No rules? No problem on Beacon Hill

Debate over climate change bill will precede rules vote

THE VERY IMPORTANT rules debate is soon to be upon us, where lawmakers set forth the framework under which the entirety of the two-year legislative session will take place. Just like in sports, teams must establish rules before they can take to the field and compete. Under the leadership of Senate President Karen Spilka and House Speaker Ron Mariano, they’ve found a way to play the game before setting the rules.

Similar to the famous pay-raise vote of 2017, in which lawmakers gave themselves a 40 percent pay raise before the rules debate, Spilka and Mariano are rushing through a controversial climate bill that was recently vetoed by the governor – before they set rules for the current session.

Legislative leaders want power, not transparency. Today’s result is built on last year’s failure. Last year, they extended the session past the July 31 deadline, only to wait until the absolute last minute of an already extended session to pass their loaded climate bill and other major pieces of legislation. The bill was released late on a Sunday and passed the next day, just one day before the end of the two-year session. It was rightly met with the governor’s veto.

It doesn’t take much political courage to look the other way when your ideological policies are passed through opaque tricks. If Spilka and Mariano’s power move is successful, it will undoubtedly be met with praise by some of the state’s most liberal media opinion pages and left-wing lawmakers. To them, the ends always justify the means.

Political courage will be tested in this year’s rules debate, and MassFiscal will be watching closely. In January 2019, there were 13 votes in the House and five in the Senate that supported good government, pro-transparency policies during the rules debate. In the Senate, at least one of the Democrats joined the Republicans in supporting four of the five good government votes. In the House, Democrats seemed to cherry pick which ones they supported.

For all the talk of good government pledges from left-wing advocacy organizations and an initial optimism for new faces in the Legislature, in the end it was the legislative Republicans who demonstrated what courage looked like, and have been doing so for many years of rules debates.

Democratic good government House and Senate lawmakers dropped off so much that, by the end of the debate, not a single Democrat joined the Republicans in voting for an amendment that would prohibit tax increases to be passed during an informal session. For context, just days before Christmas, the state’s AirBnB tax was passed through an informal session, preventing any debate and without a recorded roll call vote.

Meet the Author

Paul D. Craney

Board Member & Spokesman, Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance
Editorial pages and misinformed pundits that applaud Spilka and Mariano’s heavy hand in passing the controversial climate change bill before the rules debate are part of the problem. Lack of accountability from left-wing advocacy organizations and the urge to put partisan politics over bi-partisan cooperation is another. If history will repeat itself, during the rules debate, legislative Republicans will stand for good government roll call votes until the political courage of some Democratic legislators runs out.

Paul Diego Craney is the spokesperson for Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance.