Proposals Would Increase Transparency, Fairness, And Accountability
Boston- Massachusetts Senate Republicans have filed a number of proposals designed to secure greater openness and transparency through a series of changes to the rules governing the way the legislature operates. Senate members this week will debate two sets of rules, one shapes the mechanisms for legislative procedures between the House and Senate jointly, and the other determines the internal operations of the Senate and stewardship of legislative operations in that chamber.
"Through strong bipartisan efforts the Senate has made progress over the past several sessions in improving the transparency and accountability of the legislative process," said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R - Gloucester). "The Senate Republican Caucus and I believe that the public and legislators deserve to have as much information, and enough time, to review legislation being contemplated by the Legislature."
Filed as amendments for consideration by the Senate as it debates rules governing the 2023 - 2024 legislative session, the Republican-sponsored proposals include measures to give legislators and the public more time to read legislation prior to floor votes and promote more engagement in the process.
"The Massachusetts Senate must be a place of transparency and accountability," said State Senator Ryan Fattman (R-Sutton). "The people we represent deserve that type of Senate and our “reform” amendments demand that type of Senate. Showing up to vote, in-person, doing the people's business during the light of day, stopping lobbying by those who corrupted the public’s trust, and providing transparency in how a Senator votes are reforms that can restore good governance to the Massachusetts Senate."
The Republican Caucus amendments were filed as part of the process by which the legislature adopts rules as one of the first acts of a new legislative session. They are intended to build on a rules proposal released by the Senate's Temporary Rules Committee, which filed its report on Thursday, February 2nd.
“Strong public policy relies on the ability of legislators and the public to be able to review, understand, and offer improvements to the proposed legislation before it is acted upon,” said State Senator Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth). “The Rules package amendments put forward by my Republican colleagues and I would add to the level of transparency on Beacon Hill and ensure a healthy and thriving democracy.”
Included in the measures filed by the Republican Senators are rules which would:
* Require unanimous consent for a session to go beyond midnight;
* Require at least 8 hours between legislative sessions;
* Require the full disclosure of how a member voted, including if their vote was cast in-person, remotely, or through the submission of an authorization letter to the Clerk;
* Ensure a reasonable amount of time for members to see and consider redrafted legislative amendments prior to votes being taken;
* Establish a longer time period for members, and the public, to see annual budget bills before they are voted on from 5 days to 7.
In addition, several Republican amendments were filed by Tarr, a member of the Temporary Rules Committee, to the bill that would establish a new set of Joint Rules used for House and Senate procedures. Those proposals, geared toward providing more time for members, the public, and the press to review legislative proposals, would result in increased transparency, predictability, and the opportunity for civic engagement.
Included in those are amendments that would:
* Require conference committee reports to be filed by 5 PM;
* Require at least 72 hours between the filing of a conference committee report and its consideration for approval by the House and Senate;
* Require the public posting of the conference committee reports within 30 minutes of being filed by a conference committee;
* Require the public disclosure of procurements greater than $10,000 by either the House or Senate by posting on the Open Checkbook website by the state’s Comptroller.
Senators filed 15 amendments to the Joint Rules bill proposed by the Temporary Rules Committee. Republican Caucus members authored 21 of 29 amendments to the Senate Rules proposal. Debate on both bills is expected on Thursday.
Other Republican amendments to the Senate Rules include:
* Permitting Senate members to jointly file legislation;
* Banning lobbyists convicted of corruption charges from lobbying Senators or their staff; and
* Establishing a physical presence as the primary means of participation in Senate sessions.