Isn’t it time WE fix Beacon Hill?

( – promoted by EaBo Clipper)

Isn’t it time WE fix Beacon Hill?  Most would agree that’s a rhetorical question.  After the indictment of our third consecutive speaker, learning of decades of pension abuse at the hands of legislative leadership, ongoing ethics & lobbying scandals, and 135 votes cast to re-elect the last Speaker just days after the AG declared he had lied regarding the ticket scalping issue – we all know Beacon Hill is surely broken.  And, the aforementioned are just a few items that come to mind in the past 12 months.

Given the separation of powers that forms the cornerstone of our democracy, there are only two groups that can affect change in the legislature — the legislators themselves, and “we, the people.”  Now is the time–and the opportunity is ripe to fix Beacon Hill, once and for all.  But, success will take many Massachusetts residents to be willing to download a petition kit and gather 100 signatures (just a few hours work).

Simply put, Fix Beacon Hill is a non-partisan, grassroots organization formed for the sole purpose of restoring deliberative, representative democracy in our legislature.  We can only do this through a constitutional amendment.  FBH is not backed by, or affiliated with, any political party, industry association or lobbying group.  Our mission is simply about re-establishing the deliberative, representative democratic process that our framers intended for the legislature; ensuring that all individual legislators have a voice in our legislature.

Fix Beacon Hill IS NOT anti-government, anti-legislature or anti-Democratic Party.  We are simply advocates for good government, which we believe includes a deliberative, representative, democratic process in the branch of government for which such a process was designed.

Recent editorials about FixBeaconHill.com can be found in the Patriot Ledger, New Bedford Standard-Times, and Metrowest Daily News.

Interested? Read the the “at-a-glance” version of the story below, or go to http://www.fixbeaconhill.com

  • Massachusetts’ Constitution currently states that each chamber of our legislature shall — elect it’s Speaker/President, appoint its leaders and set its own rules — that’s it.
  • Throughout the 6+ decades of dominant, single party control (90% or more today) Speakers/Presidents have consistently tightened their control over their respective chamber.

Today, the Speaker & President, in their respective chamber, control:

Appointment of all leaders (&  extra pay) Appointment of committee chairs & vice chairs (& extra pay)
Appointment of all committee members Every aspect of the flow of legislation ****
Members’ office space Members’ office budget and staff
Where members sit in the chamber Where members park
Distribution of party PAC money And more…

**** Including whether a bill ever gets voted upon. Often times when a bill is referred out for a vote it goes from committee to caucus to floor vote in a matter of hours; leaving no time for review by anyone (which is how/why all kinds of nonsense gets slipped into these bills.)

The system above has fostered decades of waste, fraud, pension abuse, patronage, inferior legislation, indictments, bribes, lobbying scandals, etc. — all of which are merely symptoms of the problem.  The real problem is that one person in each body holds near absolute power.  If a legislator does not “go along to get along,” he/she is marginalized by leadership and often times “punished.”   Under these conditions, how effective are the individuals that your district elected to represent you?  Your legislator must choose between capitulation or retribution.

There have been many efforts to address this in the past through rules changes within the body, but these have always proven to be short-lived and tantamount to the “fox watching the henhouse.”  Legislation has been attempted, but a law cannot be passed that usurps what the constitution currently says.  So, the only option that provides any permanence is a Constitutional Amendment; hence http://www.fixbeaconhill.com.

FixBeaconHill.com’s  proposed constitutional amendment would:

  1. Require Speaker and President to be elected by secret ballot (just like we elect all of our leaders)
  2. Allow Speaker/President to appoint 4 positions (Pro Tempore, Majority & Asst. Majority Leaders, Chair of Ways & Means)
  3. Require each chamber to elect a Committee on Committees
    1. any member can be on ballot for CoC except those in #1 & #2 above
    2. CoC does the functions currently controlled by Speaker/President (in table above)
    3. CoC’s work is then put to floor for a vote
  4. Prevent the Legislature from exempting itself from open meeting laws (which it currently does)
  5. Require the Legislature to produce a detailed budget for each chamber

So, how can you help?   There are many ways, including:

Commit to getting 100 signatures Commit to enlisting friends/family to do the same
Voice your support with your legislators Volunteer to gather signatures at your fall Town Meeting or Town/County Fair
Reach out to any media contacts you have Contact your local newspaper for a story
Donate to the cause – any amount helps Give a presentation to local fraternal group(s)

About Chris McKeown