QUESTIONS FOR 8TH ESSEX CANDIDATES: No. 10 — Improving transparency on Beacon Hill

Previous questions:

Q1. Tell us about yourself.

Q2. What life event most profoundly affected your political views, and how did it shape them?

Q3. What are your three top priorities for the 8th Essex District?

Q4. During the Marblehead League of Women Voters’ 8th Essex District forum, candidates agreed nearly on all the issues. How would you distinguish yourself from the others? 

Q5. 2022 has been a horrific year for gun violence. While Massachusetts has the strongest gun-control legislation in the country, what, if any, actions can be taken to further address gun violence in Massachusetts?

Q6. Marblehead has more than 14 miles of coastline, making it especially vulnerable to climate change and rising sea levels. How will you work with town and state leaders on sustainability and climate change issues, as well as plans to mitigate impacts in Marblehead?

Q7. With respect to the Dobbs abortion decision, some are saying the court’s rationale also imperils other matters of personal privacy, including the right of same-sex couples to marry and the right to contraception. What should the Legislature be doing now to prepare for the possibility that these rights, too, could be abrogated?

Q8. Marblehead falls far short of the state mandate of having 10 percent of its housing be classified as affordable. Everyone seems to support the concept of creating more affordable housing in the abstract. But Marblehead has made scant use of one of the state’s primary tools to increase affordable housing stock, Chapter 40B. Projects under 40B were floated at the Lead Mills and the site of what is now the Mariner, but their development (or lack thereof) went in another direction. Were these missed opportunities? What, if anything, could the legislature do to make towns like Marblehead more welcoming to 40B projects? Is this even a desirable result?

Q9. It looks like now that the Legislature will approve a bill to legalize sports gambling, in some form, before you are sworn into office. What are your thoughts on how this debate has unfolded? Would you have supported the bill in its current form? Why or why not? 

Today’s question:

Q10. Massachusetts is consistently ranked among the worst states for government transparency, especially at the executive and legislative levels. It’s easy to support the concept of improving transparency in state government, yet even people with good intentions seem to get to Beacon Hill and find themselves unable to improve the situation in any meaningful way. What are your specific ideas to improve transparency that would both have a chance of gaining your colleagues’ support and also make a difference?

Polly Titcomb

Polly Titcomb

The failure to record the votes of individual legislators on the floor and in committee (with the exception of roll-calls) and inaccessibility of committee reports is a miscarriage of justice for constituents. As your state representative, all of my votes will be public, and I will work to pass a rule requiring all votes to be.

Further, Massachusetts is the only state in the country that does not have an established and funded legislative research service bureau to serve the legislature by providing comprehensive and objective research reports on issues relevant to the legislature conducted by neutral third-party professionals.

In Massachusetts, if legislators seek to research an issue they must find the resources within their own offices – through their staff members or limited office budget. This lack of investment in independent, professional reporting is a disservice to every resident of the Commonwealth. I will establish an independent research bureau at the State House to ensure that policy making is done with fact-based backing and appropriate research.

Finally, I will propose legislation requiring open meetings with public minutes. I would make it clear that such law applies to all legislators (including myself) and the speaker, as well as future legislators and speakers. Open meeting laws already apply to municipalities in Massachusetts, and state legislators must be held accountable to the same degree.

Relatedly, I will propose legislation that would create independence between committee appointments, the salaries and office funding of legislators, and the speaker.

Diann Slavit Baylis

Diann Slavit-Baylis

Transparency in government begins with campaign finance reform. With transparency in mind, I am reporting the occupation and employer of all donors, not just those that have given more than $200 as required. I have challenged my opponents to do the same, and only one other is actually doing this.

As a state representative, I would propose legislation removing the threshold of $200 so that all contributions need to be reported with occupation and employer included, and requiring that all contributions from registered lobbyists be clearly labeled as such. I have neither sought nor accepted lobbyist contributions in this campaign – my only loyalty will be to the people of this district.

Within the Legislature, much more needs to be done to promote transparency; we are way behind other states. As someone who has actually testified before legislative committees on more than one occasion through my advocacy work on gun violence, I would propose that all committee hearings and executive sessions be webcast and recorded, as that is where much of the work gets done. 

Hearing testimony that is submitted in writing should be posted online for public viewing.

Voters should have access to roll call votes in real time, not days later, for both committee and floor votes.

And I believe that important matters should be debated in the light of day, not in the middle of the night before a legislative deadline, so that interested voters can attend those sessions and observe what their elected officials are doing.

Doug Thompson

Doug Thompson

I support government transparency for the executive and legislative branches. Records in almost all cases should be made public like in most other states. Committee votes should be made public. Legislators and the public should have sufficient time to review the bill being voting on.

But the main thing we need to do to deliver real progress for the residents of Massachusetts is to clean up the special interest lobbying money in politics.

Jenny Armini

Jenny Armini

I share the frustration of voters with the political morass in Washington. But looking back at my time as a congressional aide, I’m struck by how much more transparent the U.S. Congress is as compared to our own state legislature. Committee votes are public. Speeches are printed in the Congressional Record. And staff and members of Congress have access to professional, nonpartisan analyses and information through the Congressional Budget Office and the Congressional Research Service. 

The same should go for Beacon Hill. I am going to push hard for an independent research bureau, so our lawmakers and staff don’t have to depend on lobbyists for information. And I am going to make public committee votes a priority in my discussions with House leadership and with my colleagues.

Regardless, my office will be a repository of information for the 8th Essex District. No piece of information will be off limits, and it will be easily found online. 

Another aspect of transparency is campaign contributions on an individual candidate level. I want it to be crystal clear that the only special interests worth having are those in Marblehead, Swampscott, and Lynn, so I am not accepting lobbyist contributions. 

The Great and General Court is an aircraft carrier — not a cyclone-class patrol ship. Turning it around is going to require time and effort, and I am in this job for the long haul. I am looking forward to “being in the room where it happens” to make our Legislature more responsive and open.

Tristan Smith

Tristan Smith

I believe that the voters deserve to know how their state representative is voting. I will put all of my votes on my website and make myself available to discuss my votes with constituents. 

Also, I will propose a change to the Joint Rules with regard to the work of the 33 Joint Committees. Joint Rule 10 requires that “all Joint Committees shall make a final report on all matters referred to them not later than the first Wednesday in February” of the second year of the two-year session. That leaves less than six months for the Legislature to complete action on hundreds of bills by July 31 of that year, which is when formal sessions end. This often prevents the public from having adequate time and opportunity to understand what matters are being debated and decided by the Legislature and prevents some issues from seeing debate at all. 

I will propose that Joint Rule 10 have an effective date of the first Wednesday in September of the first year of the two-year session. This would provide the Joint Committees eight months to complete work on the matters referred to them, which is adequate time to do so. It would then give the House and Senate 11 months to consider the recommendations of the Joint Committees. It would also provide the public more time to learn about, and comment on, matters before the Legislature. It would increase transparency on Beacon Hill, facilitate public involvement in legislative decision-making, and could eliminate the logjam at the end of the session. 

Terri Tauro

Terri Tauro

I have been battling transparency in local government for a decade in Marblehead, from questionable fund allocation to open meeting law violations and Massachusetts Department of Labor Relations charges.

I have also been endorsed by Incorruptible Mass. This organization believes that if they support a slate of candidates and form a coalition, those elected will have a better chance of not succumbing to the pressures of the dysfunction that plagues Massachusetts politics. They have agreed to help with research and legal advice that could be withheld from those who do not play the game in the House.

Most reps end up agreeing with legislation that will not benefit their constituents just to get other beneficial legislation out of committee. I plan to attack this situation like I always have, by being true to myself and the people I represent, working hard and earning the respect of my colleagues.

I have also signed the “voters’ right to know pledge” and will make all my votes public.


+ posts

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: