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Private Government:
Chapter 40T
Chapter 40T would allow unelected panels hand-picked by developers to assume the powers of a municipal government, taxing without regard for Proposition 2 1/2 and substituting panel votes for those of the voters themselves.

"The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate
the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger
than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is Fascism"

– Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1938

In 2006 a bill known as Chapter 40T passed the Massachusetts Legislature and was stopped from becoming law only because Governor Romney vetoed it and public outcry convinced the Legislature to let the veto stand. This year Chapter 40T is back, in the form of House 159 and Senate 146.

Chapter 40T would allow real estate developers to establish a “special improvement district” which would constitute a “body politic” under Massachusetts law. Within the district, an appointed panel, handpicked by the developers, would replace many of the functions of elected municipal officials. They could raise taxes (“assessments”) without regard to the constraints of Proposition 2 1/2. They could pass their own bylaws. A vote of their unelected panel would replace any requirement in Massachusetts law for a democratic vote of the people within the district. In effect, this bill creates new towns within towns in which democracy and public purpose are replaced by the rule of unelected officials with a profit motive.

Chapter 40T turns the concept of conflict of interest on its head because government powers would be blatantly exercised to enrich private parties. By evading democratic checks and balances, it offers unlimited opportunities for abuse.

Chapter 40T is masquerading as simply an “new funding alternative” for building needed infrastructure. But in reality it represents a way of giving the power of taxation to self-interested private parties. It constitutes a devious sneak attack on the tradition of New England grassroots democracy that has served us so well over the years. It is taxation without representation. And to make it worse, it is taxation for private enrichment rather than for public purposes.
Resources for Action:
Text of Legislation Analysis and Commentary News Articles and Other Information
Here’s What You Can Do:
  • Call or write your legislators.
    Ask them to

    1) Stop this dangerous step (S146/H159) into uncharted private governance, and speak with the co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures, and State Assets (Rep. David Flynn and Sen. Mark Montigny).

    2) Seek ways to accommodate infrastructure/financing needs through existing mechanisms, which provide public safeguards.

    3) Speak with House Speaker Sal DiMasi and Senate President Therese Murray and ask that these bills be stopped.

    Mention the current bill numbers to establish Chapter 40T: House 159 and Senate 146. And mention Chapter 40T, in case the bill numbers change.

    Please copy us on your letters to the legislators and any replies you get. This helps us tremendously in planning our outreach.

    To find the addresses for your legislators, click here.

    For a sample email, click here.

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