The Wellington School reconstruction plans are moving forward fast. The Building Committee has been hard at work since voters overwhelmingly approved the new school last June and the planned move of the children is approaching shortly.
Technically, what the voters approved in June was the exemption from Proposition 2.5 of the amount needed for the town to pay the principal and interest on the bonds that it will issue to pay for its share of the school. When any public or private entity issues bonds, there is an attorney known as the “bond counsel” who reviews everything about the proposed bond issue on behalf of the people who will purchase the bonds. Because bond counsel’s job is to assure that the probability of repayment on the bonds is as close to 100% as possible, bond counsel carefully scrutinizes every legal technicality which might remotely affect either the town’s obligation to the pay or the town’s ability to pay. In the case of the Wellington, that attorney felt that there was a possible concern for bond holders as to whether the town had complied with the provision of Proposition 2.5 that requires that the town meeting vote be worded in a way that is substantially the same as the ballot question. After some dialog with the town and a review of the question, the Massachusetts Department of Revenue finalized an opinion agreeing with bond counsel. The consequence of the discrepancy would be that the bonds would not be exempt from Proposition 2.5 which could make it harder for the town to carry the debt service on them.
Bond counsel’s advice to the town (if the town wished to get a positive bond counsel opinion, which it absolutely needed) was that the Town seek legislation to eliminate any possible doubt about the effect of language. Bond counsel drafted legislation to specifically solve the problem. The Town Administrator brought the issue to my attention just before Thanksgiving and I presented the proposed legislation to the Governor in the first week of December. The Governor had to file the legislation on behalf of the town under the home rule amendment to the constitution — any law that pertains to a single town must either be filed by the Governor or filed based on a formal petition of the Town Meeting. Given the need to resolve the question promptly to keep the project moving, an additional town meeting was not a practical option.
The Governor’s office handles petitions of this general type — legislation to resolve a glitch in the technicalities of municipal law — quite routinely. This one was unusually urgent though and the Governor’s office did a great job in expediting their interagency review process and completing it just one week. In turn, the House of Representatives and the Senate expedited passage of the legislation and the final bill was signed in to law this past Tuesday. Cllick here for a copy of the legislation.
The passage of legislation is a process involving a couple of dozen discrete steps of communication and approval. As a result, it usually takes many months. My aide and I worked with staff and with legislators at every step of the process to assure that they knew what was coming and understood the urgency. I am extremely grateful to the Governor, to my colleagues in the House, and to Senator Tolman and his colleagues in the Senate for moving the bill through so quickly.