established at no less than fiscal year 1999 assessment.

(3) The regulations to be promulgated pursuant to this subsection, together with any legislation the department considers necessary for the effective supervision, operation or financing of said schools, shall be filed with the clerk of the house of representatives and senate, the joint committee on education, and with the house and senate committee on ways and means not later than January 1 of the year in which the county will be abolished. Said regulations shall take effect as of the transfer date.

(i) The associate degree program currently offered by the Essex agricultural and technical institute shall be transferred to the administration of North Shore community college. The board of trustees of said institute shall enter into a cooperative agreement with said college regarding the use of institute facilities for continued operation of said program on the campus of said institute; provided, however, that the assets of said institute that are associated with said program shall be available, at no cost, to said college; and provided, further, that said college shall be responsible for all compensation, including salary and benefits, of any employees of said institute employed exclusively for post-secondary education. Tuitions paid for said associate degree program shall be collected by said college.

(j) The terms of county commissioners serving as trustees of county agricultural schools shall expire as of the transfer date.

SECTION 22. Section 8 of said chapter 48 is hereby amended by adding the following two paragraphs:-

All valid leases and contracts of Hampshire county pertaining to the property and functions cited in section 1, which are in force on September 1, 1998, shall be obligations of the commonwealth as of September 1, 1998, and the commonwealth shall have authority to exercise all rights and enjoy all interests conferred upon the county by those leases and contracts except as may be otherwise provided in this section. If the Hampshire council of governments is not approved pursuant to section 30 of this act, all other valid leases and contracts of Hampshire county which are in force immediately before the county is abolished, shall be obligations of the commonwealth as of January 1, 1999, and the commonwealth shall have authority to exercise all rights and enjoy all interests conferred upon the county by leases and contracts except as may be otherwise provided in this act. If the Hampshire council of governments is approved pursuant to section 30, said other valid leases and contracts of Hampshire county which are in force immediately before the county is abolished, shall be obligations of the Hampshire council of governments as of January 1, 1999, and the council of governments shall have authority to exercise all rights and enjoy all interests conferred upon the county by leases and contracts except as may be otherwise provided in this act.

Funds held in trust by the Hampshire county government for specific charitable or program purposes, including but not limited to the Hilltown recycling program trust and the Hampshire fire defense association trust, but excluding those pertaining to the court, the office of the sheriff, or the registry of deeds, shall be transferred from the custody of the Hampshire county government to the custody of the Hampshire council of governments; provided, however, that if the Hampshire council of governments is not approved pursuant to section 30 of this act, the Hampshire county government shall, on December 31, 1998, transfer said funds to the entities for which they are held in trust. If the Hampshire council of governments is approved, but any program for which the funds are held in trust is discontinued, the Hampshire council of governments shall transfer the funds held in trust for said program to those entities for which they are held in trust.

SECTION 23. Said chapter 48 is hereby further amended by striking out section 9 and inserting in place thereof the following section:-

Section 9. For the purpose of recovering amounts expended by the commonwealth for the liabilities and other debts assumed and paid by the commonwealth on behalf of an abolished county, the secretary of administration and finance shall establish a plan to recover said amounts. Said secretary shall determine said amounts by comparing the liabilities of an abolished county assumed by the commonwealth with the assets received by the commonwealth from said county and recovering the difference from the member municipalities of said counties. Said liabilities may include, but not be limited to, reserves appropriated by the commonwealth for payment of costs and liabilities of an abolished county, the salary of the county treasurer subsequent to the date of abolition, the amount of bonded debt paid by the state treasurer subsequent to the date of abolition, and the unfunded pension liability as of the date of abolition attributable to employees of an abolished county who transferred to the commonwealth. Said assets may include, but not be limited to, the amount of cash on hand and accounts receivable of an abolished county deemed collectible by said secretary which became assets of the commonwealth as of the date of abolition, the value of real estate of the county transferred to the commonwealth pursuant to this act, net of amounts provided to a county by the commonwealth for construction, reconstruction or improvements of such real estate and payments by the commonwealth for debt service; provided, however, that nothing in this section shall be construed as creating any subsequent commonwealth financial obligation to cities and towns. Said secretary shall establish an amortization schedule to recover any amounts so expended by the commonwealth which shall be filed with the clerks of the house of representatives and the senate not later than two months after the transfer date. Unless the general court changes said plan or schedule by law, said secretary shall proceed with implementation of said plan and schedule beginning one year after the transfer date; provided, however, that nothing herein shall preclude said assessment from being collected during the year prior to said implementation. For the duration of said schedule, the state treasurer shall, pursuant to section 20 of chapter 59 of the General Laws, assess upon each city and town within the former jurisdiction of an abolished county an amount equal to the county tax paid by each such city and town as assessed pursuant to the provisions of chapter 35 of the General Laws for the fiscal year beginning July 1 of the year immediately before the transfer date. The amount of the assessment shall be paid annually by each city or town to the treasurer of the commonwealth and shall remain in effect for the duration of said amortization schedule, which shall not exceed 25 years.

Notwithstanding the provisions of the preceding paragraph or any other general or special law to the contrary, for the purpose of recovering amounts expended by the commonwealth for the liabilities and other debts assumed and paid by the commonwealth on behalf of Hampshire, Essex, and Berkshire counties, the secretary of administration and finance shall establish a plan to recover said amounts. Said secretary shall determine said amounts by comparing the liabilities of an abolished county assumed by the commonwealth with the assets received by the commonwealth from said county and recovering the difference from the member municipalities of said counties. Said liabilities may include, but not be limited to, reserves appropriated by the commonwealth for payment of costs and liabilities of an abolished county, the salary of the county treasurer subsequent to the date of abolition, the amount of bonded debt paid by the state treasurer subsequent to the date of abolition, the unfunded pension liability attributable to former county employees of Hampshire county who retired prior to the date of abolition, and the unfunded pension liability as of the date of abolition attributable to employees of an abolished county who transferred to the commonwealth. Said assets may include, but not be limited to, the amount of cash on hand and accounts receivable of an abolished county deemed collectible by said secretary which became assets of the commonwealth as of the date of abolition, the value of real estate of the county transferred to the commonwealth pursuant to this act, net of amounts provided to a county by the commonwealth for construction, reconstruction or improvements of such real estate and payments by the commonwealth for debt service; provided, however, that nothing in this section shall be construed as creating any subsequent commonwealth financial obligation to cities and towns. Said secretary shall establish an amortization schedule to recover any amounts so expended by the commonwealth which shall be filed with the clerks of the house of representatives and the senate not later than two months after the transfer date. Unless the general court changes said plan or schedule by law, said secretary shall proceed with implementation of said plan and schedule beginning one year after the transfer date, or in the case of Hampshire county, on September 1, 1999. For the duration of said schedule, the state treasurer shall, pursuant to section 20 of chapter 59 of the General Laws, assess upon each city and town within the former jurisdiction of Hampshire, Essex and Berkshire counties an amount not exceeding the county tax paid by each such city and town as assessed pursuant to the provisions of chapter 35 of the General Laws, and adjusted annually pursuant to section 20A of chapter 59 of the General Laws, for the fiscal year beginning July 1 of the year immediately before the transfer date. The amount of the assessment shall be paid annually by each city or town to the treasurer of the commonwealth and shall remain in effect for the duration of said amortization schedule, which shall not be less than ten years.

In the event an assessment due is not paid in accordance with this section, it shall be deducted from the cherry sheet.

N.B. This section has been vetoed by the Acting Governor
SECTION 24. The second paragraph of said section 9 of said chapter 48 is hereby amended by inserting after the word "Hampden", in line 2, the following words:- , Hampshire, Essex, Berkshire.

SECTION 25. The first paragraph of section 11 of said chapter 48 is hereby amended by inserting after the words "secretary of the commonwealth", in lines 3 and 4, the following words:- on the transfer date, and, in Hampshire county, on September 1, 1998, and in Suffolk county, on July 1, 1999; provided, however, that said secretary shall have general superintendence over the Suffolk county register of deeds as of September 1, 1998.

N.B. This section has been vetoed by the Acting Governor
SECTION 26. Subparagraph (b) of the second paragraph of said section 11 of said chapter 48 is hereby amended by inserting after the first sentence the following sentence:- Said employees shall include all engineering personnel employed by an abolished county immediately prior to the transfer date.

N.B. This section has been vetoed by the Acting Governor
SECTION 27. Subparagraph (e) of said second paragraph of said section 11 of said chapter 48 is hereby amended by inserting after the word "equipment", in line 1, the following words:- including county engineering records.

SECTION 28. Section 12 of said chapter 48 is hereby amended by inserting after the word "county", in line 2, the following words:- and Hampshire county and the Suffolk county register of deeds.

SECTION 29. Section 13 of said chapter 48 is hereby amended by inserting after the word "date", in line 2, the following words:- , and, in Hampshire county, on September 1, 1998.

SECTION 30. Said section 13 of said chapter 48 is hereby further amended by adding the following sentence:- Said administrative and operational control shall include, but not be limited to, the procurement of supplies, services and equipment.

SECTION 31. Section 13A of said chapter 48, inserted by section 2 of chapter 55 of the acts of 1998, is hereby amended by inserting after the words "abolished county" the following words:- , or of Hampshire county after August 31, 1998.

SECTION 32. The first paragraph of section 16 of said chapter 48 is hereby amended by inserting after the words "transfer date", in line 4, the following words:- which, in the case of Hampshire county for purposes of this section, shall be September 1, 1998.

SECTION 33. Section 17 of said chapter 48 is hereby amended by inserting after the words "abolished county", in line 1, the following words:- or of Hampshire county.

SECTION 34. Subsection (a) of section 18 of said chapter 48 is hereby amended by inserting after the word "date", in line 6, the following words:- which, in the case of Hampshire county, shall be September 1, 1998 for purposes of this section.

SECTION 35. Subsection (d) of said section 18 of said chapter 48 is hereby amended by adding the following paragraph:-

As of December 1, 1998, a pro rata share of any monies in Hampshire county's employees' group insurance trust fund established pursuant to section 8A of said chapter 32B, related to the employees transferred on September 1, 1998 pursuant to the provisions of this act, shall be transferred to the Group Insurance Commission Trust Fund established pursuant to section 9 of said chapter 32A. Any monies remaining in Hampshire county's employees' group insurance trust fund established pursuant to said section 8A of said chapter 32B on March 1, 1999 shall be transferred to the Group Insurance Commission Trust Fund established pursuant to said section 9 of said chapter 32A.

SECTION 36. Subsection (e) of said section 18 of said chapter 48 is hereby amended by adding the following sentence:- For purposes of this subsection, the transfer date for Hampshire county shall be January 1, 1999.

SECTION 37. Said section 18 of said chapter 48 is hereby further amended by adding the following subsection:-

(f) On January 31, 2001, the director and trust administrator for the Hampshire county group insurance trust shall provide the group insurance commission with an accounting of the reserves and unit deposits of the claims trust fund which shall be for the two year period immediately preceding October 1, 2000 and shall include a calculation of the employee, retiree and surviving spouse contributions that are in excess of the claims costs and expenses of the plans for which the contributions were made.

SECTION 38. Said chapter 48 is hereby further amended by striking out section 21 and inserting in place thereof the following section:-

Section 21. The secretary of administration and finance shall conduct an independent valuation of county assets and liabilities and shall compile an inventory and provide for the valuation of all real and personal property, assets, liabilities and debts of all counties of the commonwealth for the purposes of considering the abolition of county government and the transfer of its critical functions, assets and liabilities to the commonwealth. Said secretary is hereby authorized and directed to contract for an independent audit and valuation of the total assets and liabilities of each county in the commonwealth; provided, however, that no such audit and valuation shall be conducted for the former Franklin county. Said secretary shall establish uniform criteria for conducting said audits and evaluations and shall require that the valuation of assets shall distinguish between disposable, fungible assets and assets necessary to the ongoing core functions of county government which cannot be practicably conveyed. Amounts appropriated in item 1599-9712 of section 2A of this act shall be available for the expenses of said audit and valuation. Said secretary shall file with the house and senate committees on ways and means a spending plan for amounts appropriated in said item 1599-9712 not later than September 30, 1998.

Real and personal property to be examined by said secretary shall include, but shall not be limited to, the Dukes county airport, the Norfolk county recreational facility, and hospitals, roads, beaches and courthouses owned by said counties, including courthouses of historic or architectural significance the primary tenant of which is not the trial court. Said secretary is hereby authorized and directed to report to the clerks of the house of representatives and the senate on the finances, operations, personnel and management structure of each county registry of deeds and the office of each county sheriff. Said report shall include, but not be limited to, the following: an audit for fiscal year 1997 that details revenues, expenditures, assets and liabilities in accordance with statutory accounting principles and, where possible, generally accepted accounting principles; operating budgets by expenditure type for the prior three years; revenues for the prior three years; fee structures in effect in fiscal year 1997; instrument counts for the prior three fiscal years; property and equipment leases in effect for fiscal year 1997 and fiscal year 1998, including lease terms, conditions, expiration dates and payment rates; contracts in effect for fiscal year 1997 and fiscal year 1998, including contract terms, conditions, expiration dates and rates; fiscal year 1997 facility operating costs; and a current equipment inventory.

Said report shall include an inventory of county roads so-called and an analysis of the system of care and maintenance of such roads as of the effective date of this act with an emphasis on determining whether the care and maintenance of such roads is being provided by municipalities. Municipalities that are determined to have been providing for the care and maintenance of such roads shall continue to provide such care and maintenance. The department of highways and the executive office of transportation and construction shall cooperate with said secretary in conducting said inventory and analysis. For the purpose of this analysis, said secretary may consult with the state auditor's division of local mandates.

Said report shall include an organizational chart for each such registry and sheriff's office and shall establish a personnel profile for each current employee that shall include, but not be limited to, the following information as of the date said information is compiled: an actual and functional job title; compensation rate; collective bargaining status; accrued sick, vacation and personal days, vesting status for retirement purposes and length of service. Said report shall include the status of any collective bargaining agreements in effect as of the date said information is compiled, including contractually binding commitments not funded in fiscal year 1998 and any obligation required to be funded in fiscal year 1999. Said report shall project the likely costs to be incurred by the commonwealth in converting each such registry and sheriff's office to the personnel classification system established by chapter 31 of the General Laws.

Said report shall include an analysis of the pension funding status for each such registry and sheriff's office, including any unfunded liabilities, the funding sources for current and future pension liabilities and a projection of the cost or savings, if any, of transferring said pension liabilities to the commonwealth, including the commonwealth's pension defined benefit plan.

Said report shall include any recommendations, including legislation necessary to effectuate the orderly and cost-effective transfer to the commonwealth of the operations of any county registry or sheriff's office.

Said report shall be filed with the clerks of the house of representatives and the senate on or before February 1, 1999.

Said secretary shall further make recommendations to the governor and the general court concerning the disposition of county functions not subject to the control or management of the county sheriffs or the registers of deeds, including but not limited to their consolidation, elimination, privatization in conformity with sections 52 to 55, inclusive, of chapter 7 of the General Laws, or transfer to the commonwealth or any of its political subdivisions. All county officers and employees shall cooperate with said secretary by providing information necessary to the performance of its duties, including, but not limited to, providing inventories and lists of properties owned by the county as of the effective date of this act and acquisitions and dispositions of such property subsequent thereto. Said secretary shall establish objective criteria for the disposition or reuse of properties in possession of counties and transferred to the commonwealth by this act, and for the disposition of county functions or programs, gathering pertinent information with respect to each of the properties, functions and programs being reviewed, holding public hearings as he deems appropriate, and taking such other actions as he determines necessary. Said secretary shall prepare a specific plan for the disposition or reuse of properties and county functions or programs. Such a plan shall be included in the report to be filed on or before February 1, 1999.

Said secretary shall further report on the feasibility of retaining the registers of deeds as elected officials in each county, or retaining said registers as appointed officials subject to the general control of the state secretary.

The secretary of administration and finance in consultation with the public employee retirement administration commission shall analyze the potential cost to the commonwealth for transferring to the state retirement system, the active, inactive and retired employees of the county retirement systems of (1) the counties of Berkshire and Essex, (2) the former counties of Hampden, Worcester, and Middlesex, (3) and all other counties and former counties of the commonwealth. Said analysis shall evaluate the amount of liability attributable to paying the cost of benefits annually to said retired county employees and their survivors, the actuarial liability attributable to paying future benefits to said employees and retirees, and value the retirement assets of said employees and retirees which would be transferred to the state retirement system, including but not limited to, the accumulated deductions and employer contributions, including interest, credited to the accounts of members of said county retirement systems who would become members of the state retirement system. The actuary, as defined in section 1 of chapter 32 of the General Laws, shall determine the amount of the unfunded pension liability attributable to said employees and retirees, and shall establish one funding schedule scenario that shall reduce said unfunded pension liability to zero by the year 2018, and another funding schedule that shall be designed to reduce said unfunded pension liability to zero, pursuant to the provisions of section 9. Said analysis shall be filed with the house and senate committees on ways and means no later than December 31, 1998.

SECTION 39. Section 24 of said chapter 48 is hereby amended by adding the following sentence:- Said administrative and operational control shall include, but not be limited to, the procurement of supplies, services and equipment.

SECTION 40. Section 25 of said chapter 48 is hereby amended by inserting after the word "Hampden", in line 3, the following words:- , Essex, Hampshire, Berkshire.

SECTION 41. Section 26 of said chapter 48 is hereby amended by inserting after the word "Hampden", in line 2, the following words:- , Essex, Hampshire, Berkshire.

SECTION 42. Said section 26 of said chapter 48 is hereby further amended by inserting after the word "assets", in line 2, the following words:- without the prior approval of the secretary of administration and finance.

SECTION 43. Said section 26 of said chapter 48 is hereby further amended by inserting after the words "June 30, 1997", in line 4, the following words:- , or in the case of Hampshire, Essex, and Berkshire counties, after the effective date of this act.

SECTION 44. Said section 26 of said chapter 48 is hereby further amended by adding the following sentence:- The commonwealth shall guarantee the county payrolls of abolished counties until the transfer date only if said counties timely pay their pension and health and welfare trust fund contributions, avoid deficit spending, and avoid depletion of their reserves prior to the transfer date.

N.B. This section has been vetoed by the Acting Governor
SECTION 45. Said chapter 48 is hereby further amended by adding the following eight sections:-

Section 28. Notwithstanding the provisions of chapter 32 of the General Laws or any general or special law to the contrary, the retirement system of a county abolished pursuant to this act, or abolished pursuant to chapter 151 of the acts of 1996, shall continue pursuant to this section and shall be managed by the retirement board as provided in this section beginning on the transfer date.

(a) A contributory retirement system established for any abolished county operating under the terms of sections 1 to 28, inclusive, of said chapter 32 shall be known as a regional retirement system, and all business shall be transacted under a name designated by the board bearing the title of the geographic location of said system.

(b) Said system shall be managed by a retirement board which shall have the general powers and duties set forth in subdivision (5) of section 20 of chapter 32 of the General Laws. Said system shall be managed by a retirement board which shall have the general powers and duties set forth in subdivision (5) of section 20 of chapter 32 of the General Laws. Said board shall consist of five members as follows: the first member shall be the county treasurer as of the effective date of this act, who shall serve as chairman; a second member who shall be a member of the regional retirement board advisory council and who shall be elected by a majority of those present and voting at a public meeting of said council, properly posted, called specifically for such election pursuant to paragraph (g); a third and fourth member, hereafter referred to as elected members who shall be elected pursuant to paragraph (h); and a fifth member who shall not be an employee, retiree or official of the governmental unit of which are the members of the system and who shall be chosen by the other four members and serve for a term of five years. In case of a vacancy in the position of first member, the position shall be chosen by the other four members. If the first member is not chosen by the other four members within 30 days of the vacancy, the public employee retirement administration commission shall appoint the first member. In case of a vacancy in the position of the fifth member, the fifth member shall be chosen by the other four members. If the fifth member is not chosen by the other four members within 30 days, the public employee retirement administration commission shall appoint the fifth member.

Notwithstanding the preceding paragraph, or any other general or special law to the contrary, for purposes of this section, the provisions governing the Hampshire regional retirement system shall be as follows: Said system shall be managed by a retirement board which shall have the general powers and duties set forth in subdivision (5) of section 20 of chapter 32 of the General Laws. The board shall consist of five members as follows: one member of the retirement board advisory council who shall be selected by a majority of those present and voting at a public meeting of the council, properly posted, called specifically for an election pursuant to paragraphs (d) and (h) of this section, who shall serve as chairman; a second member selected by the Hampshire retirement board advisory council by a majority of those present and voting at a public meeting of the council, properly posted; a third and fourth member hereinafter referred to as the elected members; and a fifth member who shall not be an employee, a retiree or official of a governmental unit the employees of which are members of the system. The fifth member shall be chosen by the other four for a term of three years. If the fifth member is not chosen by the other four members within 30 days after the expiration of the term of the fifth member, the public employee retirement administration commission shall appoint the fifth member. The election of the elected members shall be conducted in accordance with the provisions of paragraph (h) of this subsection.

Except in Hampshire county, the term of the current elected member who was elected pursuant to chapter 306 of the acts of 1996 shall expire on January 1, 2002; the term of the previously elected current member shall expire on January 1, 2000; the term of the current regional retirement board advisory council member shall expire on January 1, 2001; and the term of the current chairman shall expire on January 1, 2003.

The elected members shall be active or retired members of the regional retirement system or one whose retirement is being reimbursed by that system in accordance with the provisions of paragraph (c) of subdivision (8) of section 3 of chapter 32 of the General Laws. Each member of the board shall continue to serve in office until the expiration of his term, and the qualification of his successor. Upon the expiration of the term of office of any elected or appointed member, or in the event of a vacancy in either of said offices, his successor shall be elected as aforesaid for a term of three years, or for the unexpired portion thereof, as the case may be.

In Essex county, the regional retirement board may require the Essex county treasurer as of the effective date of transfer to serve as a full time employee of the retirement board in the capacity of chief executive officer of the Essex regional retirement system for the duration of his term as elected county treasurer. Thereafter, his continued employment and compensation shall be at the sole discretion of the regional retirement board.

(c) The members of a regional retirement board shall be compensated in an amount to be determined by the board but not to exceed the amounts set forth in subdivision (6) of section 20 of chapter 32 of the General Laws. Except in Hampshire county, the salary of the county treasurer shall be transferred from the commonwealth to the retirement system of which he is chairman or chief executive officer, and the county treasurer's office shall be abolished pursuant to section 3. The chairman shall be compensated in amount to be determined by the board.

(d) The retirement board may employ clerical and other assistants as may be required to transact the business of the retirement system. All permanent employees employed pursuant to this paragraph shall be members of the retirement system, but shall not be eligible to be a member or candidate for election to the retirement board.

(e) A regional retirement board shall be authorized to purchase or lease property, facilities and equipment and employ any such personnel necessary for the proper administration and transaction of business of the retirement system.

(f) The board of any such regional retirement system and the chairman thereof shall respectively be and act as the board and treasurer-custodian of such system with respect to the employees of any town or district who become members of such system as provided for in paragraph (3)(b), (3)(c) or (4)(b) of section 28 of chapter 32 of the General Laws, or who have become members thereof under corresponding provisions of earlier laws. The treasurer or other disbursing officer of any such town or district, as the case may be, shall act as a liaison officer between the employees thereof and the board of such system.

(g) There shall be a regional retirement board advisory council consisting of all the treasurers, elected or appointed, of each town, unit, or district belonging to the prior county retirement system and remaining in the retirement system established by this section. The members of said advisory council shall elect a chairman from among the members. Said council shall meet at the call of the chairman, but in no event less than twice in each year. Said council shall supervise and certify the procedures involved in the election of the elected members of the retirement board, as provided in paragraphs (b) and (h). Upon certification by the retirement board and the council, the actuary shall be furnished with an estimate of the expenses and costs of administration of the system for the ensuing year. The actuary shall, on or before December fifteenth in each year, specify by written notice to the council and the board the amounts so required to be paid from the pension fund, the annuity reserve fund, the military service fund, and the administration fund, as provided in subdivision (7) of section 22 of chapter 32 of the General Laws. The actuary shall also advise and determine the amounts to be allocated to each governmental unit for the aforementioned amounts. The regional retirement board advisory council, at a meeting called specifically for that purpose, shall elect one of its members as a member of the regional retirement board at the expiration of the current appointed member's term, as provided in paragraph (e).

(h) The regional retirement board advisory council, which shall serve as the election board, shall supervise the election of the elected members of the retirement board. The council shall make available nomination papers to any member in or retired from service so requesting and shall require that such nomination papers be signed by the candidate, and returned to the office of the retirement board for safekeeping until the election board shall meet. The chairman of the council shall give a duplicate receipt for such nomination papers to each candidate. Completed nomination papers shall contain the signatures and addresses of at least five active or retired members of said retirement system. The election board shall determine whether each candidate has filed nomination papers containing the requisite signatures and addresses. If, after investigation, the election board determines that a candidate has filed nomination papers containing less than five signatures as required, the election board shall declare said nomination papers invalid and shall notify the candidate of such determination. If, after investigation, the election board determines that only one candidate has filed the requisite number of signatures, the election board shall declare said candidate to be the elected member of the county retirement board. If, after investigation, the election board determines that more than one candidate has obtained the requisite number of valid signatures, the election board shall notify said candidates of such determination and shall immediately prepare election ballots, and set the date for an election to be held within 40 days.

The election board shall mail ballots to all members of the retirement system, whether active or retired. The election board shall instruct each member to place an appropriate marking on the face of the printed ballot next to the name of one candidate, insert said ballot into a ballot envelope and said ballot envelope into the pre-stamped envelope, seal said pre-stamped envelope and mail said envelope to the election board in care of the county retirement board, within 20 days after they were mailed. Any envelope postmarked later than 20 days after such mailing shall not be used to determine the elected member. The election board shall notify each candidate of the time and location of the tabulation of the ballots and shall permit all such candidates to be present at said tabulation. At the specified time for tabulation, the election board shall assemble all envelopes and inspect said envelopes. Any envelope which has been opened prior to said date, or which has not been signed on the rear by the appropriate addressee shall be invalidated and shall not be used to determine the elected member. The election board shall assemble all property signed, unopened envelopes and shall open each envelope and separate the enclosed ballot from said envelope. The election board shall assemble all ballots and shall tabulate the vote for each candidate. Any ballot which contains a marking for more than the number of vacancies shall be declared invalid.

The election board shall notify each candidate in writing of the results of said election. All envelopes and ballots received by said election board, including those determined to be invalid, shall be preserved by the election board for two years. The costs incurred by the election board in administering the election shall be paid from the county retirement system administration fund.

(i) The group insurance commission shall make available to employees of a regional retirement board health, life and disability benefits, and said employees shall be eligible to participate in all benefits administered by the group insurance commission. The costs thereof, including any administrative costs incurred by the group insurance commission shall be borne by said employees and the regional retirement system.

(j) An employer shall be required to provide a board member under its employ with all necessary leave required for service to such board. A board member who is an active member of a contributory retirement system shall receive creditable service for such periods the member is so serving.

(k) The abolished county's retirement board and retirement board advisory council shall continue to serve until such time as the members of the new retirement board and the new retirement board advisory council pursuant to this section have been duly elected, selected, or appointed, as the case may be.

(l) Any provisions of chapter 32 of the General Laws that are not inconsistent with the provisions of this act shall apply to a regional retirement system.

Section 29. Notwithstanding the provisions of any general or special law to the contrary, an abolished county's employees who retired on or before the transfer date, shall be members of the regional retirement system, which shall pay the cost of benefits annually to such retired county employees and their survivors. Said system shall be responsible for the accrued pension liability attributable to the service of such retirees. The employees of an abolished county who become state employees pursuant to the provisions of this act or any subsequent act abolishing any county, shall become members of the state retirement system, and notwithstanding the provisions of any general or special law to the contrary, said system shall be responsible for all liability attributable to the service of such employees. Said liabilities attributable to the service of such employees shall be recoverable by the commonwealth pursuant to the terms of section 9 of this act. The accumulated deductions and employer contribution, including interest, credited to the accounts of members of an abolished county's retirement system who become members of the state retirement system pursuant to this act or any subsequent act abolishing any county shall be transferred from such abolished county's retirement system and credited to such members' accounts in the state retirement system in a manner prescribed by the secretary of administration and finance.

Said secretary shall assess every city and town within an abolished county for the accrued pension liability attributable to county employees who retired on or before the transfer date and forward such assessment to the appropriate regional retirement system.

Notwithstanding the provisions of any general or special law to the contrary, Hampshire county employees who retired on or before the transfer date, shall become members of the state retirement system, which shall pay the cost of benefits annually to such retired county employees and their survivors, and notwithstanding the provisions of any general or special law to the contrary, said system shall be responsible for the accrued pension liability attributable to the service of such retirees. The employees of Hampshire county who become state employees pursuant to the provisions of this act or any subsequent act abolishing any county, shall become members of the state retirement system, and notwithstanding the provisions of any general or special law to the contrary, said system shall be responsible for all liability attributable to the service of such employees. Said liabilities attributable to the service of such employees and retirees shall be recoverable by the commonwealth pursuant to the terms of section 9 of this act. The accumulated deductions and employer contribution, including interest, credited to the accounts of members of Hampshire county's retirement system who become members of the state retirement system pursuant to this act shall be transferred from Hampshire county's retirement system and credited to such members' accounts in the state retirement system in a manner prescribed by the secretary of administration and finance.

Section 30. (a) A city or town within or contiguous to an 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, may enter into agreement to join a regional charter commission. Each city or town electing to join said commission shall send a representative, and said commission shall convene and shall develop a charter proposal recommending (i) a structure, including organization and method of selecting members for said regional council of government and (ii) 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. 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 subsection (i) of 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. 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 5 of this act, retain power to levy a county tax, or retain powers specifically denied under this section. Said charters must be approved by July 1, 1999; provided, however, that if two or more member municipalities within Berkshire county do not form a regional charter commission prior to July 1, 1999, then the transfer date for said county shall be July 1, 1999.

(b) Notwithstanding subsection (a), the following provisions shall apply to Hampshire county. The Hampshire county commissioners shall submit to the voters of the county the proposed charter approved by said commissioners. The state secretary shall cause the question of adopting said charter, and a summary thereof prepared by the attorney general, to appear on the biennial state election ballot in November 1998 in Hampshire county. Said charter shall take effect on January 1, 1999, if approved by a majority of the voters voting on said question, and towns wherein a majority of the voters voting thereon approve shall become members of the Hampshire council of governments. The Hampshire council of governments shall retain any powers previously conferred upon Hampshire county and its county commissioners; provided, however, that said council shall not retain any power concerning functions transferred to the commonwealth under sections 1 or 5 of this act, retain power to levy a county tax, or retain powers specifically denied under this section or under the charter. Upon approval of the new charter, the county commission of Hampshire 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 sections 52 and 56 of chapter 41 of the General Laws. Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, if said charter is approved, the county treasurer, appointed by the county administrator under the prior county charter, shall, on January 1, 1999, 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 chapter 41 and under sections 54, 55, and 55A of chapter 44 of the General Laws. 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 sections 52 and 56 of chapter 41 of the General Laws.

(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 of the General Laws 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 sub-regional 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, data 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 of the General Laws. 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 county 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 1999, subject to the limits of sections 20A and 21C of chapter 59 of the General Laws.

(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) of this section. Sections 16 to 19, inclusive, and sections 21 to 22C, inclusive, of chapter 44 of the General Laws shall, so far as possible, apply to debt issued under this section.

Section 31. The secretary of administration and finance, in consultation with the comptroller, the state secretary, the judiciary, and such other departments of the commonwealth as may be necessary or appropriate, is hereby authorized and directed to make such plans and arrangements as may be necessary to ensure the effective transfer of county functions to the commonwealth pursuant to this act.

Section 32. The Hampshire council of governments, if approved and established pursuant to section 30, shall submit annually to the division of local services audited financial statements and budget projections for the Hampshire Care nursing facility. Notwithstanding the provisions of section 7, the Hampshire council of governments shall sell said Hampshire Care nursing facility if the county government finance review board determines that either of the following conditions has been met: (a) the Hampshire Care nursing facility accrues a total deficiency of 50 per cent or more of the fair market value of the property and facility as determined by an independent assessor recommended by the division of local services and approved by said regional services entity; or (b) said facility fails to eliminate its total deficiency within three years after the effective date of this section.

Section 33. Notwithstanding the provisions any general or special law to the contrary, the municipalities of an abolished county shall be deemed to have accepted the provisions of section 147A of chapter 140 of the General Laws, and shall enact by-laws to provide for the functions performed by the abolished government of a county with respect to dogs pursuant to sections 136A to 174D, inclusive, of said chapter 140, as of July 11, 1997. The balance of funds remaining in the dog fund of an abolished county as of the transfer date shall be disbursed forthwith by the state treasurer in the manner prescribed by section 172 of said chapter 140 to the treasurer of each city and town, who shall maintain a separate dog fund consistent with the by-laws adopted by the city or town and said sections 136A to 174D, inclusive, of said chapter 140.

Section 34. Notwithstanding the provisions of any general or special law to the contrary, a regional council of governments or any organization established by a regional council of governments for the benefit of two or more entities within said council of governments, or a sheriff's department or subdivision thereof, shall be entitled to purchase goods and services from a vendor located within the geographic area comprising such regional council of governments, or in the case of a sheriff's department, the primary geographic area served by such sheriff's department, even if such vendor is not under contract with the commonwealth to provide such goods and services; provided, however, that the costs for any such goods or services purchased from a local vendor shall not exceed the amount that would be paid for such goods and services if such goods and services were to be purchased from a vendor that is under contract with the commonwealth to provide such goods and services.

Section 35. Hampshire county or its successor regional council of government shall be given a grant of $950,000 by the commonwealth on or before August 1, 1998. Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, the provisions of this act shall supercede the written memorandum of understanding between the Hampshire county commissioners and the secretary of administration signed and by the parties thereto in June, 1998.

Approved August 13, 1998.