BOSTON – A local home rule petition calling for the Reading Board of Health to expand from three to five members has been approved by the Massachusetts House and Senate.
House Bill 2072, An Act relative to the Board of Health in the town of Reading, was filed on the town’s behalf by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading), State Representative Richard M. Haggerty (D-Woburn) and State Senator Jason M. Lewis (D-Winchester), following its initial approval at Reading’s November 17, 2022, Town Meeting. The bill was enacted in both legislative branches on November 22 and is now on Governor Maura Healey’s desk for her review and signature.
House Bill 2072 would expand the Reading Board of Health from three to five full voting members appointed by the Select Board while retaining the board’s two existing associate non-voting members. Several other communities have recently undertaken similar expansions of their local boards of health, including Needham, Bedford, Plymouth, North Andover, and Framingham.
Due to the restrictions imposed by the state’s Open Meeting Law, it is often difficult for board members to collaborate with one another under the current three-member structure. Any phone conversation, e-mail, text exchange, or personal conversation between two board members would constitute a deliberation under the law and would therefore be considered a public meeting subject to the 48-hour notice requirement. Moving to a five-member board would allow for better communication between board members and would enable individual board members to more freely engage in town processes with other local boards while still complying with the Open Meeting Law.
“The Reading legislative delegation worked collaboratively to advocate for this bill’s passage,” said Representative Jones. “In addition to giving the Reading Board of Health more flexibility, this bill will also provide an opportunity for more residents to participate in the local governmental process by creating two new positions on the board.”
“This new 5-member structure will give the Reading Board of Health the flexibility to operate more effectively and efficiently in serving the health needs of our residents. Additionally, the expanded board will provide an opportunity for more of our residents to bring their talents and perspectives to the table benefiting the health of our community,” said Representative Haggerty. “I’m pleased to be part of the Reading legislative delegation that worked together to help pass this bill.”
“Local Boards of Health have a very important mission to protect the health and safety of the community,” said Senator Lewis. “I’m pleased that we were able to steer this bill through the legislative process because it will strengthen and improve the functioning of the Reading Board of Health.”
Governor Healey has until December 2 to act on the bill.