Massachusetts Senate Releases Rules Proposal

contribute's picture

The Massachusetts State Senate released a comprehensive rules package today that includes updates to Senate policies related to harassment, transparency and diversity.

“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.”

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. Roderigues (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 Committee on Rules for their collaboration and dedication to ensuring the transparency and integrity of the work of our Senate body,” said Senator Sal DiDomenico. “I am confident that the policy procedures recommended by our committee will lay the foundation for thoughtful debate in our chamber and productive legislative session.”

“The rules provide procedural infrastructure for every issue the legislature deals with, and they must promote efficiency, ensure fairness, and permit each member with the opportunity to fully engage the legislative process on behalf of the people they represent,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr.

In May 2018, the Senate Special committee to review the sexual harassment policies and procedures, chaired by Senator Joan B. Lovely, 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 tightening up existing protocol by creating a new 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.

In an effort to further increase the transparency of the Senate in the digital age, the rules proposal adopts language codifying the current practice that copies of Senate session broadcasts be made available to members and public upon request in a timely manner. The rules also include provisions to ensure timely notification of Senate hearings and Senate committee action.

Finally, the Senate rules proposal 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.

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

Amendments to the Senate rules proposal will be due on Monday, January 28, 2019. The Senate plans a full debate on Thursday, January 31, 2019.