Reforms

Barbara has made it a priority to support reforms that tighten rules for state government and save money for the taxpayer.  She worked with members of both parties to reform the pension system for elected officials– and she voted against the Lawrence bailout, and for the Republican amendment that would have strengthened reforms.

Bills Passed in 2009-2010

Pension Reform

  • Removes the “one day, one year” provision that allows elected officials to claim an entire year of credible service for working one day in a calendar year
  • Removes a provision that allows elected officials to claim a “termination allowance” based on the failure to be nominated or re-elected
  • Reforms the current accidental disability retirement benefit so that it is tied to the 12-month average of compensation received prior to the date of injury
  • Redefines “regular compensation” to specifically exclude certain monetary benefits like housing, lodging, travel, automobile usage or annuities for the purposes of a pension benefit calculation
  • Strikes current provisions that allow certain officials to establish pension credit for service in positions that have no compensation. Officials and employees currently serving in a position earning $5,000 or less in compensation will be ineligible for credible service after their current term expires, or by July 1, 2012, whichever occurs first
  • Reform dual-service pensions so that an individual cannot combine the compensation from two positions to artificially increase one’s pension. An individual who is a member of two or more systems will receive benefits as if retiring separately from each system, unless they are vested in both systems before January 1, 2010
  • Extends the “vesting” requirement of elected officials from 6 years to 10 years
  • Eliminates a loophole that allows individuals receiving pension benefits to return to work and receive a full salary in addition to pension benefits if the individuals are classified as “consultant” or “independent contractor”
  • Allows for other reforms to increase efficiency in the retirement system, such as the direct deposit of retirement benefits

Ethics Reform (Chapter 28 of the Acts of 2009)

  • Tightened the rules on gifts given to public officials and imposed a civil violation for gifts up to $1,000 and a criminal penalty for anything with value greater than $1,000.
  • Expanded the definition of the term “lobbyist” to include anyone paid to advocate for a third party and required strict performance rules for lobbyists including registration with the Secretary of State, annual training and detailed reporting.
  • Expanded the disclosure requirements for lobbyists.
  • Increased the criminal penalties for violations of lobbying laws from $5,000 to $10,000 or imprisonment for up to 5 years in state prison or 2.5 years in county jail.
  • Codified the crime of obstruction of justice and made a violation punishable by a $25,000 fine and up to 10 years in state prison, or both.
  • Increased the maximum criminal penalty for giving or receiving a bribe from $5,000 and 3 years imprisonment to $100,000 and 10 years imprisonment.
  • Expanded the regulatory authority of the state ethics commission, including vesting the commission with full subpoena power.
  • Increased the penalty for a civil violation of the conflict of interest law from a maximum of $2,000 to a maximum of $10,000
  • Expanded the Attorney General’s authority to civilly enforce the ethics laws.
  • Established a statewide grand jury, thereby allowing the Attorney General to investigate crimes that cross county lines and to convene inquiries into local corruption matters without relying exclusively on local grand jurors.
  • Required sub-vendor reporting (e.g. if a candidate hires a consultant and the consultant makes further expenditures, the consultant would have to disclose those expenditures).
  • Required disclosure of all donations to inaugural, recount and legal defense funds.
    Required individuals to disclose expenditures for ballot questions.
  • Required disclosure of expenditures and funding for electioneering communications.
  • Eliminated all “special committee” arrangements between a state political party and an elected official, allowing only individual contributions up to $5,000 to a political party.
  • Prohibited individuals from making committee checks payable to themselves or using campaign funds to pay fines brought about by ethics violations.
  • Established a Special Commission to study the creation of a new Office of Public Accountability which would oversee ethics, campaign and political finance, and lobbyist registration.

Transportation Reform (Chapter 25 of the Acts of 2009)

  • Eliminated the Turnpike Authority, streamlined communications, and created a more efficient and cost-effective system under a unifying agency called the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), saving the Commonwealth hundreds of millions over the next 20 years.
  • Eliminated the MBTA’s “23 and out” rule for future employees effective July 1, 2009, requiring those employees to reach 25 years of service and 55 years of age to collect retirement benefits.
  • Required all active and retired MBTA workers to join the state’s Group Insurance Commission (GIC) by January 1, 2010

House Rules Reform (House Adopted)

ETHICS

  • Mandating ethics training for all members, officers and employees.
  • Allowing the Speaker and Minority Leader to unilaterally remove members appointed to leadership positions upon their criminal indictment.
  • Allowing the Speaker and Minority Leader to unilaterally remove rank and file members of committees upon their criminal indictment.
  • Limit the duration of Advisory Opinions from the House Committee on Ethics to the biennial session in which they were given.
  • Specifically prohibiting members, officers and employees from receiving gifts from lobbyists
  • Allowing the Ethics Committee to initiate legislation.
  • Allowing the Clerk to refer any ethics related legislation to the Committee on Ethics upon its report from Joint Standing Committee.
  • Requiring any violation of House Roll call rules to be reported to the House Committee on Ethics.

PROCESS

  • Limiting the Speaker’s term to 8 years.
  • Requiring the Clerk to make all bills introduced and admitted for consideration to the House available to members electronically and to post on the Internet.
  • Requiring that when the General Appropriations Act is reported by the House Committee on Ways and Means that it be available to members electronically and to the public via the Internet.
  • Requiring notice of committee hearings to be posted on the Internet.
  • Requiring House Ways and Means redrafts that are to be voted on at an executive session to be made available to all members of the committee electronically.
  • Establishing a House Standing Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets.
  • Establishing a House Standing Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change.
  • Allowing the Clerk, upon request of the Speaker, to vote for a member upon the malfunction of the member’s voting machine.
  • Allowing the Clerk to distribute paper copies of bills, resolves, summaries or other documents due to technical limitations or exigent circumstances.

VOTING

  • Requiring the Clerk to disable the voting system of any member who has notified the Clerk that he will be absent for a formal session and also requires the Clerk to disable the voting system of any member failing to answer the first non-quorum roll call.