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The 192nd General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

AN ACT RELATIVE TO THE HAMPSHIRE COUNCIL OF GOVERNMENTS.

Whereas, The deferred operation of this act would tend to defeat its purpose, which is to facilitate the dissolution of the Hampshire council of governments, 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:

SECTION 1.  To provide for supplementing a certain item in the general appropriation act and other appropriation acts for fiscal year 2021, the sum set forth in section 2 is hereby appropriated from the General Fund unless specifically designated otherwise in this act or in those appropriation acts, for the several purposes and subject to the conditions specified in this act or in those appropriation acts, and subject to the laws regulating the disbursement of public funds for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2021. The sum shall be in addition to any amounts previously appropriated and made available for the purposes of the item. The sum shall be made available until June 30, 2021.

Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, the appropriation made in section 2 shall not revert and shall be available for expenditure until June 30, 2021.

SECTION 2.

EXECUTIVE OFFICE FOR ADMINISTRATION AND FINANCE

Human Resources Division

1750-0119.. Former County Employees Workers' Compensation............. $46,515

SECTION 3.  Section 6 of chapter 34B of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2018 Official Edition, is hereby amended by striking out subsection (c).

SECTION 4.  Section 20 of said chapter 34B, as so appearing, is hereby amended by striking out subsection (b).

SECTION 5.  Section 4A½ of chapter 40 of the General Laws, as so appearing, is hereby amended by striking out, in line 6, the words “, the Hampshire council of governments”.

SECTION 6.  Section 1 of chapter 419 of the acts of 1976 is hereby amended by striking out the first paragraph, inserted by chapter 52 of the acts of 2006, and inserting in place thereof the following 2 paragraphs:-

There shall be in the county of Hampshire a public body politic and corporate to be known as the Hampshire County Regional Housing Authority. The authority shall be managed, controlled and governed by 5 members, 3 of whom shall constitute a quorum. One member shall be appointed by the department of housing and community development and 4 members shall be jointly appointed by the select boards of the towns of Cummington and Huntington pursuant to this section; provided, however, that not more than 1 member shall be chosen from any 1 city or town within Hampshire county; and provided further, that at least 1 member shall be a tenant in a building owned and operated by or on behalf of the authority. Members shall be appointed for 5-year terms. Vacancies, other than by reason of expiration of terms, shall be filled for the balance of the unexpired term.

If a vacancy arises within the authority, the remaining authority members shall inform the select boards of the towns of Cummington and Huntington of the vacancy. If the vacant member is a member appointed by the select boards of the towns of Cummington and Huntington or a tenant, the select boards shall appoint a candidate to the authority to fill the vacancy. If the vacancy is of the member appointed by the department of housing and community development and the department does not fill the vacancy within 120 days from the effective date of the vacancy, the select boards of the towns of Cummington and Huntington shall fill the vacancy pursuant to this paragraph.

SECTION 7.  The third paragraph of said section 1 of said chapter 419 is hereby amended by striking out, in lines 1 and 2, the words “county commissioners” and inserting in place thereof the following words:- select boards of the towns of Cummington and Huntington.

SECTION 8.  The fourth paragraph of said section 1 of said chapter 419 is hereby amended by striking out, in line 1, the words “clerk of the county commissioners for Hampshire county” and inserting in place thereof the following words:- chair of the Hampshire County Regional Housing Authority.

SECTION 9.  The fourth paragraph of section 2 of said chapter 419 is hereby amended by striking out, in line 2, the words “the county commissioners, to”.

SECTION 10.  Section 4 of said chapter 419 is hereby amended by striking out, in line 3, the words “county treasurer” and inserting in place thereof the following words:- member towns.

SECTION 11.  Item 1750-0119 of section 2 of chapter 227 of the acts of 2020 is hereby amended by inserting after the word “counties” the following words:- and the Hampshire council of governments.

SECTION 12.  Notwithstanding section 1 of chapter 419 of the acts of 1976, the incumbent members of the Hampshire County Regional Housing Authority shall continue to hold their positions and perform the duties of their offices until the expiration of the terms for which they were appointed; provided, however, that if an incumbent vacates their position prior to the expiration of the incumbent’s term of office, the vacancy shall be filled pursuant to section 1 of said chapter 419.

SECTION 13.  (a) Notwithstanding chapter 48 of the acts of 1997, as most recently amended by chapter 127 of the acts of 1999 or any other general or special law to the contrary, the Hampshire council of governments is hereby dissolved.

(b)  The liabilities of the council shall be transferred or assumed according to this act. All other liabilities shall be assumed by the commonwealth; provided, that for any liabilities or other debts of the council that have not been transferred or assumed according to this act or chapter 67 of the acts of 2019 or chapter 125 of the acts of 2019, and are identified and assigned to the commonwealth within 10 years of the effective date of this act, the director of accounts within the division of local services of the department of revenue shall establish a plan to recover amounts so identified and implement an assessment of municipal members of the council to repay the commonwealth.

(1)  The director shall determine the assessment amount and the amortization period; provided, that said period may be for a duration longer than 10 years but shall not be for a duration of more than 30 years and shall be set forth in the specific terms of the assessment.

(i)  When developing the assessment, the director shall consider factors including: a member municipality’s ability to pay the assessment; that any assessment amount shall not prevent the member municipality’s ability to provide core services; the value and benefit provided to a specific member municipality for the service or asset that the liability derived from; if the member municipality was a member of the council when the final vote was made to incur the specified liability; and the duration of the municipality’s membership as the liability was incurred.

    (ii)  The director shall notify a member municipality not less than 8 months before the start of the fiscal year in which the assessment shall first be implemented in order for the local budget process to be completed to account for the assessment. After the notice of assessment is sent to the member municipalities to be assessed, 1 or more of the member municipalities may appeal the assessment in writing to the secretary of administration and finance within 1 month of the notice of assessment. Within 1 month of receipt of the appeal, the secretary shall modify the assessment or reject the appeal and provide the reasons for doing so in writing. 

(2)  The director shall certify to the commissioner of revenue the total outstanding liability to be deducted over the term of years set forth in paragraph (1) of this subsection, and the annual liability shall appear on the assessed municipality’s cherry sheet. Deductions shall be made monthly from local aid disbursements from the commonwealth to the assessed municipalities.

(3)  Nothing in this section shall be interpreted as preventing or limiting the General Court from providing an appropriation to be apportioned between the member municipalities to decrease an assessment for the outstanding liability.

(c)  The assets of the council shall be transferred in the following order:

(1)  The amount to be transferred to the town of Goshen pursuant to subsection (b) of section 15 of this act;

(2)  The remaining balance of cash on hand to the department of energy resources and the department of environmental protection towards the outstanding amounts for payments related to the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard, Clean Energy Standard and Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard. Any additional assets identified shall be transferred in this manner until the associated liabilities are paid off; and

(3)  Once the obligations set forth in paragraphs (1) and (2) are satisfied, any remaining assets shall be transferred to the General Fund of the commonwealth.

SECTION 14.  (a) Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary and as further specified in this act, persons who are active members of the Hampshire County Retirement System as of the effective date of this act, persons who are inactive members of the Hampshire County Retirement System as of the effective date of this act who were last employed by the Hampshire council of governments and persons who are receiving a retirement or survivor benefit from the Hampshire County Retirement System as of the effective date of this act, who were last employed by and retired from the Hampshire council of governments and who are otherwise eligible for membership in the state employees’ retirement system, shall be transferred to the state employees’ retirement system as of the effective date of this section and shall be subject to the rules and regulations of the state employees’ retirement system.

(b)  The retirement accounts of persons transferred under this act, including the annuity savings accounts, including interest, annuity reserve and the investment earnings of the Hampshire County Retirement System attributable to the value of these member’s accounts, shall be transferred to the state employees’ retirement system. The state employees’ retirement system shall accept all liability of those accounts transferred by this act. The public employee retirement administration commission shall certify to the state board of retirement that the amounts transferred under this section are accurate.

(c)  The state employees’ retirement system and the Hampshire County Retirement System shall consult with the public employee retirement administration commission to determine to the best of their ability the investment earnings of the Hampshire County Retirement System attributable to the value of these members’ accounts. The Hampshire County Retirement System shall make a payment to the state employees’ retirement system in the agreed upon amount.

(d)  The public employee retirement administration commission shall conduct an actuarial analysis of the impact to the commonwealth’s unfunded pension liability attributable to the transfers provided by this section. The analysis shall be filed with the house and senate committees on ways and means, the executive office for administration and finance and the state board of retirement not later than September 1, 2021.

(e)  The Hampshire council of governments and the Hampshire County Retirement System shall transfer to the state board of retirement in a format specified by the state board of retirement as soon as administratively feasible, but no later than April 1, 2021, all employment records and retirement account data related to the persons affected by this section and related to their membership in the Hampshire County Retirement System.

(f)  For any person transferred under this section, determinations related to the membership, group classifications and retirement benefits, including, but not limited to, eligibility for benefits, creditable service amounts, survivor benefits, retiree cost of living adjustments and accumulated retirement deductions and interest, shall be made solely by the state board of retirement.

(g)  Former employees of the Hampshire council of governments who are not members or retirees of the Hampshire County Retirement System as of the effective date of this act shall not be subject to this act. The Hampshire County Retirement System shall retain liability of such former members not transferred under this act for any future obligations under paragraph (c) of subdivision (8) of section 3 of chapter 32 of the General Laws if they retire from a Massachusetts retirement system.

(h)  This section shall have no effect on any: (i) other liability under paragraph (c) of subdivision (8) of section 3 of chapter 32 of the General Laws that the Hampshire County Retirement System may have to the state employees’ retirement system or any other applicable retirement system; or (ii) liability related to former employees of the Hampshire council of governments not covered by this act.

(i)  Nothing in this section shall require the state employees’ retirement system to make any payment to a person transferred under this section before July 1, 2021. 

SECTION 15.  (a) Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, the cellular radio communications tower and associated structural equipment owned by the Hampshire council of governments in the town of Goshen shall be conveyed to the town of Goshen and the public safety radio equipment, systems, antennas and cabling owned by the Hampshire council of governments in the towns of Goshen, Cummington and Plainfield shall be conveyed to the department of state police; provided, however, that the department of state police or any state agency or designee of the commonwealth shall retain the right to use and have unrestricted access to the cellular radio communications tower and associated structural equipment in the town of Goshen, the radio equipment shelter and associated rights-of-way at no cost and to maintain equipment on the tower for as long as the department of state police requires the site to continue to be used for public safety dispatch purposes or for any other purpose required by a state agency or designee of the commonwealth. The town of Goshen shall assume the rights of the Hampshire council of governments under any agreements among the Hampshire council of governments and cities and towns in the county of Hampshire for the maintenance of the tower and all such agreements shall remain in force.

(b)  Within 90 days of the effective date of this act, the Hampshire council of governments shall transfer to the town of Goshen an amount equal to the amount of any funds that can be substantiated as having been received by the Hampshire council of governments for maintaining insurance or for the maintenance or other costs associated with owning the tower.

(c)  No sooner than 90 days from the effective date of this act, the town of Goshen may assess cities and towns in the county of Hampshire for the ongoing cost of maintenance of the tower; provided, however, that the amounts assessed shall not exceed amounts last assessed by the Hampshire council of governments plus inflation unless a higher amount is agreed to by the city or town.

SECTION 16.  Section 13 shall take effect 90 days after the effective date of this act.

SECTION 17.  All transfers to the state employees’ retirement system under section 14 shall be completed  not later than July 1, 2021; provided, however, that all records and data under subsection (e) of section 14 shall be transferred not later than April 1, 2021.

Approved, January 11, 2021.