House GOP Comes Together For Informal Session Transparency

After five Republican legislators closed down consecutive Massachusetts House informal sessions over the Speaker of the House restricting access to bills on the house floor, the majority of the GOP Caucus came together to press for transparency and end the impasse.  The five legislators: Jim Lyons (R-Andover), Marc Lombardo (R-Billerica), Dan Winslow (R-Norfolk), Shaunna O’Connell (R-Taunton), and Geoff Diehl (R-Whitman) had pledged to shut down every informal session until progress was made.

As RMG user Wavey has told us, Rule 12 of the House used to require a calendar be printed for every informal session, stating which bills were to be taken up.  Over time that rule was amended and calendars were dispensed with.  This leads to rank and file members not having an official tally of what is to take place in an informal available in an easy to find place.  Winslow offered a resolution to change that, and both require a calendar and require it be posted on line.  The vast majority of the GOP caucus joined Winslow and the rest of the Five in proposing the resolution which can be seen below.

Mr. Winslow of Norfolk moves that the Rules of the House of Representatives be amended, in House Rule 12, in line 154, by striking the words “formal session” and inserting in place thereof the word “sessions”;

in lines 169 and 170, by striking the sentence “The Clerk shall dispense with preparing and making available a Calendar for designated Informal Sessions of the House.”;

in lines 171 through 174, inclusive, by striking the sentence “As soon as practicable whenever the Clerk prepares a Calendar or advance Calendar under this rule, he also shall cause a true copy thereof to be posted on the Legislative Web Page that is generally available to all members and their staff, and reasonably promptly thereafter he shall cause the members and their staff to be notified of the same by way of electronic mail.”, and inserting in place thereof, the following :- “Whenever the Clerk prepares a Calendar or advance Calendar under this rule, he also shall cause a true copy thereof, including hyperlinks to all items contained therein, to be posted on the Legislative Web Page that is generally available to all members and their staff, and reasonably promptly thereafter he shall cause the members and their staff to be notified of the same by way of electronic mail, but by no later than a half an hour preceding the start of an informal or formal session of the House.”; and by adding at the end of said rule the following paragraph:

“Not less than 15 minutes prior to the convening of each session, the Clerk shall also make available by electronic mail transmission to all members of the House and legislative staff a list of all miscellaneous papers including, but not limited to, reports of committees, engrossed bills, messages from the Governor and papers from the Senate.

Brad Jones joined in co-sponsoring this legislation to bring transparency back to the House.  While the tactics of the Five may not have been palatable to all in the GOP Caucus, the end result was a unified front for transparency.  This would not have happened without the tactics employed.

The Speaker accepted the resolution and it will be voted on. When that happened the Five allowed the informal session to go forward.

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