By Bob Katzen

The House 38-121 and 41-117, rejected two similar amendments that would require that committees make public how each legislator on the committee voted on whether or not to favorably report a bill to the House. This would replace a section that would only post the names of legislators who voted against the bill and list the aggregate vote tally without names, of members voting in the affirmative or not voting.

“The public has a right to know where their legislators stand on the issues being debated in committee, and it makes absolutely no sense to identify by name only those members who vote “no” at an executive session or on a poll,” said Rep. Brad Jones, sponsor of one of the amendments. “When we vote in the House chamber, our individual votes are displayed for all to see, and legislative committees should be held to the same standard by providing full disclosure of where each member stands on a given issue.”

“I believe every resident of Massachusetts has the right to hold their elected state representative accountable,” said Rep. Erika Uyterhoeven (D-Somerville), the sponsor of the other amendment. “Under current rules, there is no accountability on the votes we take in committee. This amendment ensures that every vote taken in committee is available to the public, including when bills are sent to [a] study [committee].”

Rep. Joe Wagner (D-Chicopee) opposed the listing of which representatives vote “yes” or did not vote. “The names of votes of those voting in the negative being there for everyone to see is sufficient in terms of transparency,” said Wagner. “I have always been concerned, and I’ve chaired committees for about 20 years, and I have been always concerned that when we take votes in committee, the votes that we take to advance legislation does not reflect necessarily, when an affirmative vote is taken, the support for the matter as it is before the committee.”

Wagner continued, “So, for example, there are points at which members will vote affirmatively to move a matter from a committee because they support the idea conceptually of a particular piece of policy or legislation … And so I think that where a vote in the negative is very clear, a vote in the affirmative is less clear. And there are interest groups and there are people frankly who may have agendas and would use a vote in the affirmative, if a member’s name were attached in that way, to try to discredit a member perhaps or potentially misconstrue a member’s position on a particular issue.”

(Both roll calls are listed. On both roll calls, A “Yes” vote is for the amendment. A “No” vote is against it.)

Rep. Christine Barber No/No Rep. Mike Connolly Yes/Yes Rep. Erika Uyterhoeven Yes/Yes

House 35-124, rejected an amendment that would give legislators two hours to vote electronically when casting a vote on a bill in committee.

“Members are often given very little time to respond to committee polls, even when the poll involves multiple bills and complicated issues,” said sponsor Rep. Brad Jones. “One of the more glaring examples … was a recent House Ways and Means poll that gave members just 16 minutes to review a 38-page supplemental budget and a separate election reprecincting proposal. That is simply not enough time to properly review and understand these bills.”

Opponents of the amendment said it goes too far. They argued the current system works fine and that always allowing two hours can delay getting some important and urgent bills to the House floor.

(A “Yes” vote is for giving two hours to vote. A “No” vote is against giving two hours.)

Rep. Christine Barber No Rep. Mike Connolly Yes Rep. Erika Uyterhoeven Yes

House 35-123, rejected an amendment that would give legislators 72 hours to read a conference committee report before voting on it. Current rules allow the conference committee report to be considered the next day.

“Conference committees often require weeks or even months of negotiations between the House and Senate to arrive at a compromise bill that can be presented to the membership for a vote,” said amendment sponsor Rep. Brad Jones. “The current process allows very little time between the release of the conference committee report and the vote to accept the report for members to review and understand what they’re actually voting on. Providing a 72-hour window would give both the public and legislators a better understanding of what’s included in the conference committee report before a vote is taken.”

“We are a deliberative body oftentimes debating issues for a half of the session,” said Rep. Daniel Hunt (D-Dorchester). “Over a year and a half we have come together and have great debate over the bills. Amendments are filed. The Senate takes the same action. We might look at what the Senate did and further amend our bill. We then go to conference, where three members of each side sit in lengthy debate on our behalf and when the bill comes back to us it’s an up or down vote. I do appreciate the leader’s point where at the end of last session, because of necessity, because of the global pandemic, because of the extended session and the hour of the day, oftentimes reports were out in a 24-hour period.”

(A “Yes” vote is for giving 72 hours. A “No” vote is against giving 72 hours.)

Rep. Christine Barber No Rep. Mike Connolly Yes Rep. Erika Uyterhoeven Yes

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