Last Thursday, May 14, the State Senate passed its own version of "ethics reform" - unfortunately moving backwards in key respects. On the whole, the Senate bill is worse than the House bill, which is worse than the Governor's proposal in January. The next step is that three members of the House and three members of the Senate will negotiate legislation that they believe will pass both houses. We urge you to write members of the conference committee - names and contact info below - to take the best parts of all three proposals and give us real reform!
The Senate bill has been publicly criticized for significantly weakening ethics enforcement. The Senate bill would remove enforcement proceedings from the Ethics Commission and put them in the Division of Administrative Law Appeals. Administrative law judges have no expertise in ethics law and have not been able to work through their existing huge case backlog. The Senate's rational for this "reform" is that the Ethics Commission has been criticized by some as "overzealous in its enforcement.
The Senate bill also lacks needed provisions on gifts to legislators and giving investigators the right, with judicial approval, to record conversations. These provisions were in the Governor's initial proposal but were dropped and/or weakened in the House and Senate versions. Although the House and Senate bills ad tougher campaign finance requirements (e.g., prohibiting campaign contributions by lobbyists), this down not make up for the flaws in each.
Call or email the legislators listed below and give them a simple message: Combine the best parts of the three proposals or risk flunking the reform test. (1) Restore the Ethics Commission's authority (House provisions do that), ( 2) adopt the Senate and House changes in campaign finance requirements, and (3) adopt the Governor's proposals on the gratuities law and on recording conversations.
Conference Committee Members:
Sen. Frederick Berry (D-Peabody), Chairman, Senate Ethics & Rules Committee, State House, Room 333, Boston, MA 02133; Frederick.Berry@state.ma.us - 617- 722-1410
Sen. Brian Joyce (D-Milton), State House, Room 413-A, Boston, MA 02133, Brian.A.Joyce@state.ma.us , 617- 722-1643
Sen. Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), State House, Room 313-A, Boston, MA 02133, Bruce.Tarr@state.ma.us, 617-722-1600.
Rep. Peter Kocot (D-Northampton), Chairman, House Ethics Committee, State House, Room 473F, Boston, MA 02133; Rep.PeterKocot@hou.state.ma.us - 617- 722-2210
Rep. James Vallee (D-Franklin), House Majority Leader, State House, Room 238, Boston, MA 02133, Rep.JamesVallee@Hou.State.MA.US, , 617-722-2380
Rep. Jeffrey Perry (R-Sandwich), State House, Room 136, Boston, MA 02133, Rep.JeffreyPerry@Hou.State.MA.US, 617-722-2396