By Bob Katzen
State Auditor Diana DiZoglio announced she has launched an audit of the Massachusetts Legislature—something she promised in her campaign last year.
“As I committed, my office has begun an audit of the state Legislature,” said DiZoglio. “We hope this will increase transparency, accountability and equity in an area of state government that has been completely ignored. Historically, the Legislature has been a closed-door operation, where committee votes have been hidden from the general public and legislation has been voted on in the dark of night.”
“Taxpayers deserve more—they deserve the opportunity to weigh in on legislative, budgetary and regulatory matters that are important to them,” continued DiZoglio. “Everyone should have equitable and transparent access to and information about all state-funded agencies, including the Legislature. Unfortunately, the Legislature has not been audited [by the state auditor] since 1922, while Massachusetts ranks as one of the least transparent and least accessible state governments in the nation. It is my hope that the Legislature welcomes the opportunity for an audit to uncover where we can, and must, do better as a state government. Our office looks forward to working with them.”
“Under the Massachusetts Constitution, and as the separation of powers clause dictates, the Senate is required to manage its own business and set its own rules,” said a spokesperson for Senate President Karen Spilka. “Those rules require that the Senate undergoes an audit every fiscal year by a certified public accounting firm experienced in auditing governmental entities and provides that audit to the public. Further, Senate business is made public through journals, calendars and recordings of each session, while payroll and other financial information is publicly available on the comptroller’s website. If anyone wishes to view this information, it is available to the public.”
“Massachusetts is the only state in the country in which all three branches of our state government—the executive, the judiciary and the Legislature—exempt themselves from public records laws,” said Paul Craney, a spokesman for the Mass Fiscal Alliance. “By most accounts we have possibly the least transparent state government in the country and it’s a commonly held belief that the Legislature is where transparency and good governance principles go to die. If Auditor DiZoglio is actually able to make good on her promise to audit the Legislature, it will be a welcome check on the power of the most opaque state government in the country and a victory for the people of the commonwealth.”
Despite repeated requests from Beacon Hill Roll Call, the following Democratic and Republican legislative leaders did not respond to a question asking them whether they support an audit of the Legislature by DiZoglio: House Speaker Ron Mariano
(D-Quincy), House GOP Minority Leader Brad Jones (R-North Reading) and GOP Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester).