Friday, February 13, 2015

Senate Repubs Succeed in Senate Joint Rules Debate

Yesterday the Senate Republican Caucus distributed the following press release:

Senate Repubs Succeed in Senate Joint Rules Debate

Transparency, Accountability Measures Now Head to House for Consideration
Boston- Working in a bipartisan effort with Senate colleagues before and during today’s Senate joint rules debate, the Senate Republican Caucus has secured additional transparency and accountability measures that could ultimately govern the current legislative session.  Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), Assistant Minority Leader Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth), Assistant Minority Leader Richard Ross (R-Wrentham), Senate Minority Whip Donald Humason (R-Westfield), Assistant Minority Whip Ryan Fattman (R-Webster) and Vinny deMacedo (R-Plymouth) the Ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, offered a strong proposal of joint rules, and while many weren’t accepted during today’s debate, several important ones were.  They include:

  • Requiring a maximum of 30 days for all approved extension orders for a committee that seeks to extend the reporting deadline of a bill;

  • Requiring that the Rules Committees establish regulations and proper distribution of bills and legislative petitions;

  • Directing all committees to post roll call votes onto the General Court’s website;

  • Requiring all standing committees to provide committee members a minimum of 24 hours to review polls prior to submitting their vote (rule may be suspended by a majority vote by the members of the committee);

  • Requiring that at least one member of a conference committee is a member of the minority party;

  • Directing all joint committees to hold a public oversight hearing during this legislative session to determine if the agencies and programs under its jurisdiction can achieve savings or operate in a more cost effective manner;

  • Requiring that after the completion of an oversight hearing, a committee must report back its findings and recommendations; and

  • Allowing all committee members the opportunity to issue a dissenting minority report prior to the finalization of the report. The report will then be posted on the General Court website.

“Today we made major gains toward making the Massachusetts legislative process more transparent and effective,” said Senator Tarr. “Hopefully we can carry those gains to fruition in the remainder of the process of adopting them.”

Prior to today’s session, the Senate Republican Caucus worked to have important provisions included into the Senate’s joint rules report, which was also adopted today by the members of the Senate.  The caucus sent a letter to Senator Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford), the chair of the Senate Committee on Rules with a list of proposed rules for the committee to consider.  As a result, two of the rules were incorporated into the committee’s report.  Those rules would:

  • Require all joint committee roll call votes to be posted to the General Court’s website within 48 hours; and

  • Require one branch of the legislature to act within 60 days after the other branch has referred a bill to a committee.

Unfortunately, other measures offered by the caucus failed to garner the support necessary to remain within the Senate’s joint rules package.  Those measures include:

  • Expanding the responsibilities of each legislative committee by requiring the committee to consider the cost-effectiveness of all laws, administrative regulations, and programs that fall under the committee’s purview and recommend whether such measures should be continued, curtailed, or eliminated;

  • Extending the duration of the local approval vote required to file a home-rule petition to be valid for up to four years (authorization may be revoked, rescinded, or modified following any duly constituted town meeting or vote by a city council with the approval of the mayor); and

  • Requiring the House of Representatives and the Senate to consider and approve a joint resolution declaring the minimum amount of local aid to be distributed to the cities and towns of the Commonwealth in the upcoming fiscal year by March 15th.

Now the Senate’s package of joint rules will head to the House of Representatives for further consideration.