A Tough Day for Transparency Efforts in the House

Numerous good ideas defeated, and term limit removal worrisome

Boston, MA: The Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy group dedicated to promoting better government and right-of-center fiscal and economic policy solutions, today applauded the state House’s efforts to ensure greater transparency in committee  operations, but expressed frustration that many amendments to promote better government were shot down and that term limits on the speakership were removed.

"Making committee votes available to the public is long overdue,” said Paul Craney, the group’s executive director. “While we appreciate the House voting in favor of making more of their voting record public, they barely managed a single when they could have hit a grand slam."

The House followed the Senate in moving to put its committee votes online, a proposal long prioritized by MassFiscal, and added an amendment to do likewise for joint committees, which the Senate must approve. However, a bid by several representatives to reinstate term limits for the speaker failed by a 45-110 vote, as did numerous other proposals, including:

-a bid to ensure lawmakers have enough time to read bills before voting on them (Amdt. #2)

-an effort to provide cities and towns with preliminary local aid figures to assist with

            preparation of municipal budgets (Amdt. #5)

-an attempt to require a published annual audit of House accounts (Amdt. #7)

-a provision to set a time frame within which local legislation must be acted on (Amdt. #32)

Many of the provisions would have reformed the state’s budget process, one of only four in the country to receive an “F” in a study done by the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation.

"Term limits are only useful when they are applied consistently. The House failed to take steps that would have advanced greater transparency by voting down many valuable rules reforms and disregarding the term limit set for the Speaker. Let's hope the House can prove to the public that their value is found their membership instead of their leader,” Craney concluded.

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