Issues Blog

Entries, updates on issue organizing and information, legislative action, and other material related to our Progressive Platform and Legislative Agenda

Top 10 Excuses You’ll Hear for Why Your Legislator Voted Against Transparency

Last week, the Massachusetts House voted down three common sense transparency amendments to its rules package.

These amendments were simple good government proposals, requiring that...

  • Representatives be given a reasonable amount of time to read the final language of any bill they’re voting on
  • Representatives be given a reasonable amount of time to read any amendment submitted on the floor that they’ll be voting on
  • Hearing testimony (for/against) a bill and all votes taken in committee to be publicly available.

Yet they all failed, as most rank-and-file Democrats voted with House Leadership against them.

If you've reached out to your representatives since, they've probably given you a number of excuses. Spoiler: They're not very good ones.

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The House Just Voted Down Three Important Transparency Amendments. How Did Your Rep Vote?

Former Sierra Club lobbyist Phil Sego was once quoted as saying, “Don’t mistake what happens in [the Massachusetts State House] for democracy.” Our legislative process is deeply flawed and designed to avoid public accountability.

Yesterday, your representative had a chance to take the first step toward changing that. Amendments were introduced that would have required:

  • Representatives be given a reasonable amount of time to read the final language of any bill they’re voting on
  • Representatives be given a reasonable amount of time to read any amendment submitted on the floor that they’ll be voting on
  • Hearing testimony (for/against) a bill and all votes taken in committee to be publicly available.
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If You Want a Different Outcome, You Need to Change the Rules of the Game

The Massachusetts General Court is the second oldest deliberative body of the world. It’s time for it to start living up to such a stature.

Opaque processes and procedures are the standard operating procedure in the Legislature, leaving the public—and even many legislators—in the dark while monied interests exert sway behind closed doors. And an over-centralization of power encourages a culture of quiescence and retaliation, discouraging open debate on major issues—a problem especially acute in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Real reform will be impossible without changes to both rules and norms.

And with the MA House set to vote on its rules for the 191st legislative session tomorrow, we have a few good ideas about measures the House could adopt.

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