Wednesday, July 15, 2009

How would you like to be this guy?

This unlucky Judiciary Committee staffer (photo by State House News) had the squirmingly uncomfortable task of waving a little paper sign in the face of Kim Odom, a mother testifying about the shooting death of her son in 2007 at a hearing on multiple bills before the committee.

Why could the committee not, out of respect for a grieving mother and the importance of the issue, afford Mrs. Odom the time necessary to complete her testimony?

Because when I say "multiple bills" were before the committee, what I mean is: two hundred and twenty-seven bills.

That's right. At yesterday's hearing, the Joint Committee on the Judiciary of the Massachusetts Legislature purported to take testimony on 227 separate pieces of public safety legislation. Unsurprisingly, this led to a confusing and frustrating day for mere citizens who took the time to go to the State House, intending to testify on one of those 227 bills. Again from the State House News:
Frustration was visible throughout usually spacious Gardner Auditorium, which was packed to capacity, with an overflow crowd into the hallway. A state trooper and two park rangers stood watch at the door. Advocates for various bills privately questioned why the committee would schedule so many contentious bills for one hearing, and some said they would have to leave without testifying because of the long waits.
Said the director of the Home for Little Wanderers, "It's crazy and they do this every year ... It really has no place in a modern legislature in an age of transparency."

Just so. But then of course in Massachusetts we have neither a modern legislature nor any real transparency.

Never fear, though. You can be sure that each and every member of the Committee will review each bill, read all of the written testimony submitted, and cast an informed vote that will be fully explained to his or her constituents.

Ha! Just kidding. What will really happen is this: most of the bills 'heard' yesterday will never emerge from committee. They won't get votes. They won't be so much as mentioned again this legislative session. Those that do emerge will do so because the committee chairs, in consultation with the Speaker and the Senate President, decide they should get a vote. The other members of the committee may or may not get a heads up. Their votes will not be solicited so much as demanded. Then what will happen is

1 comment:

  1. You're spot on, Dan. I arrived at the State House to testify re: HB 1728 at 10:15 am. I testified at 9:45 pm. This was despicable. The bill for which I was there is ridiculous at best but many of the bills up there are good bills that should be seriously considered.


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