Proposed House rules change a tad Orwellian

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Never let a crisis go to waste – that’s a rule to live by at the State House just like everywhere else, and so now the Legislature is about to enact – drum roll, please – “Temporary Emergency Rules for the Operation of the House of Representatives.”

The first draft making the rounds Tuesday on Beacon Hill included these provisions to even further reduce representative government at the state level:

No more roll call votes unless 25% of the members call for one, which basically means no roll call votes, because of the 160 reps, only 31 are Republicans.

(Late Tuesday the leadership blinked and withdrew its unprecedented proposal to basically eliminate roll calls. They went back to the old 10% rule — 16 members have to demand a roll call vote.)

You will only be allowed to speak on a bill if you notify the chair of your intentions before 10 a.m., and you have to say whether you’re in favor or not of the legislation, after which “the monitors for each division shall transmit the lists to the Speaker and the Minority Leader.”

In other words, like Santa Claus, the leadership will be making a list and checking it twice, they’re gonna find out who’s naughty or nice.

On any bill, you are only permitted to speak once, if you’re not one of the teacher’s pets, I mean, “chairs,” unless you have “unanimous consent.”

In other words, as George Orwell would put it, all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

North Korea’s got nothing on these proposed new rules. Next thing you know, Speaker DeLeo will be getting his own sealed train, running along the Blue Line from Winthrop every morning.

He’s the Supreme Leader, don’t you know. One man, one vote, one time.

These North Korean-like reforms were included in an 11-page “CONFIDENTIAL & PRIVILEGED POLICY DEVELOPMENT” document which went out to members Tuesday. These proposals were included in an early draft, and after some unexpected pushback, the leadership was saying that they might come up with a revised version before the vote this morning.

But this initial draft is really pathetic, even by the current standards of the General Court.

Look, we all understand, it’s been quite some time since there’s been much dissent, or even thought, in the Legislature. I mean, these solons have been into “social distancing” for a very long time. Even before this panic, they were quarantining themselves – “in the district.”

Once the hacks started handing themselves yearly transportation allowances, they didn’t even have to pretend to drive into Boston every day to collect their per diems. No need for any more of those aptly named “cheat sheets.”

Never deep, the legislative talent pool is so shallow now it’s almost dried up. At the same time, their salaries are through the roof. It’s like a furniture store, they have so many “chairs.” Outside of the courthouses and UMass, there aren’t many easier ways to make $100,000 a year.

But even for the ham-and-eggers, it’s tiresome work, taking orders from the septuagenarian bosses of the House — DeLeo is 70, his majority leader Ron Mariano is 73. Neither was ever in the Mensa Caucus, but hey, in the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man shall lead.

So maybe these “temporary emergency rules,” officially abolishing even the façade of democracy here in the Cradle of Liberty, aren’t that big a deal. The solons were doing nothing even before the lockdown. And in the midst of this dreary soap opera, they couldn’t even be bothered to fix the election laws to allow opposition candidates onto the primary ballot.

It was left to the courts to act like responsible adults.

And now the legislators sit by and watch Tall Deval, and Marty, and Curtatone with their daily calls to prayers, all of them even worse ham actors than Andrew Cuomo.

So it’s kind of a moot point to ban roll-call votes when there were hardly any anyway. Same thing with stifling debate — what debate?

None of the sheep are going to say “baahhhh” if it’s going cost them their “chair” — and the $15,000 or whatever that comes with it.

But at least there was always a chance, however remote, that an insurrection might break out.

Somewhere, maybe, Kim Jong Un is smiling. He’s in quarantine too, you know. Just like the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

Meanwhile, Gov. Charlie Parker says he’s just as frustrated as you are. I doubt. He’s still getting paid.

As for the House leadership, tough luck on abolishing roll calls. Better luck next pandemic.


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