Massachusetts General Court
|Massachusetts General Court|
|2015 session start:||January 2, 2013|
|Website:||Official Legislature Page|
|Senate President:||Therese Murray (D)|
|House Speaker:||Robert DeLeo (D)|
|Majority Leader:|| Frederick Berry (D) (Senate),|
Ronald Mariano (D) (House)
|Minority Leader:|| Bruce Tarr (R) (Senate),|
Bradley Jones, Jr. (R) (House)
|Members:||40 (Senate), 160 (House)|
|Length of term:||2 years (Senate), 2 years (House)|
|Authority:||Chapter 1, Massachusetts Constitution|
|Salary:||$61,133/year + per diem|
|Last Election:||November 6, 2012 |
40 seats (Senate)
160 seats (House)
|Next election:||November 4, 2014|
|Redistricting:||Massachusetts Legislature has control|
- 1 Sessions
- 2 Ethics and transparency
- 3 Redistricting
- 4 Legislators
- 5 Senate
- 6 House of Representatives
- 7 History
- 8 Legislative procedure
- 9 Joint Legislative Committees
- 10 External links
- 11 References
State Senators and Representatives both serve two-year terms.
As of April 2015, Massachusetts is one of 7 Democratic state government trifectas.
The Massachusetts Constitution contains provisions regarding when the General Court is to meet. This subject has been the focus of several amendments to the Constitution. Originally, Chapter 1 of the Massachusetts Constitution called for the General Court to convene on the last Wednesday of May. Then, Amending Article X called for legislative sessions to convene yearly on the first Wednesday of January. Later, Amending Article LXXII called for the General Court to meet once every two years, but Amending Article LXXV repealed that amendment. Therefore, the rules that currently govern when the General Court is to meet are in Amending Article X.
Article X calls for the General Court to convene its regular session on the first Wednesday of January. The session does not dissolve until a new regular session convenes in the next year. Article X specifies that it does not prevent the General Court from meeting at any time that it judges necessary.
- See also: Dates of 2014 state legislative sessions
In 2014, the General Court is projected to be in session from January 2 through December 31.
- See also: Dates of 2013 state legislative sessions
In 2013, the General Court will be in session from January 2 to a date to be determined.
As lawmakers settle in for the legislature's 188th session, they'll address revenue shortfalls, transportation financing, gun control, and health care costs.
- See also: Dates of 2012 state legislative sessions
In 2012, the General Court was in session starting January 4 through July 31, but informal sessions may take place throughout the year.
Leading the agenda was a crackdown on abuses at special education collaboratives in the state. Other issues included controlling health costs and a sentencing bill that would bar parole for prisoners convicted of more than two violent crimes.
In August 2012, Sen. Mike Rush (D) and Rep. Ed Coppinger (D) released a record of legislative accomplishments from the session. Among the major policy items successfully addressed, they note the passage of balanced FY 2012 and 2013 state budgets, a health care cost containment bill, strategic economic development legislation, and the legalization of casino gaming.
In 2011, the General Court will be in session from January 5 through a date not yet decided by the Legislature. 
Ethics and transparency
Open States Transparency
The Sunlight Foundation released an "Open Legislative Data Report Card" in March 2013. Massachusetts was given a grade of F in the report. The report card evaluated how adequate, complete and accessible legislative data was to the general public. A total of 10 states received an A: Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Kansas, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington.
In Massachusetts, the state legislature has control over the redistricting process. In 2011, the state legislature adopted a Special Joint Committee on Redistricting, which includes seven senators and 21 representatives. The partisan composition was 23 Democrats and 5 Republicans.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Massachusetts experienced a 3.1 percent increase in population between 2000 and 2010. Specifically, the population rose from approximately 6.35 million to 6.55 million. However, the nation as a whole saw a population increase of 9.7 percent, a much faster rate than Massachusetts, and Massachusetts lost a Congressional seat as a result of the relatively slow growth.
The Special Joint Committee on Redistricting was generally recognized as a relatively open process compared to past redistricting efforts. Some towns petitioned for having one representative, rather than being split between two state legislative districts. Other citizen groups expressed strong interests in having more minority-majority districts. In October 2011, the Committee produced and approved a map that increased the number of minority-majority districts and shuffled a few towns, splitting some but consolidating others into one district.
- See also: Comparison of state legislative salaries
As of 2013, members of the Massachusetts General Court are paid $61,133/year. Legislators receive between $10/day to $100/day per diem, depending on distance from the state house. Compensation is vouchered and set by the legislature.
When sworn in
Massachusetts legislators assume office the first Wednesday in January after the election.
There are 40 senatorial districts in Massachusetts, named for the counties in which they are located. Each member represents an average of 163,691 residents, as of the 2010 Census. After the 2000 Census, each member represented 158,727.
|Party||As of April 2015|
House of Representatives
Each Representative represents about 40,000 residents. Representative districts are named for the primary county in which they are located, and tend to stay within one county, although some districts contain portions of adjacent counties. Each member represents an average of 40,923 residents, as of the 2010 Census. After the 2000 Census, each member represented 39,682.
|Party||As of April 2015|
Partisan balance 1992-2013
Massachusetts State Senate: During every year from 1992-2013, the Democratic Party was the majority in the Massachusetts State Senate. The Massachusetts State Senate is 1 of 16 state senates that was Democratic for more than 80 percent of the years between 1992-2013. During the last seven years of the study Massachusetts was under Democratic trifectas.
Across the country, there were 541 Democratic and 517 Republican state senates from 1992 to 2013.
Massachusetts State House of Representatives: During every year from 1992-2013, the Democratic Party was the majority in the Massachusetts State House of Representatives. The Massachusetts State House of Representatives is one of 18 state Houses that was Democratic for more than 80 percent of the years between 1992-2013. During the last seven years of the study Massachusetts was under Democratic trifectas.
Across the country, there were 577 Democratic and 483 Republican State Houses of Representatives from 1992 to 2013.
Over the course of the 22-year study, state governments became increasingly more partisan. At the outset of the study period (1992), 18 of the 49 states with partisan legislatures had single-party trifectas and 31 states had divided governments. In 2013, only 13 states have divided governments, while single-party trifectas held sway in 36 states, the most in the 22 years studied.
SQLI and partisanship
The chart below depicts the partisanship of the Massachusetts state government and the state's SQLI ranking for the years studied. For the SQLI, the states were ranked from 1-50, with 1 being the best and 50 the worst. Massachusetts had a period of divided government between 1992 and 2006 before electing a Democratic trifecta in 2007. Between the years 1992 and 2004, Massachusetts remained in the top-10 in the SQLI ranking, hitting its highest spot (3rd) in 2000 under divided government. The state had its lowest ranking (24th) in 2006, also under divided government. During the years 2005 and 2006, Massachusetts fell eleven spots in the SQLI ranking under divided government, which was its largest drop in the ranking during the period of the study. The state has never had a Republican trifecta.
- SQLI average with Democratic trifecta: 14.17
- SQLI average with Republican trifecta: N/A
- SQLI average with divided government: 7.20
Lawmaking begins in the House or Senate Clerk's office where petitions, bills, and resolves are filed and recorded in a docket book. The clerks number the bills and assign them to appropriate joint committees. There are 26 of these committees, each responsible for studying the bills which pertain to a specific area (i.e., taxation, education, health care, insurance, etc.). Each committee is composed of six senators and eleven representatives. The standing committees schedule public hearings for the individual bills, which afford citizens, legislators and lobbyists the opportunity to express their views. Committee members meet at a later time in executive session to review the public testimony and discuss the merits of each bill before making their recommendations to the full membership of the House or Senate. Note that the public may still observe "executive" sessions, but may not participate in these meetings. The committee then issues its report, recommending that a bill "ought to pass" or "ought not to pass" and the report is submitted to the Clerk's office.
The first reading of a favorably-reported bill is automatic and occurs when the committee's report appears in the Journal of the House or Senate Clerk. Matters not requiring reference to another Joint, House or Senate committee are, following the first reading, referred without debate to the Committee on Steering and Policy in the Senate (except certain special laws relative to a city or town), or placed in the Orders of the Day (the Calendar) without debate, for a second reading in the House. If a bill affects the finances of the Commonwealth, it is referred to the Senate or House Committee on Ways and Means after the first reading. If it affects county finances, the bill is read and referred to the Committee on Counties of the House (if the matter is reported into the House). Adverse reports ("ought not to pass") are also referred to the Committee on Steering and Policy in the Senate or placed without debate in the Orders of the Day for the next session of the House. Acceptance by either branch of an adverse report is considered the final rejection of the matter. However, an adverse report can be overturned. A member may move to substitute the bill for the report, and, if the motion to substitute carries, the matter is then given its first reading and follows the same procedure as if reported favorably by committee.
After a bill takes its second reading, it is open to debate on amendments and motions. Following debate, a vote is taken and if the bill receives a favorable vote by the membership, it is ordered to a third reading and referred to the Committee on Bills in the Third Reading. This amounts to preliminary approval of the bill in that branch. That committee examines technical points, as well as the legality and constitutionality of the measure, and ensures that it does not duplicate or contradict existing law. The committee then issues a report and returns the bill to the House or Senate for its third reading. At that time, legislators can further debate and amend the bill. Following the third reading, the body votes on "passing the bill to be engrossed."
The bill must then pass through three readings and engrossment in the second legislative branch. Should that occur, it is sent to the Legislative Engrossing Division where it is typed on special parchment in accordance with the General Laws. However, if the second branch passes an amended version of the bill, the legislation returns to the original branch for a vote of concurrence in the amendment. If concurrence is rejected, a conference committee consisting of the three members from each legislative branch representing both political parties may be formed to effect a compromise piece of legislation. When a compromise is reached, the bill is sent to both legislative branches for their approval.
A vote "to enact" the bill, first in the House and later in the Senate, is the final step in the passage of a bill by the legislature. Following enactment, the bill goes to the governor, who may sign the bill into law, allow it to become law without signing it (if the governor holds the bill for ten days without taking any action while the legislature is in session, it becomes law without his or her signature), veto it, or return it to the legislature with recommended changes. If the legislature has concluded its yearly session, and the governor does not sign the bill within ten days, it dies. This is referred to as a "pocket veto." This ten-day period includes Sundays and holidays, even if they fall on the tenth day, and it begins the day after the legislation is laid on the governor's desk.
A bill signed by the governor, or passed by two-thirds of both branches over his veto, becomes a law. It is usually effective in ninety days. The day after the governor signs the bill is considered to be the first day, and each succeeding day, including Sundays and holidays is counted until the ninetieth. Laws considered "emergency" in nature take effect immediately upon signing if the legislature has voted to attach an "emergency preamble" to the bill. Adoption of the preamble requires a two-thirds standing vote of the membership. The governor may also declare an act to be an emergency law and make it effective at once. A special act takes effect thirty days from the day it is signed, unless it contains a provision to make it effective immediately.
Joint Legislative Committees
There are currently 27 joint standing committees.
- Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities Joint Committee
- Community Development and Small Business Joint Committee
- Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Joint Committee
- Economic Development and Emerging Technologies Joint Committee
- Education Joint Committee
- Elder Affairs Joint Committee
- Election Laws Joint Committee
- Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Joint Committee
- Financial Services Joint Committee
- Health Care Financing Joint Committee
- Higher Education Joint Committee
- Housing Joint Committee
- Judiciary Joint Committee
- Labor and Workforce Development Joint Committee
- Mental Health and Substance Abuse Joint Committee
- Municipalities and Regional Government Joint Committee
- Public Health Joint Committee
- Public Safety and Homeland Security Joint Committee
- Public Service Joint Committee
- Revenue Joint Committee
- State Administration and Regulatory Oversight Joint Committee
- Telecommunication, Utilities and Energy Joint Committee
- Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development Joint Committee
- Transportation Joint Committee
- Rules Joint Committee
- Veterans and Federal Affairs Joint Committee
- Ways and Means Joint Committee
There is also one special joint committee.
- General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
- Live and Archived webcasts of Massachusetts Senate and House of Representatives Full Formal Sessions
- dKosopedia: Massachusetts General Court
- Wikipedia: Massachusetts General Court
- Where we Stand: Government: Legislature Massachusetts League of Women Voters. Retrieved December 20, 2006.
- Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Article LXXXII.
- Boston.com, "Mass. formally opens legislative session," January 2, 2013
- Washington Examiner, "Mass. lawmakers to weigh bill on special ed groups," January 4, 2012
- Wicked Local Roslingdale, "Sen. Rush, Rep. Coppinger announce legislative highlights," August 18, 2012
- General Court Events
- 2010 session dates for the Massachusetts legislature
- Sunlight Foundation, "Ten Principles for Opening Up Government Information," accessed June 16, 2013
- Beacon Hill Roll Call "Senate approves redistricting commission," February 11, 2011
- U.S. Census Bureau, "2010 Census: Massachusetts Profile," 2011
- Belmont Citizen-Herald "Census preparing to deliver redistricting data to states," January 13, 2011
- Boston Globe "Census begins fight on districts," March 23, 2011
- Boston Herald "Lawmakers launch Mass. redistricting process," March 16, 2011
- Wicked Local Randolph "Officials push for only one state rep for Randolph," January 27, 2011
- Eagle Tribune "Proposal would create Latino-heavy legislative districts — and make targets out of Baddour and Finegold," June 26, 2011
- Boston Globe "Advocates seek boost in Mass. minority voter clout," October 5, 2011
- Mass Live "Massachusetts legislators release maps of proposed new seats for state Senate, House," October 18, 2011
- Wicked Local Winchester "Redrawn legislative map makes Lexington one House district," October 19, 2011
- NCSL.org, "2012 State Legislator Compensation and Per Diem Table," accessed March 18, 2013
- Population in 2010 of the American states, accessed November 22, 2013
- Population in 2000 of the American states
- Population in 2010 of the American states, accessed November 22, 2013
- Population in 2000 of the American states