We Wish It Weren’t So...
As we’ve worked to educate and inform voters about the inner workings of the House of Representatives, we’ve noticed a disturbing trend. Thanks to Insta Trac, one of Boston’s most respected legislative research firms, we’ve confirmed that Massachusetts representatives have taken fewer non-procedural roll call votes this year than in any other in the past twenty. (Data are not reliable for years prior to 1995.)
"The math is pretty simple[,]" the Boston Globe reports, "First, take the total roll call votes that lawmakers cast between January and July, before their summer recess. Then, strip out veto overrides and related votes, which represent more reaction to the governor than proactive policy. And voila, you’re left with the lowest spring vote total in two decades: 125."
Fewer roll call votes is bad news for good lawmaking. When legislators work under the cover of voice votes and skip the debate on important issues, accountability suffers.
We at MassFiscal believe the decrease in roll call votes is an unintended consequence of our work to educate voters on the actions of their legislators. The decline in roll call votes began just after we began our mail advocacy campaign last year and has paralleled our increased education efforts. Our comprehensive advocacy includes the Legislative Scorecard, an on-line record of every representative’s most important vote catalogued in an easy-to-understand format; letters to the editor and opinion pieces; and direct mail, radio, newspaper, and web advertisements.
Because we’ve made it easier for voters to know what their representative is up to, House leadership has made that information harder to discover by not voting. The House of Representatives has only voted on 33 significant votes this year. This is a drastic deviation from the average number of significant votes over the twenty year period: approximately 91.
Despite the increased challenge, we at MassFiscal vow to continue to educate and inform the citizens of our state.
Executive director of MassFiscal Paul Craney said, "Our advocacy work has been extremely effective. The coalition of voters who demand fiscally responsible, accountable government grows stronger every day. I'm disappointed the Legislature has chosen a duck-and-cover response to our efforts. Hiding may be an effective short-term strategy, but in the long term, open government will win out."
(BOSTON)—Support for a lawsuit to lift the cap on the number of charter schools is coming from The Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that advocates for fiscal responsibility and good government solutions on Beacon Hill.
The suit comes after efforts to lift the arbitrary cap last year stalled in the Senate.
Mass Fiscal Alliance board members have similarly filed suit against the state after the legislature failed to correct a statutory inequality in its campaign finance law. Mass Fiscal’s suit aims to eliminate the union loophole which gives unions an unfair advantage over businesses in elections.
Paul Craney, executive director of Mass Fiscal Alliance, said, “Legislative leaders should heed the warning: Fail to act on common sense reforms, and individuals and organizations will seek the court’s intervention in remedying problems the legislature sweeps under the carpet.”
During the last legislative session, a measure to lift the arbitrary cap passed in the House (roll call vote #378) 114 to 35. Senate roll call #408 failed when it went through the Senate at 9 to 30 votes. Check Mass Fiscal Alliance’s scorecard for a full report on roll call votes, atwww.MassFiscalScorecard.org.
At the beginning of the summer, Governor Baker worked strenuously to close the gap in Massachusetts' FY 2016 budget. The Governor was able to put our state's finances on a sustainable track by keeping taxes level, cutting a $1.8 billion dollar deficit, and ultimately balancing the state's budget.
Unsurprisingly, the state legislature was not entirely on board with the Governor’s agenda, and proceeded to undo many of the Governor's changes by casting over nearly one hundred votes to override his reductions.
Below you will find a comprehensive overview of the vetoes to the state budget, coupled with how each legislator voted. Overall, there were ninety votes taken by the Senate and ninety-four votes taken by the House. The percentage next to each name indicates how many votes the particular legislator took that were in line with the fiscally responsible budget set out by the Governor.
The highest scoring House members were:
James Lyons (R - Andover) with 93% (87 of 94)
Bradley Jones (R - North Reading) with 84% (79 of 94)
Fred Barrows (R - Mansfield) with 83% (78 of 94)
Marc Lombardo (R - Billerica) with 83% (78 of 94)
Susan Gifford (R - Wareham) with 81% (76 of 94)
The highest scoring Senate members were:
Vinny deMacedo (R - Plymouth) with 43% (39 of 90)
Ryan Fattman (R - Webster) with 42% (38 of 90)
Bruce Tarr (R - Gloucester) with 39% (35 of 90)
We hope you will use this knowledge to contact your lawmaker and urge them to support Governor Baker’s budget going forward. The best number to call is (617) 722-2000.