You may remember, earlier this year, the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed a $4B supplemental budget in informal session. This was with no debate, and could have been stopped if one member of the house objected, as these are the rules during informal sessions. The Republican Leadership Office, led by Bradley Jones (R-Reading) did not object to this spending bill.
This was the impetus for the conservative faction of the the Republican Caucus to start attending informal sessions, to stop bad legislation and spending bills from being passed while virtually no-one was in the House Chamber. As part of that process the conservative members were given access to the “can”, the place where the days bills are kept, near the Rostrum.
That changed this week. Speaker DeLeo’s office gave notice to the Republican Leadership Office (RLO) that only one person from both parties would be allowed near the Rostrum during informal sessions.
Red Mass Group has obtained Bradley Jones’ email to members outlining the change.
Dear GOP Colleagues:
I am writing to let you know the Republican Leadership has been informed by the Speaker’s office that only members of the Republican Leadership or the member designated to cover session by the RLO will be permitted to go through the “can” during Informal sessions. As always, members who have an interest may go to the Clerk’s office prior to session to conduct any inquiries. Likewise, the Speaker’s office indicated session inquiries by Republican members should be directed to the RLO as Democrat members are directed to the Speaker’s office.
Attending Informal Sessions to listen and observe is a great way of learning about the process and what is going on. So too is routinely reading the Session notices distributed by State House News and reading the House/Senate Journal. Stopping by the RLO to talk with the Leadership or staff is also a good way of finding out what is going on.
The Republican Leadership and staff work very hard prior to and during session to be aware of what is on and not on the agenda. As always the RLO and staff will continue to be vigilant during each session – holding those items of particular concern and trying to advance those of particular interest.
I would reiterate that my door is always open and I am routinely in the office. Likewise, my cell phone number and email address, both State House and personal, are in everyone’s possession.
(Emphasis Red Mass Group’s)
Some members took offense at the second paragraph of that email, which implies that rank and file members should be effectively seen and not heard during informal sessions. This brings us to what happened yesterday.
Continued after the jump…
Colleen Quinn, of the State House News Service, has the story via the Lowell Sun.
Rep. James Lyons, R-Andover, and Rep. Marc Lombardo, R-Billerica, said DeLeo’s decision to enforce an existing policy is an attempt to “close down” information about bills coming up for votes. Lyons said it would disenfranchise members because it restricts their ability to view legislation about to be considered by lawmakers.
Lyons and Lombardo said not allowing all lawmakers to have a peek at bills increases the potential for spending bills and major policy changes to slip through during informal sessions that most lawmakers do not attend.
“This is one of the reasons for a generation backroom deals have been allowed to take place on Beacon Hill. It’s gotta stop,” said Lyons, whose district includes a portion of Tewksbury. “What’s the big deal? Five minutes. It takes five minutes to look at the can and make a determination whether there’s something in there that I’m interested in, or a rank-and-file member is interested in.”
“One of the priorities that I have is I don’t want to see any spending bills go through in informal session. That is a priority of mine,” Lyons said. “At the beginning of July or the end of June, a $4 billion, $4 billion supplemental budget was passed in an informal session. There is no excuse for the rank-and-file not to have access to that, and not to be involved in whether or not we should do that.”
Representatives Lyons and Jones, according to the News Service, where seen in a heated argument in the back of the chamber, where Jones reportedly jabbed his finger at Lyons. At one point, the News Service also reports Lyons asked Jonse to “stand with me” against this new policy of the Speaker.