Passes Amendment to Rules of the Legislature
February 13, 2015
Boston- Working in a bipartisan effort with Senate colleagues before and during Thursday’s Senate joint rules debate, Senator Richard J. Ross and the Senate Republican Caucus secured additional transparency and accountability measures that could ultimately govern the current legislative session.
Senator Ross secured passage of an amendment he filed that would require all standing committees to provide committee members a minimum of 4 hours to review polls prior to submitting their vote, which may be suspended by a majority vote by the members of the committee.
“Ensuring that the state legislature is working in the most transparent and effective manner should be our top priority, and I believe some of the measures included do just that,” said Senator Ross. “I am pleased that my colleagues supported my amendment, which serves to give legislators the time they need to carefully consider the legislation before them. It is my hope that this, as well as the other provisions secured by the Senate Republicans, will also be adopted later on in the process.”
Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), Richard Ross (R-Wrentham), Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth), Donald Humason (R-Westfield), Ryan Fattman (R-Webster) and Vinny deMacedo (R-Plymouth) offered a strong proposal of joint rules, and while many weren’t accepted during Thursday’s debate, several other important ones were. They include:
- Requiring a maximum of 30 days for all approved extension orders for a committee that seeks to extend the reporting deadline of a bill;
- Requiring that the Rules Committees establish regulations and proper distribution of bills and legislative petitions;
- Directing all committees to post roll call votes onto the General Court’s website;
- Requiring that at least one member of a conference committee is a member of the minority party;
- Directing all joint committees to hold a public oversight hearing during this legislative session to determine if the agencies and programs under its jurisdiction can achieve savings or operate in a more cost effective manner;
- Requiring that after the completion of an oversight hearing, a committee must report back its findings and recommendations; and
- Allowing all committee members the opportunity to issue a dissenting minority report prior to the finalization of the report. The report will then be posted on the General Court website;
Prior to Thursday’s session, the Senate Republican Caucus worked to have important provisions included into the Senate’s joint rules report, which was also adopted today by the members of the Senate. The caucus sent a letter to Senator Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford), the chair of the Senate Committee on Rules with a list of proposed rules for the committee to consider. As a result, two of the rules were incorporated into the committee’s report. Those rules would:
- Require all joint committee roll call votes to be posted to the General Court’s website within 48 hours; and
- Require one branch of the legislature to act within 60 days after the other branch has referred a bill to a committee.
Unfortunately, other measures offered by the caucus failed to garner the support necessary to remain within the Senate’s joint rules package. Those measures include:
- Expanding the responsibilities of each legislative committee by requiring the committee to consider the cost-effectiveness of all laws, administrative regulations, and programs that fall under the committee’s purview and recommend whether such measures should be continued, curtailed, or eliminated;
- Extending the duration of the local approval vote required to file a home-rule petition to be valid for up to four years (authorization may be revoked, rescinded, or modified following any duly constituted town meeting or vote by a city council with the approval of the mayor); and
- Requiring the House of Representatives and the Senate to consider and approve a joint resolution declaring the minimum amount of local aid to be distributed to the cities and towns of the Commonwealth in the upcoming fiscal year by March 15th.
Now the Senate’s package of joint rules will head to the House of Representatives for further consideration.
Please contact the office of Senator Ross with any questions or concerns at (617) 722-1555 or Richard.Ross@masenate.gov.