Legislative session ends with round of finger pointing
BOSTON >> When Republican Gov. Charlie Baker begins filing legislation in the new session next year, Senate President Stan Rosenberg wants half of the bills filed in the Senate and half filed in the House.
What sounds on the surface like a tweaking of Beacon Hill process is actually a signal of the frayed relations between the two Statehouse chambers.
That's not a surprise. There are always some power struggles between House and Senate leaders — tensions that can grow more intense in the final days of the formal session, which ended last weekend.
But instead of breaking out in the final weeks of the 19-month session, the tug-of-war between Rosenberg and House Speaker Robert DeLeo, both Democrats, began at the very start of the session back in January 2015.
Rosenberg, then stepping in as the newly minted Senate president, was looking to level what he saw as a power imbalance between the House and Senate that he said gives the House too much power to kill bills — including those that begin in the Senate.
Specifically, Rosenberg pointed to the Legislature's 25 joint committees charged with deciding which bills should be recommended for approval; which should be given an adverse report; and which should be sent along for further study.
Rosenberg said at the time that since representatives of the 160-member House have a numerical advantage on each joint committee over members of the 40-person Senate, the House controls the flow of bills.
As a fix, Rosenberg said Senate members of a joint committee should have the power to send bills that originated in the Senate back to that chamber to be debated and voted on. House members of joint committee would have the same authority over bills that originated in the House.
DeLeo called Rosenberg's proposal "ill-advised" and "disruptive," and it was never adopted.
The friction between the two leaders flared anew at the end of the session. That led Rosenberg to suggest that when the Republican governor starts filing bills at the start of the new session, he take turns filing in each chamber.
"The governor can file legislation in either the House or Senate," Rosenberg said on Twitter this week. "I invite him to file an equal number in the House and the Senate."
Baker did file a major energy bill in the Senate during the just-completed session.
Rosenberg also lamented the crush of bills that passed or died in the final hours of the session.
"We always have long hours, and I want to change that!" Rosenberg tweeted. "The big bills could have been negotiated earlier, one at a time."
One bill that failed to pass addressed the issue of "non-compete" clauses in employment contracts limiting the ability of workers to leave a company and immediately work for a competing firm or start their own.
The House wanted to limit non-compete clauses to 12 months, while the Senate was pushing for a three-month limit. The chambers failed to hammer out a compromise.
Rosenberg said lawmakers should take up the bill in the first six months of the new legislative session beginning in 2017.
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