BOSTON (AP) -- A state Senate panel is bringing new scrutiny to about 700 state boards in Massachusetts, exploring the possibility of abolishing some that have outlived their usefulness, consolidating others or redefining their missions.
The scrutiny follows a report in The Boston Globe that found that more than a third of the 4,800 seats on state boards and commissions were either empty or filled with holdover members whose term expired long ago. Some boards hadn’t met in years.
"Sometimes these commissions sound like they are not even needed anymore," said Sen. Cynthia Creem, D-Newton, who chairs the committee. She hopes the Senate Committee on Post Audit and Oversight could review more than a dozen boards before this year’s legislative session ends in January and take on the rest in the future.
Part of the issue is the sheer difficulty in filling so many seats.
Empty seats have made it difficult even for some necessary boards to do their jobs. The Board of Respiratory Care, which licenses respiratory therapists, has repeatedly canceled meetings because of the lack of a quorum.
Some boards have struggled to get started because of a lack of members. A commission that Gov. Deval Patrick set up six years ago to help plan the festivities for the 400th anniversary of the landing of the Mayflower has yet to hold its first meeting because 10 of the 15 seats are vacant.
Other boards have not met for years. The African American Advisory Commission, established in 1993, hasn’t met in at least seven years.
"It is worth looking at whether all of the boards serve a current need," Patrick said.