Opaque Process Has Resulted in More Power Grabs
The Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance made the following statement in observance of Sunshine Week 2021. Sunshine Week was launched in 2005 by the American Society of News Editors — now News Leaders Association — and has grown into an annual initiative to promote open state government. Every year, MassFiscal celebrates Sunshine Week by highlighting transparency issues in our state government. This year, Sunshine Week lasts from March 14 to 20, 2021. MassFiscal has been one of the state’s most vocal critics of the state legislature’s secretive and opaque process.
“Sunshine week is really too short for Massachusetts. We need a sunshine year. It’s hard to imagine Massachusetts sinking much lower by increasing the amount of secrecy in its legislative process, but that is exactly what is happening this legislative session as the House, under Speaker Ron Mariano, refuses to take up the important House rules debate but continues to advance major pieces of legislation through informal session,” stated Paul Diego Craney, spokesperson of Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance.
“The opaque process has resulted in more power grabs by those that run the State House. The legislative process has been compromised, as more rank-and-file lawmakers are reluctant to speak up against their leadership. Clearly, lawmakers needs and leadership need to let the sunshine in,” concluded Craney.
- Just to recap some of the ways the legislature blocks out the public, and conducts their work in secret, here is a short running list:
- Exempt themselves from the state’s open meeting law.
- Exempt themselves from the state’s public records law.
- Keeps some committee votes secretive, not available to the public.
- Overrides the term limits rule for the Speaker position when it would kick in.
- Pass controversial laws like the Airbnb tax and extending mail in voting through “informal legislative session,” which does not require a roll call vote or public access.
- Pass major legislation without a public, in person/virtual hearing.
- Pass major legislation without giving the public and legislators reasonable time to read the bill.
- Pass major legislation in the early morning hours when most of the state is asleep.
- Pass major legislation without setting in place permanent procedural rules and safeguards for how to conduct legislative business for the next two years.
- Pass major legislation on a “voice vote” which does not require a recorded roll call vote.
- Pass major legislation through consolidated amendments which results in hundreds of amendments grouped together for a single vote, resulting from private closed door horse trading of only a few top legislators who dictate which amendments will see the light of day.