Source: Act on Mass
Following a contentious debate, the Massachusetts House, on February 24, voted down an amendment to the joint rules (H.68) that would have ensured that committee votes and testimony be made public. This amendment (#8) would have mirrored the proposed Senate rules, with the clarification that study orders would also be made public.
Despite enormous constituent support, the amendment failed, with only 36 representatives voting in favor. Amherst Representative Mindy Domb voted against the amendment.
For Act on Mass’s “Transparency is Power” campaign , the vote came as a disappointment. “It’s shocking that many of the arguments against the amendment blamed constituents for our lack of understanding of how the State House functions, when that’s precisely what we are asking for: to stop being shut out of the legislative process. This vote was a blatant signal that representatives care more about power than [about] their constituents,” said Ryan Daulton, a manager for the campaign.
The vote puts the deep disconnect between voters and their representatives on full display. Over the past few months, volunteer members of Act on Mass have organized themselves in 100 districts alongside dozens of advocacy organizations to meet with their representatives. The consensus is clear that the amendment (#8) barely scratched the surface of the popular demand for State House reform.
“This afternoon, constituents watched as the representatives that we elected to represent us voted against a simple transparency measure that would allow the public to see how our representatives vote in committees,” said Brenna Ransden, a volunteer and constituent in the 12th Worcester district. “In the recent election cycle, State House reform dominated the platforms of primary challengers. This issue is not going away.”
Over 1,500 calls, tweets, and emails were made to representatives in the 48 hours before the representatives voted. While the amendment did not pass, new rules that the House has already agreed to are a small step forward. That would not have happened without the massive outpouring of support from people all across the Commonwealth, said Daulton right after the failed vote, “We look forward to the movement continuing to grow in the lead-up to the House taking up rules again in July. We look forward to having collegial and productive discussions with the representatives who were not yet ready today to persuade them to vote yes in the future.”
Act on Mass is a leading organization advocating for transparency and accountability in the Massachusetts State House.