Wait continues for House rules review report

Boston Statehouse

BOSTON (SHNS) – A committee report culminating a months-long review of House rules with an eye toward ensuring “efficiency and transparency” is expected before a midnight deadline on Thursday, according to a senior House official, though it remains unclear whether any changes will be recommended.

The House Rules Committee, chaired by Rep. William Galvin, faces a July 1 deadline to study the existing House standing and emergency rules “to ensure efficiency and transparency in the legislative process.” As legislators prepare for more normal operations after the COVID-19 pandemic, the report is also expected to take a look at how advocacy groups and coalitions that do not have to register as lobbyists interact with legislators as they push for passage of policy reforms on Beacon Hill.

The emergency rules under which the House has been operating throughout the pandemic are set to expire on July 15. Those rules govern how the branch operates and votes, including allowances for remote voting that became necessary during the pandemic for social distancing. House Speaker Ron Mariano postponed debate over House rules in January, instead simply extending the existing pandemic rules under which the House had been operating, which allow for remote voting and other accommodations.

The decision to delay consideration of new rules for the session also came amidst a pressure campaign from outside groups to improve transparency in the House by taking steps to ensure that lawmakers and the public have ample time to review legislation before a vote, and to make committee votes public, and to reimpose term limits on the speakership after a 10-year limit was established and then rescinded by former Speaker Robert DeLeo.

House leaders have not publicly scheduled a rules debate, which typically takes place at the start of a new two-year session. A separate conference committee is simultaneously still negotiating a package of joint rules governing the interplay between the House and Senate. The two branches to start the session adopted an abbreviated set of rules to set up their committees and begin the work of the Legislature.

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