Senate Passes Comprehensive Rules Proposals

COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS
MASSACHUSETTS SENATE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON 02133

Senator Joan B. Lovely
State Senator
2nd Essex District

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

February 1, 2019

SENATE PASSES COMPREHENSIVE RULES PROPOSALS

BOSTON — The Massachusetts State Senate today passed two comprehensive reports updating the Senate and Joint Rules related to harassment, diversity, and transparency.

“We create the culture of the Senate by how we work together and the respect we show each other,” stated Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “The adoption of these rules will help guide us as we continue to build a Senate that celebrates diversity, seeks to prevent harassment and discrimination, and encourages transparency. I applaud the work of the temporary Senate Committee on Rules for their thoroughness and thoughtfulness, and thank everyone who contributed to this process.”

The temporary Senate Committee on Rules was chaired by Assistant Majority Leader Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett) and included Majority Leader Cynthia Stone Creem (D-Newton), Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Senator Becca Rausch (D-Needham), Senator William N. Brownsberger (D-Belmont), Minority Leader Bruce E. Tarr (R-Gloucester) and Senator Ryan C. Fattman (R-Webster).

“I would like to thank Senate President Spilka and my colleagues who served with me on the temporary Senate Committee on Rules for their collaboration and dedication to ensuring a safe environment, transparency, and integrity in our body,” said Senator DiDomenico. “These rules are the result of a truly collaborative process, and I am grateful to every member who reached out over the past few weeks to share their thoughts on our rules and suggestions on how we can improve the ways we conduct our business. I am confident that the policy procedures adopted today will lay the foundation for thoughtful debate in our chamber and a productive legislative session.”

In May 2018, the Senate Special committee to review the sexual harassment policies and procedures, chaired by Senator Joan B. Lovely (D-Salem), submitted its report with a series of recommendations for updates to the Senate’s policies and procedures. Key highlights to the Senate rules proposal include enhancing existing protocol by creating a rule that explicitly prohibits harassment, requiring timely training of all members and staff, and including interns in Senate policies. The proposal also requires all rule violations, including harassment, to be referred to the Committee on Ethics.

“Having chaired the Special Senate Committee to Review the Sexual Harassment Policies and Procedures last session, I am pleased that the Senate has acted early and unanimously in the new session to send a strong anti-harassment message,” said Senator Joan Lovely.  “The working environment of the Massachusetts Senate must be and will be welcoming and supportive for employees and visitors alike.”

The Senate also adopted an amendment filed by Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) prohibiting the Senate from utilizing nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) or similar clauses in an agreement or contract, and enforcing previously entered into NDAs.

“I want to thank Senate President Spilka and Chair DiDomenico for working with members to send a clear, unmistakable message, that we are committed to protecting the rights of those working in this building and will take no part in protecting politicians or their employees who engage in predatory behaviors or be a party to the silencing of victims of harassment, discrimination or assault,” said Senator DiZoglio.

The Senate rules proposal also includes the creation of the position of an Officer of Diversity and Inclusion, who will be part of the Senate’s human resources department and who will focus on the recruitment and retention of a diverse workforce.

Building on the work of the 2018 Special Legislative Commission on Public Records, chaired by Senator Walter Timilty (D-Milton), the Senate adopted amendments to both the Senate and the Joint rules to improve efficiency, transparency and access to records.

“Over the course of the last session, I had the opportunity to conduct hearings and gather input from advocates, seeking transparent government, from across the Commonwealth,” said Senator Timilty.  “I am thrilled to see that these requests to increase transparency and accessibility in the Great and General Court are reflected in these policy procedures.”

The Senate rules proposal codifies the current practice of providing copies of Senate session broadcasts upon request to members and the public in a timely manner. It also includes provisions to ensure timely notification of Senate hearings and Senate committee action.

The Joint Rules package:

  • Requires both Senate and House chairs to agree to the schedule of committee hearings and executive sessions to avoid confliction with other committees or sessions
  • Directs the clerk of the House and Senate to establish temporary rules for joint committees unable to come to agreement on rules
  • Requires joint committees to provide text or summaries of legislation to members prior to consideration at executive session
  • Requires all recorded votes of joint committees to be posted on the General Court website
  • Increases the notification requirement for joint committee hearings and executive sessions from 48 to 72 hours
  • Increases the notice requirement of special commissions and task forces from 48 to 72 hours

The final Senate rules package is the latest in a series of initiatives to create a positive work culture for Senate members, staff, interns, and visitors. The Senate is undertaking a sexual harassment climate survey, conducted by an outside organization in accordance with the recommendations of the Senate Special committee to review sexual harassment policies and procedures. It is also currently working to implement pay equity as required by the law passed in 2018.

The Senate Rules adopted today will now go into effect. The Joint Rules passed by the Senate will now be reconciled with a proposal by the House of Representatives.

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