Tuesday, January 22, 2013

House Republican Caucus Proposes Alternative Rules Package

In an ongoing attempt to stimulate an open and accountable state government, House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R- North Reading) and the entire House Republican Caucus have proposed an alternative set of rules and regulations which will govern the House of Representatives during the 188th Session of the Great and General Court.

“The citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts deserve a legislative body that maintains a high standard of openness and accountability,” said House Minority Leader Brad Jones. “This alternative rules package demonstrates the House Republican Caucus’ commitment to changing what has long been accepted as the status quo on Beacon Hill.”

Highlights of the House Republican Caucus’ proposal include:

Speaker Does Not Vote: Prohibits the Speaker from voting, except in the case of a tie. This proposed rule change will help to ensure that the members are free to vote according to their own opinions.

Increased Access for Media: Opens the formal session of the House of Representatives to media outlets. This proposed rule change would ensure media access to House proceedings in a timely manner.

Supermajority Needed to Increase Taxes or Withdraw from “Rainy Day” Fund: Requires all tax increases or withdrawals from the “Rainy Day” fund receive the support of two-thirds of the members. This proposed rule change would ensure broad-based support for any increase in state revenue or removal of money from the state’s savings account.

Committees Elect Own Leadership: Empowers committee members to select their own chair, vice-chair, and ranking minority member. This proposed rule change will ensure that committees can operate independently of leadership.

Full Explanation of Earmarks: Requires the sponsor of every legislative earmark - appropriations for projects that are not part of an agency’s request - file a form with the House Clerk explaining the purpose of said earmark. This proposed rule change will ensure that the taxpayers are aware of various local earmarks that are awarded during both the budget and supplemental budget process.

Committee Roll Calls to be Made Public: Requires that the results of all committee polls be made available to the public. This proposed rule change will improve transparency by allowing the public to view how committee members vote on bills reported favorably from any legislative committee.

Expedited Process for Local Bills: Creates a new process by which local bills may be passed, including: requiring committees to report local bills favorably within 45 days; and establishing an expedited, non-controversial calendar. The proposed rule change will accelerate the current the timeframe required to adopt local, non-controversial legislation.

Local Aid Promise: Requires that the Legislature adopt a local aid resolution by March 15th of every year. This resolution will outline the minimum levels of Chapter 70 and unrestricted general government aid to be appropriated to cities and towns. This proposed rule change will ensure that local municipalities have better information by which to set their local budget.

Empowering the Public at Legislative Hearings: Designates thirty minutes of each committee hearing for testimony from legislators. Should legislators fail to testify during the 30 minute window, they must wait their turn with other members of the public. This proposed rule change would ensure that the general public will not be forced to wait on legislators to testify out of turn.

House Republican Ethics Package: Rewrites the existing Code of Ethics based on the best practices and procedures of other states and the National Conference of State Legislators. This proposed rule change will ensure the implementation of new ethical guidelines on the following issues: procurement of services by the Legislature; job recommendations by elected officials; sexual harassment and discrimination; lobbying and lobbyists; and the actions and conduct of the members.

The proposal, announced today by House Republicans, will be filed and debated during the next formal session of the House.