Innovative Communities Bill Co-sponsored by Sen. Eric Lesser Passes Massachusetts Senate

BOSTON — Senator Eric P. Lesser voted for legislation to create a new Innovative Communities program to help municipalities partner with Massachusetts startup companies to help expand and improve access to public services. The bill passed in the Massachusetts Senate and will now be considered by the House of Representatives.

“This bill makes it easier for local governments to make their services more accessible to their communities, and for tech companies to build a stronger public sector customer base,” Sen. Lesser said. “It’s a win-win for everyone involved.”

Senate Ways and Means Chair Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) filed the legislation in collaboration with many stakeholders in the startup community.

“We have an incredibly strong innovation economy here in Massachusetts. It’s time for our government to be innovative too,” said Sen. Spilka. “This first-of-its-kind program is the product of a collaborative, interactive process, and it will foster stronger connections and opportunities for startups and local governments.”

Senate Bill 1982, An Act relative to innovative communities, establishes the Innovative Communities Office within the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development to connect and educate Massachusetts startups and municipalities. Startups will have the opportunity to sell their technology to cities and towns that choose to be designated as “Innovative Communities.”

Cities or towns that choose to participate in the program must opt-in through a local vote, make non-confidential municipal data available to the public, attend at least one Innovative Communities event or exposition and beta test at least one technology through the program each year.

The bill also includes education to help startups understand how they can sell to government and help municipalities understand opportunities to purchase from startups. The program will hold marketing events and expositions for startups to showcase their technology to municipalities and host statewide innovation competitions to identify market-ready technologies for the needs of municipalities. It will also vet the commercial readiness of technologies in the program and provide technical assistance to municipalities purchasing these technologies.

The bill also creates an Innovative Communities Advisory Board to keep startups and government connected and a Special Commission to study the way government purchases technology.

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