New Senate rules to boost transparency, openness

Press Release

The State Senate has adopted new internal rules governing the body to increase access to information and allow for more open debate.

The rule changes reflect the priorities that newly elected Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst, promised in his inaugural address to the Senate last month.

“This opens up a new era,” said State Senator Mike Barrett, D-Lexington, who observed that the changes make for a Senate dramatically more democratic than the body in which he served in the ‘80s and ‘90s.  “If we do this right, President Rosenberg’s leadership means more access for the public and more productive debate on the Senate floor.”

The guidelines increase how far in advance agendas for formal sessions must be published before the Senate goes into session, doubling the time from 24 to 48 hours. In addition, the Clerk is instructed to publish on the web late-filed bills not yet admitted and numbered. The rules also require prompt posting of bill text voted on by the Senate, among other changes.

“The task and the request was transparency, accountability, and shared leadership and I think these rules that we have come up with all contribute to those three agenda items and I’m really pleased,” Rosenberg said. “With the adoption of the new rules the Senate can hit the ground running and get to work helping the people of the Commonwealth.

“As Chair of the Rules Committee, I had the privilege of working with my colleagues from both parties to propose a set of rules that will usher the Senate into a new era of transparency, empowerment, and shared leadership,” said State Senator Harriette L. Chandler, D-Worcester. “I believe the Committee’s work is a step towards the vision Senate President Rosenberg had in mind for the Senate and that today’s debate reflected a full and fair consideration of all proposals.”

“Working together, we’ve been able to build a set of rules that advance the goals of transparency and accountability, and set the stage for productive debate that respects members of all parties and all perspectives,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester. “While some opportunities offered by the Republican Caucus were missed, others were captured and made the rules adopted today stronger.”

The new rules will govern the body for the two-year session that began last month. This is the earliest the rules have been adopted by the Senate since 1995.

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