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Transfer of powers of the State to the Municipalities from 2019

One of the pillars of the Portuguese Government's program for the legislature that is now nearing its end is the expansion of the participation of municipalities in the management of public services. Thus, and in a logic of greater proximity to the users or beneficiaries of these services, on the 16th of August 2018, was published the framework law on the transfer of powers to local authorities and inter-municipal entities (Law 50/2018, of Aug 16th), which established in a comprehensive manner the way in which this transfer of powers would take place, particularly through the creation of new tasks for local authorities or inter-municipal bodies, forms of financing and even transfers of human resources, where deemed necessary. Following the publication of this framework law, the legislative process was initiated, at the initiative of the Government, for the publication of specific diplomas for each of the areas whose competences will be transferred as from 1 January 2019. Such publications occurred in the last week of November 2018 and below is a brief summary of the diplomas.

In the field of maritime, river and lake beaches, Decree-Law 97/2018 (of Nov 27th), transfers to the municipalities the cleaning and collection of urban waste, as well as the maintenance, conservation and management of the basic sanitation, water supply, emergency energy and communications infrastructures, as well as beach equipments and supports. These bodies also have responsibility for the maintenance of pedestrian and road traffic support equipments, as well as the repair and maintenance of marginal restraints, stakes and walls that ensure the safety of beach users. The stabilization and containment of coastal erosion phenomena is excluded.

Regarding the authorization to operate games of chance and other forms of gambling, the municipalities, in particular the respective mayors, now have granting powers, in accordance with Decree-Law 98/2018 (of Nov 27th), but most of the remaining legislative framework in this area remains unchanged.

The promotion of tourism now belongs to inter-municipal entities, which participate in the definition and implementation of the regional tourism plan at sub-regional level, whose initiative and responsibility for implementation falls within the competence of regional tourism entities. It also gives these entities the responsibility of making use of national and European financing programs, as well as managing and implementing said financing (Decree-Law 99/2018 of Nov 28th).

In the field of communication routes, the municipalities will have power for the management of road sections, as well as infrastructures integrated therein, located in the urban perimeters, as well as sections disqualified by the National Road Plan and sections replaced by variants that have not been the subject of an agreement between the national entity for road management and each municipality (Decree-Law 100/2018 of Nov 28th).

In the area of justice (Decree-Law 101/2018, of Nov 29th), there are significant changes, with municipal and inter-municipal entities to hold powers for the social reintegration of youth and adults, for the prevention and repression of violence against women and domestic violence and for supporting victims of crimes. They are also able to present proposals for the creation, installation, modification or extinction of Peace Courts, in partnership with the Ministry of Justice.

Projects funded by European funds and investment funding programs are also transferred to inter-municipal entities, particularly is what regards the overall strategy of the respective subregions, preparation of investment planning and submission of applications for funding programs. In order to attract investment, they will be able to define, implement and monitor their programs, gaining great autonomy in these matters (Decree-Law 102/2018, of Nov 29th).

Support for the permanent intervention teams of voluntary fire associations is passed on to municipal bodies and the management of the network of voluntary fire brigades and programs to support volunteer fire brigades is passed on to inter-municipal entities (Decree-Law 103/2018, of Nov 29th).

Citizen assistance structures will also be managed by municipal bodies, in what relates to the installation and management, among others, of Citizen's Bureaus and Offices to Support Emigrants (Decree-Law 104/2018, of Nov 29th).

Lastly, and grouping the main changes that matter to the real estate and space management sectors, in the realm of housing, public real estate assets without use and parking, respectively, Decrees-Law 105/2018, 106/2018 and 107/2018, all of Nov 29th, determine that the municipal bodies have the following competencies.

In housing, the municipalities will be managing the programs of support to urban leasing and urban rehabilitation and will have ownership and management of real estate for social housing, which until now were owned by the State.

As for unused public real estate, the requisition of said properties by the municipalities is now possible, in the form of an economically sustainable valorization project subject to approval.

Lastly, regarding parking, the municipalities are entrusted with the power to regulate and supervise parking on roads and public spaces, within or outside localities, provided that they are under municipal jurisdiction. They are also empowered to investigate and decide on road traffic offenses for minor offenses relating to prohibited, undue or abusive parking, including the imposition of fines and costs.