Rules negotiators to hash out transparency decisions privately

Political News

BOSTON (SHNS) – Lawmakers charged with hashing out a set of House-Senate rules that set standards for the public’s access to committee votes and testimony will do so outside of public view.

The joint rules conference committee — Reps. Claire Cronin, Bill Galvin and Paul Frost and Sens. Joan Lovely, Joe Boncore and Ryan Fattman — convened over Zoom Monday afternoon, hearing a combined minute of remarks from chairs Lovely and Cronin before voting to close their talks.

A vote to negotiate privately is the first act of most conference committees. The Senate and House agreed last week to a portion of the rules establishing the joint committee structure. Lovely, who chairs the Senate Rules Committee, said that accord marked a “productive start” for the panel.

Cronin, the House majority leader, said she looked forward “to doing all that we can to reach an agreement and do it as promptly as possible.”

The House and Senate versions of the joint rules (H 14, S 68) differ on how joint committees should share written testimony, publish votes online and provide notice of their hearings. Under the Senate package, committees would need to post hearing information at least one week in advance, and any committee votes on bills taken by roll call or electronic vote would need to be posted on the Legislature’s website.

The House version keeps the notice period at its previous 72 hours and would make public only the names of committee members who vote against a bill. The House’s package does not include Senate-backed language that would require committees to share copies of written testimony upon request.

With the State House closed to the public for more than a year, committees have often collected email testimony on bills in lieu of a traditional or virtual hearing, but public access to that information is iffy.

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