Friday, January 23, 2015

Senate Republican Caucus Succeeds in Passing Transparency Rules

On Wednesday, I distributed the following press release:

Senate Republican Caucus Succeeds in Passing Transparency Rules
Senate to Begin Posting Committee Roll Call Votes Online

Boston- Today the Massachusetts Senate Republican Caucus secured a major Senate rule requiring the posting of Senate committee roll call votes to the General Court website within 48 hours of a vote being taken.  The measure passed unanimously by a vote of 38-0.

            “The importance of this rule cannot be overstated as it not only provides a new element of transparency within the Senate, but it also creates a more informed public of the decision making process on Beacon Hill,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester). “Giving citizens the opportunity to access this important information will ensure a much higher level of accountability will take place.”

            Other rules secured by the Senate Republican Caucus include:

  • Requiring the Senate Committee on Rules to report within 10 days on any rule change proposed by 1/5 of the members, and for the Senate to consider that report in a timely manner;

  • Requiring an annual fiscal audit by a certified public accountant of Senate financial accounts, to be made available to the members of the Senate and the public upon request;

  • Requiring the clerk to link the text of all amendments to roll call votes on the General Court website; and

  • Requiring the Senate Committee on Ways and Means to provide copies of proposed bill texts to committee members upon request prior to any vote on such bills.

            Immediately following last session’s Senate rules debate, the Senate Republican Caucus vowed to continue working to ensure that state government moves further towards transparency. The new Senate rule strikes a similar chord as a rule secured by the caucus during the 2013-2014 legislative session that requires the posting of all roll call votes taken by the members of the Senate to the General Court website within 48 hours of a vote being taken.

Unfortunately, some of the rules offered by Tarr, Assistant Minority Leader Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth), Assistant Minority Leader Richard Ross (R-Wrentham), Minority Whip Donald Humason (R-Westfield), Assistant Minority Whip Ryan Fattman (R-Webster) and Senator Vinny DeMacedo (R-Plymouth), the Ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, did not generate the needed support from the members of the majority party.

Those proposed rules include:

  • Requiring the Senate Committee on Ways and Means’ budget proposal to contain detailed information regarding the source of revenues and how it’s being spent;

  • Requiring all Senate committees to provide at least four hours to review a committee poll;

  • Requiring a unanimous vote of all the members present to allow Senate business to proceed beyond the hour of midnight;

  • Requiring the broadcasting of all informal and formal sessions online. Additionally, requiring the reporting of the progress of negotiations for formal sessions to be broadcast on TV; and

  • Limiting the pairing of votes only in cases where a senator is absent from the chamber due to military service or physical incapacity.

“It is important that at every opportunity the Senate moves in a direction of transparency and accountability, and while the Senate Republican Caucus didn’t get everything we were seeking during this rules debate, we will continue to work with the body to ensure the public remains informed of the process,” said Senator Tarr.