Whining About Legislative Process

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Yesterday’s Globe highlighted a troubling aspect of the state Legislature’s current process: cramming really detailed pieces of legislation into a few short days.

What does this do? It concentrates power in the hands of lobbyists (who provide drafts of amendments) and staffers (who create the actual product). It drains power from elected representatives, who have no hope of actually reading, analyzing and pondering the consequences of all the paper that flies through the chamber. And it also cuts the press and the public out of the process almost altogether.

The Globe piece examined an amendment offered by Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz that severely limited the number of districts where the charter cap might be raised. From my read of the amendments, I believe it’s #72 which states that a district’s CPI must be used “in conjunction with” the district’s “growth model”.

The state’s Secretary of Education and the charter school association both believe that this requires a district to appear at the bottom of both lists, creating a double test for eligible districts.

Chang-Diaz responds that this was not her intent. It really depends on what “in conjunction with” means.

Getting this education bill right is important. Potentially millions of dollars in federal aid are at stake.

We should not be crafting amendments that we don’t understand the implications of. And legislators should understand what they are voting for.