$32 BILLION BUDGET NOT IN PRINT FOR 24 HOURS
Sandwich, MA—Today Tom Keyes, Republican candidate for State Senate in the Plymouth & Barnstable District, questioned the transparency in the budget process. It was announced late yesterday that the conference committee had negotiated a deal between the House and Senate on the budget, but no bill is in print for the public to review.
“After weeks of closed door negotiations the budget is being voted upon today. The problem is that only 6 legislators know what is in the budget. The bill that spends $32 billion has not been in print for 24 hours. No legislator has had the time to fully review it and certainly the public has had no opportunity to review or comment. Where’s the transparency in that?” asked Keyes.
After the Senate budget debate, wherein they bundled 200 amendments into one, Senate President Therese Murray told State House News Service - “Everything is transparent.”
“The budget is negotiated behind closed doors by 6 legislators and 200 amendments are bundled into one. That’s not transparency,” said Keyes. “This is one of the differences between me and the incumbent. I believe the people have a right to know what is being passed at the State House. She doesn’t believe you have a right to know. It is the people’s Senate not Murray’s.”
Keyes further suggested that the budget should not be left to the last minute each year. “You would think by now they would be able to get the budget completed earlier so there was time to have the document reviewed. This management process is a constant problem. Last year the budget was also passed without it being in print for 24 hours. The Senate doesn’t seem to learn from its mistakes of the past. That’s why we need new Senators,” said Keyes. “Clearly my expertise as an efficiency advisor is needed in the Senate.”
Ultimately Keyes believes that last minute passage of the budget is purposeful. It is a way of keeping the public out of the process.
“Senator Murray doesn’t want to hear the complaints from the public on lackluster EBT reforms, so the budget is passed at the last minute to avoid public review,” added Keyes.
Last month Keyes proposed a Good Government Plan which includes:
End the legislative exemption from the public records law.
Prohibit the passage of controversial items at informal sessions. Once a Senator or Representative has submitted a written objection to the respective leaders of their chamber, then that item cannot be taken up during an informal session. In previous years, Senator Murray tried to push through the controversial wind energy bill during informal session.
Require the State Auditor to conduct a comprehensive audit of the legislature yearly.
Stop the bundling of amendments. This will create more transparency within the legislative process and within our state budgets.
End the legislative exemption for the Open Meeting Law.
End the legislative exemption from the Fair Procurement Law.
Require bills to be in print and online for 72 hours before voting on them. Last year the final version of the state budget was passed at the last minute. After it emerged from the Conference Committee, the bill was not in print for 72 hours.
Subject the judiciary branch to the public records law for administrative records only.
Require the Ethics Committee to be bi-partisan. Right now the membership of the Ethics Committee is bi-partisan but is dominated by the majority party. Keyes wants equal membership for the two parties. This will ensure accountability of legislators rather partisan perfunctory investigations. As it stands now the committee is just a rubber stamp for the majority party.
Prohibit legislative members from serving in a leadership if he or she has been indicted. After Senator Jim Marzilli was accused of sexual assault, he was allowed to collect his extra pay as Chairman for months.
Require that committee votes are recorded and published online.
Prohibit felons from collecting pensions while incarcerated.
Reform the public records law so the Governor’s administration and state agencies have to comply not avoid it. The Pioneer Institute has long complained about the lack of compliance with the public records law. “Simple requests can take a year or more to fulfill, search and reproduction fees climb into the thousands of dollars and government offices claim dubious exemption all leaving the public in the dark and denying their basic right to know.”