Senate doesn’t go along with caucus fundraising

DeLeo says House intent has been 'misconstrued'

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

HOUSE AND SENATE lawmakers have agreed to a midyear spending bill that includes funding for home heating assistance, rape kit testing, and collective bargaining costs, but excludes a repeal of the welfare cap on kids that will be taken up in separate legislation Thursday and  a House measure allowing caucuses to take contributions.

After the House on Monday approved an amended version of the supplemental budget, Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate Ways and Means Chairman Michael Rodrigues each said the branches had reached agreement on the bill.

The version the House advanced Monday (H 3633) left out one issue where the House and Senate were not on the same page — an account that would hold money donated to legislative caucuses.

The rules package the House adopted at the start of this session in January included a new section requiring any caucus “organized around a common legislative agenda that uses House resources” to register with the House Rules Committee as a “Legislative Member Organization.” The rules also allow caucuses to “accept contributions or gifts exclusively for public purposes” as long as the funds are held in a dedicated account and the accounting is managed by the House business office.

In keeping with that new rule, the House’s original version of the supplemental budget, passed on Feb. 27, created a Legislative Member Organization Trust Fund.

Under the House bill, caucuses could “accept and solicit funds from public or private sources, including but not limited to, gifts, donations, grants, or bequests or any federal funds for inclusion in the fund,” and the money could be used only by the caucus that received it.

Though some caucuses are open to members of both branches, and even both parties, the Senate did not include the trust fund in their budget. The Senate rules do not include the caucus fundraising language.

“Right now, caucuses are joint. We did not agree to it,” Senate President Karen Spilka told reporters Monday afternoon. “We will have some more discussion, I assume.”

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Katie Lannan

State House News Service
House Speaker Robert DeLeo said he thinks the House approach on the caucus funding has been misconstrued. House Ways and Means Chairman Aaron Michlewitz said the issue was “something we’ll reevaluate going forward, but not at this moment.”

Michlewitz said allowing fundraising would help caucuses address their “individual needs” and that House officials were “still trying to clarify” with legal counsel whether caucuses would be able to accept contributions without the fund being established. Some government watchdog groups have expressed concern that contributions to legislative caucuses would not be subject to campaign finance disclosure rules.