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Term Limits, Transparency on Table in House

January 31, 2019

By Katie Lannan

State House News Service

BOSTON -- More time for lawmakers and the public to review bills and term limits for legislative leadership are among the rules changes state representatives are seeking for 2019-2020 session, days after the 10th anniversary of House Speaker Robert DeLeo’s election to the chamber’s top post.

Rep. William Galvin, a Canton Democrat who has helmed the House Rules Committee for the past two sessions, on Monday filed orders proposing new House rules and joint legislative rules.

The rules packages are set to be debated in the House on Wednesday, and by 9 a.m. representatives had filed more than two dozen amendments to the House rules and 11 to the joint rules, which govern interaction between the House and Senate.

Among the proposed changes to House rules is an amendment from Rep. Jonathan Hecht requiring any bills be made available to representatives and the public 72 hours before they are considered during a session. The House often takes up bills with less notice.

Hecht, a Watertown Democrat, is also seeking to require House committees to make redrafted bills available to all committee members at least 24 hours before a vote.

An amendment from Minority Leader Brad Jones would require committees to post their votes on legislation on the Legislature’s website.

Norfolk Republican Rep. Shawn Dooley offered an amendment that would put a 10-year cap on how long any representative can serve as speaker, speaker pro tempore, majority or minority leader, in any assistant leader post, committee chair, or as vice chair or ranking minority member on certain committees.

DeLeo, who last August became the House’s longest continually serving speaker after representatives did away with term limits in 2015, hit the 10-year mark on Monday. Jones, of North Reading, has led the minority GOP caucus since 2003.

Freshman Rep. Patrick Kearney of Scituate filed two amendments that would require consent from all cosponsors of an amendment before that amendment could be withdrawn, and another that could revive what was a heated debate last session over the practice of using non-disclosure agreements.

Kearney’s NDA amendment would ban the House from including “non-disclosure, non-disparagement or other similar clause in an agreement or contract between the House and a member, officer or employee.”

In March 2018, then-Rep. Diana DiZoglio argued unsuccessfully for a similar ban as the House overhauled its policies around preventing, reporting and investigating harassment, breaking an NDA she said she had signed when she was fired from a past job as a House aide after discredited rumors of inappropriate behavior.

DiZoglio, now a senator, has filed her own NDA ban amendment to the Senate rules that are slated for debate on Thursday.

Rep. Brad Hill, an Ipswich Republican, has filed two amendments that would allow House lawmakers to vote remotely when absent from the chamber because of other official duties. One would task the Office of Legislative Information Services with developing a remote voting system, and the other calls for “a system of remote voting from committee rooms using a mathematical representation of a fingerprint’s characteristics, rather than a photographic image.”

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