Friday, February 16, 2007

Legislature Rejects Putting Committee Votes Online

While the news media is inexplicably obsessed with how Governor Patrick gets from point A to point B, the Massachusetts House just overwhelmingly rejected a simple measure that would increase their accountability to the public. From the Somerville Journal:

POST COMMITTEE ROLL CALLS ON WEBSITE (H 3746) House 20-127, rejected a new rule requiring that committee votes cast by legislators on bills heard by their committees be posted on the Legislature's website. Current rules require committee votes to be kept in the offices of the committee and be available for public inspection upon reasonable notice and during regular office hours. Supporters of the new rule said this would simply give people quick and easy access to the committee votes of their legislators. They noted that under current rules, a person has to drive to Boston during regular business hours in order to obtain this information. Opponents of the new rule said that the current system has worked well for years and should not be changed. (A "Yes" vote is for the new rule requiring that committee votes be posted on the Legislature's website. A "No" vote is against the requirement).
What possible reason could there be for legislators to be opposed to this other than a fear of added scrutiny? Is there something that I'm missing here? What has the current system worked well for other than for keeping the average person away from these roll call votes?

I'm not surprised that this measure failed. It's well known that the Massachusetts legislature is no fan of sunshine. Still, I would have thought it would do better than to fail by a six-to-one margin. This is public information, and the the state should be making it easy for the public to access.