The Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance made the following statement following Speaker Ron Mariano’s announcement of his intention to delay the important House rules debate until July and his proposal to restrict how lawmakers communicate with their constituents and outside organizations.
Speaker Mariano’s announcement comes out the same day the House and Senate vote on controversial legislation that bypassed the traditional legislative process.
“Just like in sports, teams must establish rules before they can take to the field and compete. Under the leadership of Senate President Karen Spilka and House Speaker Ron Mariano, they’ve found a way to play the game before setting the rules as they move to ram through a controversial climate bill without following the traditional legislative process,” stated Paul Diego Craney, spokesman for the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance.
“Clarity of the rules is a good thing for everyone involved and any effort to bring more transparency to what lawmakers are doing should be encouraged. Speaker Mariano has never demonstrated a desire to bring more transparency to the legislature and his latest moves should not come as a surprise to anyone. His record is well documented to be against transparency and the fact that he is being vague in his remarks should immediately give observers pause,” continued Craney.
“The legislature should not delay the important rules debate and any debate to the rules should be made by House lawmakers, out in the open. Speaker Mariano’s comments to House members should be deeply disturbing to anyone committed to transparency and good government. The Speaker is looking to limit how the constituents interact with their elected lawmakers in order to consolidate more authority within his office,” concluded Craney.
The rules debate could be used to change some of the opaque tricks the legislature uses to shield their members from accountability. During the debate, rank and file members could re-impose term limits for the Speaker position, make all committee votes public (currently the Joint Committee votes are unavailable to the public), make lawmakers subject to the state’s Open Meeting and Public Records Laws, end the practice of extending the session past the election, end the practice of passing taxes during informal session (which does not record a vote), and end the practice of releasing legislation with no notice prior to taking a vote. Many of these reforms are embraced by both conservative watch dog organizations like MassFiscal and by left-wing organizations like Progressive Mass.