With three week bill filing deadline, Beacon Hill makes strong case for a part time legislature.

In their quest for absolute power the Democratics in charge of the Massachusetts legislature are making a strong case for a part time legislature.  Both houses of the legislative branch in Massachusetts have a less than one month, actually less than three week window, for members to submit legislation not subject to rules committee initial review.  This window is for the entire legislative session, the whole two years.  Legislators get 730 days in their terms but less than 21 days in the beginning of those terms to figure out what their legislative priorities are.  

This system is particularly burdensome on freshman members.  For most of their first months in office freshmen are herded into a bullpen with all the other freshmen.  So not only do these freshmen not have an office in which to engage their constituents, barely have committee assignments, they are forced to outline their two year legislative priorities at the same time.  

This system is ostensibly done under the guise of fairness.  Proponents point to the fact that over 7000 bills are filed during this time frame each of which gets a “hearing” before a legislative committee.  The other side is that under the system in which every bill is guaranteed a hearing very few, especially minority sponsored bills, get a fair hearing.  Hearing rooms on Beacon Hill are often packed with “hearings” that collect public input on dozens of bills in a day.  Few of which truly get the study they deserve.

There is a mechanism for “emergency” legislation to get to the floor under this system.  By a two thirds vote of both chambers legislation can be brought to a vote.  Often without a hearing.  In a supramajority legislature this system is a way for the majority to keep absolute control after a short three week period at the beginning of the session.  

In their quest for absolute control, the leadership on Beacon Hill has made a strong case for a part time legislature.  If all the business of the Commonwealth can be filed in three weeks every two years, all the business of the Commonwealth can be legislated in less than two months every three years.

About Rob "EaBo Clipper" Eno