Split-in-two committee to hold dueling hearings this week
Amid standoff, House, Senate ce members to hold separate hearings
THOSE INTERESTED in testifying on bills dealing with offshore wind and energy storage may have to do double-duty this week.
The feuding House and Senate chairs of the Legislature’s Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy Committee are splitting the panel in half, with the House members taking testimony on bills dealing with offshore wind and energy storage on Thursday and Senate members holding their own “parallel hearing” on the same bills on Friday.
The two feuders – Rep. Jeffrey Roy of Franklin and Sen. Michael Barrett of Lexington – both say they are acting on principle in a fight about the rules that govern their legislative committee.
Roy said his concerns trace to the end of the legislative session last year, when Barrett used the powers provided under the rules to control which bills were released from committee. He said action on major energy legislation was delayed and hundreds of other bills were blocked, which means they ended up with the label “ought not to pass.”
In a lengthy statement on Monday, Barrett said the dual hearings planned for this week could become a fixture of the committee.
“It could be that such a parallel process will become formalized and continue for the duration of the two-year session,” Barrett said. “If so, there will be considerable costs in terms of time, money, and inconvenience. Still, if we have to, we will make the transition and preserve parity in policymaking — the best way, I think, to protect the public interest.”
Stanley Rosenberg, who was Senate president in 2015 when a similar dispute erupted between the two branches, said he doesn’t know the details of the current situation but can speak to the pros and cons of joint committees.
Rosenberg said only a handful of states use joint committees – the rest follow the approach used by Congress and have separate House and Senate committees.“The reason to have joint committees is it’s more efficient,” Rosenberg said, noting the joint committees reduce the number of hearings and the amount of paperwork needed.
“They work well when they work well,” he said. “They don’t work well when you have paralysis. When that happens, you have to ask yourself: ‘Why are you doing this differently than everyone else?”