Marathon Session LTE - April 2020

Brentwood Newsletter LTE about the consequences of Democrat Leadership mismanagement:

The State House has been mothballed until at least April 10th to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus. The bad scheduling, half days, and time wasted by the current leadership in the House came to a head on 3/12/20. We had about 300 bills to act on in two days. Luckly, about 100 of those bills’ fate was not contested so those moved on or died with a single vote. That left 200 bills to be discussed and voted on before the deadline. The only problem was that we only got through about 50 of the bills the first day. That left around 150 bills to be discussed and voted on in a single day. The only problem was that same majority that wasted time, wanted to push back the bills off to another day with the coronavirus on our heels. At about 11PM with around 50 bills left to vote on, a democrat motioned to suspend the rules of the House requiring us to act on the bills left and push them to sometime in the future. While, at the time, we didn’t know we wouldn’t be coming back for a month there was a sense that the spread of the coronavirus would get worse before it got better. In spite of that fact, 165 representatives voted to postpone action on those bills and 135 voted to complete the calendar and catch up to the deadline. Luckly, a ⅔ vote was needed to ignore the rules so we tried to press on with debating the merits of each bill. Unfortunately, when the majority didn’t get their way they chose to shut down the debate on bills by “Tabling” bill after bill. About 20 of those 50 bills were Tabled to avoid full discussion and to speed through bills in an effort to end the day. That is a tool available to the majority and they used it. When we go back we will be already behind from this State Of Emergency. I am glad we are not another full session day behind from suspending the deadline as we will have a lot to do when we get back.

My bill, HB1559, relative to sealing records in nonpublic session under the right-to-know law passed that day. The bill seeks to automatically unseal nonpublic session minutes unless resealed in an effort to have boards keep those sessions in mind and verify that they still should be kept from public view. In my experience, I have not seen town boards go back to review sealed minutes to see if the sensitive information still “overrides” the public's right to know. The bill was scaled down to just nonpublic sessions about contracts, but even those are often not unsealed once the contract is signed or even after the contract has ended. I think it is important for the government to be accountable to the people, so every little bit helps. However, a law is not required for boards to review their non-public minutes to see if any of them could be unsealed. I encourage all boards to review non-public minutes whenever they get new members so the members can always know what has been sealed and bring to front of mind the option to unseal the minutes.

Josh Yokela

State Representative

Rockingham 33