Dykema defends vote on transparency bill

by susan on January 31, 2013

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Representative Carolyn Dykema faced criticism this week from the Mass GOP, and from some of her Southborough constituents, for opposing a bill that would have posted the votes of legislative committees online. In the following letter, Dykema explains her decision on the bill.

Last Thursday, the state Republican Party publicly questioned a vote I cast last week against an amendment to post legislative committee votes online, a concept that I had supported during a pre-election debate.

As your legislator, it is my responsibility to explain any vote I cast on your behalf and I appreciate this opportunity to respond.

While I fully support the intent of the amendment to increase transparency, passing this type of proposal without understanding the practical resource requirements is not something I could support.

Unlike roll call votes, which are currently posted online and number in the hundreds each legislative session, there are approximately 6,000-8,000 committee votes taken in the same period. Cataloging this quantity of information online is not a trivial task. In requesting support for the proposal, the amendment’s sponsor did not provide any basic information on resource requirements or planning, nor had they contacted legislative information services to request that such information be compiled.

This session I am co-sponsoring a bill (HD 3412) that, unlike last week’s amendment, will pass through the full committee and public hearing process allowing important details to be addressed. This will allow us to move forward with a more thoughtful and productive proposal.

As we continue to discuss ways to increase transparency in our legislative process, I appreciate the opportunity to highlight some of the progress we have made in recent years:

  • All House and Senate roll call votes are available online.
  • Video of all House and Senate formal sessions are available online.
  • New House and Senate budget websites that allow citizens to track amendments in near real time as they are filed, debated and voted on.
  • Video of many committee proceedings are available in real time and are archived online.
  • As part of the FY11 budget, the Open Checkbook website was launched which details state spending, payroll and pension information and tax credit information.

Thank you again for this opportunity to respond and, as always, please contact me at 617-722-2210 or carolyn.dykema@mahouse.gov if I can answer any questions.

1 Iron Mike January 31, 2013 at 12:00 PM

>> “As we continue to discuss ways to increase transparency…”

Discuss? Talk is dirt cheap!

Sometimes in life you get one (1) chance to get a thing right. Mz. Dykema had that chance, – and she voted ‘No!’ – Just the way the Speaker told her to.

Anything she says after that broken promise is spin and smoke screen.

But living in Massachusetts – you should be used to it. Teddy tried to save the girl, Lurch is a gen-u-ine war hero, we need a $1Billion rail line to Hyannis Port, – and the dog ate Carolyn’s vote. You are expected to swallow it all….

2 Margaret Reeves January 31, 2013 at 12:04 PM

Ms. Dykema filed a bill that will not go anywhere at the State House. Also, technically under the House rules it is a matter previously considered and would be ruled out of order.

Ms. Dykema has voted this down 3 times now, and the Senate voted to put the votes online the next day. The technology exists.The Senate said Yes.

This bill Ms. Dykema wants to file is just a smoke screen. During the recent rules debate, she could have voted for 26 measures to create more transparency. She voted No on them and aligned herself with the Speaker from Winthrop.

Ms Dykema has only filed one piece of legislation in the last 5 years, and the chances of this transparency bill going anywhere is zero.

This is just for her own cover, and that won’t work either. It’s all spin by a politician who votes with the Speaker and wants to hide it from voters.

The people of our district don’t want a representative owned by the Speaker.

3 Frank Crowell January 31, 2013 at 2:55 PM

So this went from a technology issue:

“Dykema Thursday said she still thinks it is wise to put committee votes online but has learned once again that the technology still does not exist.”

To a resource issue:

“Unlike roll call votes, which are currently posted online and number in the hundreds each legislative session, there are approximately 6,000-8,000 committee votes taken in the same period. Cataloging this quantity of information online is not a trivial task.”

Tomorrow will it be: “Sorry folks tried my best”

4 MKatz January 31, 2013 at 6:19 PM

My take is Rep Dykema felt the heat her constituents were creating but needed to wait until she heard from her Party and from the Speaker as to what they would allow her to do. Hence this bill AFTER the fact! She is a failure as a State Representative. A failure and a liar!

5 Margaret Reeves February 1, 2013 at 1:19 AM

It is clear that if the Republicans have a good idea, Ms. Dykema refuses to support it, because she always votes with the Speaker.

Amendments should be considered on merit, not party lines. Rep. Dykema is being completely disingenuous, and she should apologize to the voters.

6 John Butler February 1, 2013 at 9:59 AM

This explanation by Dykema is pretty clearly false. 8000 votes can be made to sound like a lot, but if one person is assigned to be there with a smartphone or a laptop it can be online. Cost has nothing to do this.

The real gap here however is not between the truth about this bill and her vote, it is between the preserved popular image of our legislature, (as a place where individual votes on behalf of a district are added up to collective decisions) and the reality, which is that it is a hierarchical bureaucracy run with iron control by a few leaders, and has been that way for many decades. (For the last decade plus, after working his way up the leadership ladder, the leader then goes to prison.) The larger fault rests with we citizens who have encouraged this system of illusions and now write in here as if we believed the movie version were real.

An honest answer might have been. “I can’t get this to pass, so voting for it would have just made the speaker less cooperative with me on something later that I might have been able to influence, so I voted against it to keep my influence with the speaker. Then, because my district, like all districts, believes in the movie version of the legislature, I made up this cover story.”

Is Dykema to be blamed for this behavior? Well, yes and no. She didn’t create this system we citizens have tolerated and, for our sake, given the system, maybe it was better to vote with the Speaker, but why not just tell us that. Candor would be bracing.

By the way, if this version of events isn’t true in this case, it doesn’t matter. It’s the dominant dynamic of our legislature and appears to be operative here. Furthermore this has nothing to do with party affiliation. In order to believe that it does you have to believe the movie version of our legislature.

How can this chronic problem be fixed? Not easy. Massive rules changes in the operation of the legislature are required. Barring a Gorbachev-type figure as Speaker, only a vast amount of sustained citizen pressure would work, and that is not on the horizon. If one looks at the record of 19th century corruption it is much much worse than 20th century corruption. So, there is hope, but only on that timescale.

7 Kelly Roney February 1, 2013 at 6:07 PM

Wait, John, you know this how? What facts do you know that prove that Carolyn’s votes and bill co-sponsorships on this subject are due to the cause you theorize?

Do you know what bill was up for a vote? Have you read the text of the bill or of the amendments offered by the Minority Leader? Do you have a source in the State House with information that calls into question even one of Rep. Dykema’s assertions?

It seems to me that your argument is entirely built out of the prejudicial image you have of the legislature. No doubt some of that is deserved, but you owe it to your own reputation to have evidence, not mere surmise, when you call someone a liar.

Some things to consider: If Carolyn were unwilling to buck the Speaker on this, how is it she went against him last year on his number one legislative priority, casino gambling? If she were unwilling to vote contrary to the Speaker, how is it she opposed the 2010 change to allow the Governor to appoint an interim Senator prior to the special election?

(Note for those who might wrongly imagine that I always agree with her: I thought the interim appointment made Senatorial succession better, despite the clear political motives for it.)

Then to liken Massachusetts to the Soviet Union! How silly, really an incredible amount of hyperbole, especially considering how successful government has helped Massachusetts lead the nation in so many vital categories.

8 Frank Crowell February 2, 2013 at 9:14 AM

The basic questions is: Why would Rep. Dykema not being willing to buck the Speaker now? Because allowing transparency on how committees vote would not be beneficial in getting the Governor’s agenda passed to saying nothing of sheading more light on State government corruption and incompetence.

9 John Butler February 2, 2013 at 10:12 AM

Kelly,
I clearly say that I don’t have proof, merely that this type of thing happens all the time and “appears” to be happening here. It is highly suspicious because the excuse offered, that it would cost too much, doesn’t make any sense at all. (If we wanted the votes not to be Twittered it might be hard to prevent.) Even you don’t defend her claim.

As for my “prejudicial image” of the legislature, it is unfortunately entirely “post-judicial”, formed after the long parade of prior Speakers to prison. I can’t even keep track of how many are still in the slammer.

Obviously, a “Gobachev-like” Speaker would be one who survives and rises within any system and then changes it, having reached the top. It is not a comparison with the old Soviet Union. Furthermore, clearly Kelly, in the old Soviet, corrupt leaders didn’t go to jail :-)

I am well aware that this little dust-up features office-hungry Republicans haymaking on one side, and office-defending Democrats on the other, but I don’t have a dog in that race. I am just sorry that this seemingly nice lady would feel the need to trot out this script about her vote to support the movie version of “Your Legislature at Work”. We’re grown-ups here. Just level with us.

10 Kelly Roney February 3, 2013 at 1:42 PM

John, you called someone a liar on the basis of supposition – because she’s a member of a body, whose previous leaders have failed their public duties.

That guilt by association just seems morally wrong to me.

11 Al Hamilton February 4, 2013 at 8:14 AM

Ms. Dykema’s explanation strains credulity. The “I voted against this bill but I have filed one of my own” dodge is right out of the Hacks Playbook. She knows that the bill will be filed and will then gather dust. The real purpose of the bill is to provide cover for her doing the Speakers will.

12 John Butler February 5, 2013 at 11:30 PM

Forget guilt by association. Entirely on its own, Dykema’s statement makes as much sense as a teenager who says, “Sorry I didn’t call home. I couldn’t find a phone booth.” Dad’s reply, “Your cell phone?” This is 2013. If they were trying to prevent something from getting online, now that’s at 2013 problem. On the other hand, anyone, in about 10 seconds, can come up with lots of free ways to put unlimited committee votes online: Create a twitter account for each committee and post votes from a phone. Create a google doc for each committee, make it public. Put votes into it. Create a scribd document. Those are a tiny fraction of all the free ways to do this and have it instantly available, more easily found than a State Web Page. Lets be clear, even though it can be done for free, it would be better to spend some money than not do it. But, “cost too much” as an excuse? “The dog ate my homework.”

13 Al Hamilton February 1, 2013 at 4:10 PM

Ms Dykema’s protestations are pretty clearly bologna. Her principle protestation is that nobody checked with the MIS department to see if this could be done. Please. This is clearly a case of her trying to convince us that the tail is wagging the dog. The MIS depts work for the legislature not the other way around. Their job is to implement the policies the legislature mandates not the other way around.

No the proper answer is that the Speaker did not want this and so she dutifully did the speakers bidding.

Since Ms. Dykema has offered up her own transparency bill will she agree to not run for reelection if her bill is not passed? Co Sponsoring a bill is just another smoke and mirror fig leaf unless it gets passed.

“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”

14 Dean Dairy February 3, 2013 at 12:21 PM

Yep. Apply the Dykema standard universally and nothing would get done. The legislature needs to set policy and a deadline for implementation by the administration, which can be extended if need be. But the policy precedes feasibility.

For example, if we applied the Dykema standard, the final vote on Obamacare should have waited until HHS set up the technology-based “Exchanges” instead of being rammed-through Congress in 2009. Note, the HHS deadline has been extended a few times since the law’s passage, and may be extended yet again.

And what would President Kennedy think of the Dykema standard?

“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qF7tKDSPL94

Boy, the ambitions of the party of government sure seems to have sure shrunk — at least when it comes to monitoring politicians!

15 Sal Giorlandino February 2, 2013 at 7:47 PM

I have had the honor and privilege of knowing Representative Dykema for the past five years. She is an honorable and decent human being. She is also a very hardworking and excellent State representative. Many others agree; in the recent November 2012 election, Representative Dykema won re-election by a very wide margin: 61% to 39%. She was re-elected with the support of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. In sum, Southborough is very fortunate to have Representative Dykema as its State Representative.

16 Snowbird February 9, 2013 at 1:10 AM

Sal,

I too like and respect Rep. Dykema. Even though I am a republican, I voted for her in the past and will vote for her in the future.

On this issue, she did not acquit herself well. I find her explanation to be lacking. We need much more transparency in the State House.

However, I do find it rather amusing to read some of the comments on this issue. I enjoyed the repartee between Mr. Butler and Mr. Roney:

Thrust by Mr. Butler: A reference to “Gorbachev-type figure as Speaker” (this did bring back entertaining memories of some previous Advisory Committee meetings I attended.)

Parry by Mr. Roney: The statement “…especially considering how successful government has helped Massachusetts lead the nation in so many vital categories.” Talk about hyperbole! The People’s Republic of Massachusetts as a nation leader? There is a reason is called Taxachusetts.

Thanks to both Mr. Butler and Mr. Roney for maintaining great senses of humor and not taking the,selves too seriously.

17 Kelly Roney February 9, 2013 at 1:05 PM

Hi Snowbird,

Always happy to provide entertainment, even if it elicits the facetious humor of your last line.

How is Massachusetts excelling the rest of the country?

– Best public schools in the nation.
– Most complete health insurance coverage in the nation, the model in fact for Obamacare.
– Highly educated populace with low incidence of social problems.
– Low crime rate.
– A vastly improved fiscal position, recognized by rating agencies.
– High incomes.
– An entrepreneurial culture that makes our state a leader in all the major knowledge-based, 21st century industries.

Taxachusetts? That is so 1980. Massachusetts state and local taxes as a percent of income are below the national average.

It’s no wonder Republicans want to keep this from spreading. It would put them out of business.

18 Kelly Roney February 17, 2013 at 1:01 AM

By the way, Massachusetts has another number one ranking that I just learned about: Lowest rate of gun death in the nation.

Winters can be rough, however. How odd that the red states are pushing policies that will accelerate global warming, making their climates less tolerable and ours more temperate!

Really, Massachusetts is a great place to live.

19 Al Hamilton March 13, 2013 at 8:28 AM

Kelly

If you are really serious about reducing global warming then can I safely assume you are an advocate of both Nuclear Power and Hydraulic Fracturing? Both will reduce greenhouse emissions substantially without damaging our economy.

20 Frank Crowell February 18, 2013 at 7:35 AM

More then likely, this slight of hand by the Democrat Party machine will work well on many voters. Placed early in the session they are banking on voter memories being short and tout Ms. Dykema’s hard work for the district. In the mean time, the state runs as it has for decades. This state may have many fine qualities; state government operations are not one of them. More transparency is to take a step in the right direction. I hope more voters will understand that next time.

21 Frank Crowell March 12, 2013 at 8:59 AM

If HD 3412 is so important for Ms Dykema, why is there no mention of it on her web page for legislation pending?

http://www.carolyndykema.com/legislation/

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