Yesterday the press asked Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop) and Ways and Means Chairman Brian Dempsey about the process by which the state budget was crafted. According to the State House News Service here is what they said.
Over the course of the three days, House leaders steering the debate frequently informed lawmakers that while business proceeded on the House floor, meetings were taking place in an antechamber, known as Room 348, where members discussed what should be included or excluded from the next consolidated amendment on tap.
Asked how these private deliberations, which drew attention on social media and from some Republican lawmakers, squared with his publicly stated commitment to transparency, DeLeo said, “I happen to feel the budget process we have is probably the most open and transparent process we can have.”
Dempsey said allowing members to debate issues on the floor could become unwieldy. “What’s interesting about 348 is I think sometimes folks don’t appreciate it’s really about logistics. It’s very difficult to have a debate in the House chamber when you have 30 or 40 folks interested in talking about a particular issue,” Dempsey said.
Both DeLeo and Dempsey said the public had been invited to participate in public hearings that began in December, and that they had sent their representatives to Beacon Hill to fight for their interests. DeLeo also noted that if a member was unhappy with what House leadership decided to include in the budget, they had the option of debating that amendment on the floor with the full House.
If we’re to understand this correctly the process is as transparent as it can be, even though prior to the Finneran Speakership it was more open. In addition, it would be “very difficult” to debate in the open with 30 or 40 members wanting to participate. Senator Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska) once heard similar arguments. Here’s what he had to say.
“Democracy is messy, … We’re going to hear a number of examples of how messy and unfair democracy is over the next two weeks. The answer to reforming our system is not to shut people out or diminish the ability of our people or institutions to participate in the process.” – Chuck Hagel United States Senator from Nebraska
Speaker DeLeo and Chairman Dempsey have chosen speed and “logistics” over debate and openness. Because of that the Center for Public integrity has given them an F for transparency.
Speaker DeLeo seems to think F stands for FANTASTIC, sorry Bobby the F stands for FAILURE, as in this process is a failure.