Legislation to shift SSA voting structure gets a hearing

Falmouth state senator’s proposal is before a regional government joint committee.

State senator Sue Moran advocated for the passage of her bill that would give mainland port communities more voting power on the Steamship Authority Board. —MV Times

A bill pending in the state legislature that proposes giving Steamship Authority port communities on the mainland more voting power got a hearing before a joint committee this week.

Falmouth state Sen. Susan Moran’s bill, called an Act Relative to Municipal Equity in Steamship Authority Operations, was heard before the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government on Tuesday. 

Aside from Moran, a number of residents from Falmouth and Hyannis supported the bill, but no one from the Islands spoke. Much of the support was based on the idea of shipping freight traffic to the Vineyard out of New Bedford, rather than Woods Hole.

Moran’s controversial bill was referred to the joint committee in February in the latest legislative session; the state senator first filed it in 2021 before it languished in the Joint Committee on Transportation. When it was introduced, state Sen. Julian Cyr and state Rep. Dylan Fernandes both opposed the proposed legislation. The two lawmakers said giving more power to the mainland communities would put the Islands in a precarious position, as the Steamship is a lifeline for the Vineyard and Nantucket.

Moran, during Tuesday’s hearing, also requested state Auditor Diana DiZoglio conduct an audit of the authority. The state senator said the audit would help find weaknesses in the Steamship, and it would provide “necessary transparency and effective oversight. I believe a successful audit in the passage of this bill would promote collaboration and compromise to resolve issues.”

Moran’s bill would restructure the Steamship to give more power to Barnstable, Falmouth, and New Bedford. Nantucket and Vineyard board members each currently get votes worth 35 percent, while Barnstable, Falmouth, and New Bedford each get 10 percent votes. Actions need a 50 percent vote to move forward. While the voting breakdown would remain the same under the proposal, the two islands would also need at least one of the three mainland towns to vote with them to pass a motion. 

“It’s important that all of the service-hosting communities receive an appropriate amount of equity in the decisionmaking process,” Moran told the joint committee on Tuesday. “The Steamship Authority plays a vital role in the overall success and well-being of the Cape and Island communities, and it’s paramount that we as legislators make every effort to enable its prosperity.”

A number of Woods Hole and Falmouth residents, including Nat Trumbull and Phil Logan, spoke in favor of the bill. Ed DeWitt said that he represented Falmouth on the Steamship board during the turn of the century; during his tenure, the island towns continually voted down proposals to ship freight boats out of New Bedford instead of Woods Hole.

Wayne Corker, a Hyannis resident, said that the increased freight shipments from the Cape means more trucks going over the bridge.

“Freight doesn’t originate on the Cape. It doesn’t need to come to the Cape. It could just go to New Bedford. New Bedford, for the longest period of time, has wanted business. They’re an industrial harbor,” Corker said. “So you have a town that wants the business, New Bedford, a town that doesn’t want the business, which is Barnstable. And the citizens are getting creamed.”

The joint committee took no action on the bill on Tuesday.


  1. Barnstable County should have as much say in the SSA as Dukes and and Nantucket Counties.
    They have to put up with the same traffic and provide parking. Islanders, and visitors, spend little money in Barnstable County

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