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Massachusetts Legislature ignores Constitution - illegally passing laws with no quorum!

MassResistance may attempt to file injunction

December 28, 2008

While you were doing your Christmas shopping, the Massachusetts Legislature was doing a little Christmas shopping of its own behind your back.

As we reported back in October, for the last several months - since the "formal" sessions ended last summer - the House and Senate have been meeting with as few as 2 members and conduct business. Hundreds of bills have been passed.

The Massachusetts Constitution is very clear:

Article XXXIII. A majority of the members of each branch of the general court shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business, but a less number may adjourn from day to day, and compel the attendance of absent members. All the provisions of the existing constitution inconsistent with the provisions herein contained are hereby annulled.

A QUORUM - at least half of the members of each branch - is constitutionally required to conduct business. This seems to be pretty clear. The House has 160 members and the Senate has 40 members.

But just this past week, according to State House News Service published reports:

  • On Monday, Dec. 22, the Senate met with 3 members and moved 11 bills forward. The House met with 12 members and moved 30 bills forward, including a watered-down version of the infamous "bullying bill" that MassResistance originally vigorously opposed.

  • On Tuesday, Dec. 23, the House met with 5 members and moved 17 bills forward.

  • On Wednesday, Dec. 24, the Senate met with 2 members and moved 31 bills forward. The House met with 4 members and moved 8 bills forward.

  • Thankfully, neither the House nor Senate met on Thursday (Christmas Day) or Friday.

Blatant disregard for legal, constitutional process

We have discussed this with a number of past and current Massachusetts legislators. No one has been able to give us a definitive answer as to why this is not illegal. We're just told that "that's the way we do things, so it must be legal." But it's not. It's done with a wink and a nod.

Here's how they explain it: They call it an "informal" session. They don't record the names of the members present. Everyone knows, of course, that there's not a legal quorum, but they pretend that there is because no one formally calls for a count of the members present. If a member wants to stop things, he just stands and says "I doubt the presence of a quorum" and the meeting ends (until the next day).

"Informal sessions" are ways that the Legislature slithers bills through that normally would draw scrutiny if the entire body had to deal with them, but which the leadership wants to get passed. They push bills through that got stopped in committee earlier in the year because of opposition at the time. 

(By the way, who ever heard of an official body meeting without recording the names of the members present? Even corporations are required to record attendees of board meetings.)

This affects YOU!

Make no mistake about this. Many of these laws will affect you personally, and also the way businesses can operate in Massachusetts. Even things as small as bills dealing with illegal parking at bus stops and the way caregivers get consent for things they do with patients - these are laws recently passed illegally, but are still official when the Governor signs them.

Sweetheart bills

There are also a large number of "sweetheart" bills that give one individual state or local employee a special exemption from the normal work rule or retirement statutes, or that raise fees for state services, allow zoning abatements, or allow public money to be spent on activities that would be otherwise prohibited. Since there are no roll call votes, no one is held responsible.

EXAMPLE: State House News report of Massachusetts Senate from Monday, Dec. 22, with only 3 members present.

As usual, the press is in the tank

The Boston press knows what's going on, and they play along with it - mainly because extreme legislation (which the media often supports) gets passed that way which otherwise wouldn't get through.

Joking around. In today's Boston Herald, a political news column mentions that only 2 members were present in Wednesday's Senate session. But no mention of the what the Constitution requires to actually do legal business.

It's unbelievably corrupt. And the people of Massachusetts are the losers