Some disturbing news was reported by State House News Service this afternoon regarding the chaos surrounding today’s Judiciary Committee hearing where 227 bills were expected to be heard. Unfortunately, State House News Service is reporting that due to the overwhelming agenda, testimony is being cut short on some key public safety issues.
Today is a busy day on Beacon Hill to say the least. Not only are there several committee hearings going on all over the building, but the House and Senate are both in full formal sessions taking up some of Governor Patrick’s vetoes. The people of the Commonwealth and the issues being addressed in hearings deserve more; they deserve the full attention of the Legislature. Additionally, the bills and amendments being taken up on the House floor deserve equal attention. Business cannot continue to be conducted this way.
In 2007, Republican lawmakers offered two amendments in an effort to make the process of hearings smoother. The first would have prevented committee hearings from being scheduled during formal sessions unless the chair of the committee submits a written description of the emergency that necessitates such scheduling. This proposal was overwhelmingly rejected by our Democratic colleagues. In fact, not one Democrat joined with us in this effort and because no action was taken we are running into problems like those mentioned above.
The second amendment offered would designate a period of time, not exceeding one half-hour, during which time testimony from legislators would be heard at a public hearing. If members are not present during that given time, they would be placed on the list to speak like any other member of the public wishing to testify. This would have allowed more time for the public to give testimony and prevent the current practice of legislators testifying for extended periods of time during what is intended to be an effort to gather public input. Again, this amendment was not supported by a single Democrat.
Too many bills, too little time in a day and therefore the well-being of Massachusetts and its residents are being sacrificed in order to cram as much as possible into one day. We cannot continue down this path. Legislative proposals need time to be fully vetted. The people’s work is supposed to be done in a timely fashion, but not at the cost of the democratic process. It is the status quo on Beacon Hill and until our Democratic colleagues are willing to work with us and make the process more efficient, unfortunately more situations like the one we are encountering today will most likely happen again.