Are Deval and the Legislature Breaking the Law?

Below is the text from Mass General Laws, chapter 70, section 4. Emphasis is added by me for the purpose of framing my argument that the section of the MGLs is, in fact, a requirement. Note that I have been told by Pat Haddad, former House Chair on the Joint Committee on Education, that this section of the MGLs is “voluntary.” Further note that the Governor’s office has informed me that “the review commission will not be meeting.” Further note that I have volunteered to serve on this commission and note that the commission has not issued a report since summer 2001, in spite of the two year requirement.

My question is simple. Is the Commission required to meet? I am not an attorney, but find the language pretty compelling in favor of the commission having a requirement to meet. I would further make the argument that the “intent” of this section of the MGLs is pretty compelling in favor of the commission meeting more often than every eight plus years.

Apologies for the “high brow” post, but it’s relevant, at least to me.

PART I. ADMINISTRATION OF THE GOVERNMENT

TITLE XII. EDUCATION

CHAPTER 70. SCHOOL FUNDS AND STATE AID FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Chapter 70: Section 4. Foundation budget review commission; membership; recommendations

Section 4. There is hereby established a foundation budget review commission to review the way in which foundation budgets are calculated and to make recommendations to the general court regarding such changes in the formula as may be appropriate. In conducting such review, the commission shall seek to determine the educational programs and services needed to prepare students to achieve passing scores on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System. The commission shall examine the assumed percentage for special education costs included in such formula and shall make recommendations regarding changes in such percentage or other mechanisms to finance special education costs including, but not limited to, reimbursement programs or phased-in, standards-based funding programs that increase the state contribution to such costs over a fixed period of years. The commission shall include the house and senate chairs of the joint committee on education, arts and humanities, who shall serve as co-chairs, the commissioner of education, the chair of the education reform review commission, the speaker of the house of representatives or his designee, the president of the senate or his designee, the minority leader of the house of representatives or his designee, the minority leader of the senate or his designee, the governor or his designee, the chair of the house committee on ways and means or his designee, the chair of the senate committee on ways and means or his designee and one member to be appointed by each of the following organizations: the Massachusetts Municipal Association, the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, the Massachusetts Superintendents Association, the Massachusetts Teachers Association, the Massachusetts Federation of Teachers, the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Association for Vocational Administrators and the Massachusetts Association of Regional Schools. Members shall receive no compensation for their services but may receive reimbursement for the reasonable expenses incurred in carrying out their responsibilities as members of the commission. The department shall furnish reasonable staff and other support for the work of the commission.

The commission shall conduct not fewer than four hearings to receive testimony from members of the public. The hearings shall be held in locations that provide opportunities for residents from all geographic regions of the commonwealth to testify.

It shall not constitute a violation of chapter 268A for a person employed by a school district to serve on the commission or to participate in commission deliberations that may have a financial impact on the district employing such person or on the rate at which such person may be compensated. The commission may establish procedures to ensure that no such person participates in commission deliberations that may directly affect the school districts employing such persons or that may directly affect the rate at which such persons are compensated.

The commission’s recommendations, together with any proposed legislation, shall be filed not later than September 30 of each even-numbered year with the clerks of the senate and house of representatives who shall refer such recommendations to the appropriate committee of the general court. Within 30 days after such filing, the committee shall hold a public hearing on the recommendations.

About David Whelan

  • Festus Garvey

    And first wonder if the commission was created before the summer of 2001, shouldn’t your headline read: “Are Jane, Mitt, Deval and Legislature breaking the law?”

    Also, while I don’t know the full context of the law (is there some MGL language somewhere else that negates all the shall’s you bolded?  

    But the real bottom line is 95% of the time a “Legislative Commission to Study (fill in the blank)” is created, it is to swept the issues under the rug, while at the same time, appease critics who want change.  This has been a tactic for ages and is equally used by both Dems and Reps around the country.  (If you lurk over at BMG, Amber Paw often posts about ignored recommendations of Commissions with regards to the court system or juvenile issues.    

  • My understanding is that the referenced section of MGL was passed in the 1990s.

    I also understand that there may be a legal reason why ch 70, sect 4 is “OK” to ignore. That being said, I hope sameone that understands these things better than I do will offer an explanation. I also question the intent of ch 70, sect 4.

    And yes I repeated added boldface to the word shall because the word shall implies that it will be done.

    No wonder lawyers get paid so much.    

  • HERE is a link to it.

    No new members have been appointed to replace those who are no longer in the legislature.  Still, I don’t see anything in statute here that says the commission has any obligation beyond filing its inadequate original report.

  • The commission’s recommendations, together with any proposed legislation, shall be filed not later than September 30 of each even-numbered year with the clerks of the senate and house of representatives who shall refer such recommendations to the appropriate committee of the general court. Within 30 days after such filing, the committee shall hold a public hearing on the recommendations.

    Does this mean the file a report every two years?

  • The commission’s recommendations, together with any proposed legislation, shall be filed not later than September 30 of each even-numbered year with the clerks of the senate and house of representatives who shall refer such recommendations to the appropriate committee of the general court. Within 30 days after such filing, the committee shall hold a public hearing on the recommendations.

    Know a good lawyer?