Publicizing House committee votes

Political News
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BOSTON (SHNS) – The fast-moving rules package, which Democrat leaders released on Tuesday afternoon ahead of Wednesday’s vote, implements some changes aimed at offering a closer, but not unobstructed, look into how lawmakers vote to move bills through the committee hierarchy.

House committees will publish the names of their lawmakers who vote against bills. They will also publish the number of votes in favor of a bill, number of votes to abstain, and number of representatives who did not vote, without specifying which committee members fall into those three categories.

Transparency advocates have long pushed for the House to reveal publicly how members of its committees vote, information that under existing policy can be difficult to acquire via requests submitted to lawmakers.

“It answers the issue of transparency that we’re being hammered about,” Mariano told reporters during session. “We’ve always identified the vote in some way. It’s either been on the website or it’s been in the bill summary somewhere at the end. I think this answers some of the questions that were raised by some of these advocates that think we’re not transparent.”

As originally drafted, the House rules package spelled out a process for publishing aggregate totals for all vote categories on committee polls, but made no mention of separating out one group and posting their names on the Legislature’s website.

“Our intent with the proposed rules was to be consistent with the recommendations we issued last Thursday, which is to publish an aggregate tally for committee votes (affirmative, not voting and reserving their rights), along with the individual names of members voting in the negative,” Rules Chairman William Galvin said in a statement Wednesday morning.

“You’re accurate in saying that the language was unclear, and so we did get a lot of questions on that,” Mariano told reporters. He said the House was “going to correct that,” and a technical amendment adopted later Wednesday spelled out the process to publish names of lawmakers who vote against bills in committee.

Some lawmakers pushed unsuccessfully to open up the process further, filing amendments that would have required House committees to post full votes listing how each member votes rather than naming opponents and lumping all others into three categories.

The House rejected a Minority Leader Brad Jones amendment pushing for fully public committee vote breakdowns 38-121 and rejected a similar amendment from first-term Democrat Rep. Erika Uyterhoeven of Somerville 41-117.

Rep. Dan Cahill said it would be “unfair” to ask committee staff, who record how members vote to determine a bill’s fate, to publish a full breakdown.

“To have them take on additional duties to get down to granular level of information, to provide that, would be unfair to our staff,” Cahill said.

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