It was a lousy process for fans of transparency who long for the time we had 10 full days (and nights) of televised debate one line item at a time. Never mind there were huddles of legislators in the corners of the Chamber or (gasp) behind closed doors developing arguments and and counting votes in relative privacy while the press and the advocates snoozed waiting for “something to happen”.
And then waited for days to see the final text, because NOBODY, not even the reliable State House News reported every word and every vote. .
This year the huddles – called Caucuses – were better organized and held in a room off the chamber that was not open to the public or advocates.
Legislators championing increases to particular line items were busy gathering support from their colleagues and the leadership in preparation for their participation in the caucus that would discuss their particular area of the budget.
This year Education was called first which was unusual. The unions and advocates scrambled quickly to round up their sponsors and make sure they got into Room 348 to fight for their line item. Hours later a “consolidated amendment” was printed up and brought to the floor and with a minimum of debate, approved.
To quote in part a summary from State House News,
HOUSE ADDS $14 MIL TO BUDGET IN EDUCATION/LOCAL AID AMENDMENT: Although they’ve warned of austere times with little flexibility for new spending, House leaders won unanimous support early Monday night for a budget amendment adding $14 million to support favored education and local aid programs.
And that summary was produced by House Ways and Means staff as they handed out this multiple pages list of specific amendments. And yes typos & mistakes were found and corrected later in a technical amendment.
Not perfectly inclusive, not exactly transparent, (not even close). However, the whole process was updated regularly, if not exactly in “real time”. Here is the link to the amendments and floor actions.
Meanwhile to get the big picture we enthusiastically recommend that you regularly check in with Mass Budget and Policy’s Budget Browser
– they will be out with a deep and thorough analysis of the final House Budget soon.