Making Sense of Beacon Hill

Ever wonder what actually goes on at the State House –- or how your elected representatives vote on the issues you care about?

Unfortunately, much of what actually goes on is rather opaque. Each legislative session, thousands of bills are filed and assigned to a committee. But, many never have a hearing. And, committee meetings are not open to the public –- nor are committee votes recorded.

And even when a bill is not relegated to “study” –- where bills go to die -– they may never receive an up or down vote.  Leadership plays the key role in determining which legislation actually moves forward — and which dies by running out the clock.

And bills that do come up for a vote?  The vast majority are voice-voted, which means there is no roll call –- no actual record of where your particular elected official stood.

From time to time, a roll call vote is requested an elected official and leadership accedes. But most of the time, legislators say they are under tremendous pressure not to “buck leadership” and their colleagues in making such demands. And  – roll call votes are not organized in a convenient or easily accessible way.

Let’s say you learned that a roll call vote had been taken on an issue of importance to you.  How would you know how your elected official had voted?

Many online news services like Beacon Hill Roll Call report the votes from a given week –- but they don’t archive these so if you miss the vote you’re interested in, you’re out of luck.

Or, suppose someone from a neighboring district is now running for higher office and you want to know how they voted?  Well, the process of finding out is so complicated – involving several different sources in that your head would spin just hearing about it

Progressive Massachusetts believes that government functions best and residents have the highest possible confidence in their representatives when the work of the legislature is fully transparent -– and easily accessible to the public.

And that is why, today, we are publishing a record of key roll call votes taken in the last legislative session (2011-2012).  And we will be tracking, compiling and publishing future roll call votes this legislative session.

Check out how your representative -– or any other representative, for that matter, actually voted:

Make your own judgment about how progressive you think they are.

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