Transparency or not transparency? Don’t ask.
Yet again, a majority of members of the Massachusetts House of Representatives shot down an amendment to the Legislature’s 2021-22 joint rules Wednesday, after what was described as an hour of tense debate.
The amendment sponsored by Rep. Erika Uyterhoeven, D-Somerville, would have required committees to make all votes public, would have mandated a one-week notice for committee hearings, posting online of all members’ recorded votes on committee roll calls and polls, and made public testimony on bills available to the public on request.
In the end, the House voted down the amendment, 36-122, because, well, it’s just too hard and would take too much time to keep the public informed.
A few Democrats and almost all the House Republicans, including Rep. Brad Hill, R-Ipswich, voted for the transparency amendment.
Opponents to the measure said committee staff would face a huge burden if they had to post thousands of pages of public testimony. Second Assistant Majority Leader Sarah Peake said the measure was unnecessary because “we need to allow the chairmen to continue to have flexibility for what public testimony they release.”
Rep. Aaron Michlewitz, a Democrat and chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, said he faced a backlash when his committee posted testimony online about the policing reform bill, apparently because people who submitted testimony didn’t know it would be made public.
But Ryan Daulton from the group Act on Mass, with which Uyterhoeven is aligned, noted, “It’s shocking that many of the arguments against the amendment blamed constituents for our lack of understanding of how the Statehouse functions when that’s precisely what we are asking for: to stop being shut out of the legislative process.”
The Senate will now whether to accept the House changes, to offer further amendments or work out a compromise, most likely in private negotiations, according to State House News Service.
For the majority of Democrats in the Massachusetts House, transparency continues to be a very foggy concept.