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"Move Over Law" goes into effect in Massachusetts - passed illegally in phony "informal session" of Legislature

Police can ticket drivers $100. Passed with  just 2 Senators present!

March 27, 2009

A new law that passed the Massachusetts Legislature through phony (and illegal) "informal sessions" will give State Police another excuse to give out $100 tickets and cause your auto insurance rates to jump. It was passed last Dec. 15 with just 2 Senators (0ut of 40) and 6 House members (out of 160) present, even though a majority of each house is constitutionally required to do business.

Last August the Mass. House - with only 11 members present - passed a controversial pro-homosexual bill mandating a government funded "suicide study" by a group that's required to include the Commission on Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Youth. In our experience, these "studies" are usually a front for pushing more homosexual programs in the public schools. Most of the Legislature was out of town that day.

Earlier this month the "Move Over" law officially went into effect. If a police car or emergency/maintence vehicle is stopped at the side of the road, cars must move over one lane and slow down or be fined.

   Bill S 2103

   Final version of the legislation as passed into law

According to the Boston Globe, State Rep Christine Canavan (D-Brockton) had tried to get it passed for the past eight years, but couldn't get the votes. So this year, the leadership decided to slither it through in "informal" sessions of the House and Senate.

The Massachusetts Constitution specifically requires a majority of the House (160 members) and Senate (40 members) to conduct any business. But when it suits them, the Legislature simply ignores that requirement and passes laws with a "gentleman's agreement" that no one present will ask for a quorum count, so they pretend there is a quorum. However, a majority of members is still required nevertheless. MassResistance's numerous inquiries to government officials and media have been consistantly met with indifference. No one has yet claimed that these actions are in fact legal.

From the Massachusetts Constitution:

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.

(This is not difficult math. You need 90 House members and 20 Senators to pass laws.)

So on December 15, 2008,
the House passed S 2103 with 6 members present and the Senate passed it with only 2 members in the room (according to actual counts published that day in State House News).

Here's from the State House News news report (Reprinted with permission):


CONVENES: The House convened at 11:05 am with Rep. Donato presiding.

PRAYER/PLEDGE: Members and guests rose for a prayer from Father Quinn and remained standing to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

Reps. O'Day, Flynn, Peterson, Rogeness and Balser were in the chamber.

MOVE OVER: The House enacted S 2103 operating a motor vehicle when approaching stationary emergency vehicles.


CONVENES: The Senate convened at 11:05 am, Sen. Petruccelli presiding. The Pledge of Allegiance was recited. Sen. Tisei was the only other senator present.

SO-CALLED MOVEOVER BILL: The Senate enacted S 2103 relative to operating a motor vehicle when approaching stationary emergency vehicles.


Legislation sent to Gov. Deval Patrick's desk Monday lays out new fines for drivers who fail to slow down or move over when approaching emergency vehicles providing roadside assistance. The so-called "move over bill," which would hit drivers with a $100 fine for failing to comply, gained final passage in the House and Senate during Monday sessions and must be signed, vetoed or amended by the governor before Christmas Day.

It's just another example of the sleaze by our elected officials. It's pretty strange to see it laid out so clearly this way, though.

A lot of reasons for outrage

The text of the law. After preliminary language it reads:

Upon approaching a stationary emergency vehicle, highway maintenance vehicle or recovery vehicle with flashing lights an operator shall:

(1) proceed with due caution, reduce the speed of the vehicle to that of a reasonable and safe speed for road conditions, and, if practicable and on a highway having at least 4 lanes with not less than 2 lanes proceeding in the same direction as the operator's vehicle, yield the right-of-way by making a lane change into a lane not adjacent to that of the emergency response vehicle, highway maintenance vehicle or recovery vehicle; or

(2) if changing lanes is impracticable, proceed with due caution and reduce the speed of the vehicle to that of a reasonable and safe speed for road conditions.

Violation of this section shall be punished by a fine of not more than $100.

The illegal way it was passed is certainly disgraceful. The police supported the bill and brought up many instances where police and other emergency people were hurt or killed by drivers plowing into them. But to our knowledge all of these tragic incidents involved drivers who were drunk or on drugs, who simply drove into the flashing lights. The law would probably not have made a difference.

If this is such a good and necessary law, why not pass it in a real session, and allow debate among the members, and a recorded vote? That's what the Constitution requires, after all.

There are other troubling aspects to this new law, which possibly contribute to the reason they knew it wouldn't pass legitimately. It does not specifically define "due caution" or what is "reasonable and safe". (And how would that be different than what is normally required during driving?) Or, when is changing lanes "impractical"?  It's all left to the policeman's discretion. And afterwards, it forces the driver to persuade a judge he wasn't guilty.

But this is how the Massachusetts Legislature does things. It's interesting that even "good" state reps and senators defend this practice, even though they cannot deny that it's unconstitutional. And as we've reported, the Boston media gives it all a free pass.