Following the historic tenure and departure of Speaker Robert DeLeo, D-Winthrop, a new era begins on Beacon Hill. With the election of Rep. Ron Mariano, D-Quincy, as Speaker, the Massachusetts House of Representatives has a true opportunity to commit itself to transparency and good government.
Every two years, at the start of the session, the House is tasked with approving a rules package – essentially setting the methodology for how the House will operate. The rules packages that Speaker DeLeo put forward were filled with blatant efforts to maintain a level of secrecy from the general public.
Speaker DeLeo’s support for these rule packages mitigated measures to increase transparency and therefore sowed public distrust toward the Massachusetts General Court.
While elected officials here in Bedford are required to know the in’s and out’s of Open Meeting Law, Speaker DeLeo made sure the Legislature was exempt from these levels of standards.
When voting on important legislation, DeLeo’s rule package ensured legislators did not have sufficient time to read, analyze, and consult constituent feedback on bills brought to the floor. This was after DeLeo opposed a measure that would allow legislators to read bills for at least 72 hours.
Similarly, the House, led by Speaker DeLeo, rejected a measure that would allow for amendments to be mulled over for 30 minutes. But above all else, the most bizarre was a vote to the rules packages, which ensured that testimony brought to any committee and its subsequent vote did not get published – barring constituents from even observing their legislator at work.
Moving forward, we need a speaker who promotes openness, not opposes it. We expect this from our local and federal representatives; why not our state elected officials?
Thankfully in an interview with The Boston Herald, Speaker Mariano promised to do precisely that. But we must, as citizens, hold him accountable to this pledge. After all, in the past, Mariano has voted for DeLeo’s rules that reject transparency.
I urge State Representative Ken Gordon, D-Bedford, to vote for a rules package that commits itself to transparency. Following a lackluster 2020, the Massachusetts House of Representatives can ensure that 2021 is a year of significant change and a fresh start. Massachusetts ranks among the top three states in the nation for lack of transparency, this is the time to improve – consider it a New Year’s resolution. It is my hope that Representative Gordon, Speaker Mariano, and a bipartisan group of legislators, can support common-sense transparency measures when the House votes on a rules package this week.
Editor’s Note: Ryan Doucette often writes for Student Voices @ The Bedford Citizen, and reports on the School Committee