GOP Lawmaker Ends Vigil Blocking Mass. Budget Bill
A freshman Republican House lawmaker abandoned his one-man maneuver to delay a state spending bill and allowed the measure to move forward Friday after winning a verbal agreement from Gov. Deval Patrick's administration.
Rep. James Lyons of Andover had held vigil in a virtually empty House chamber for 17 hours for two days as he pushed for an amendment calling for a detailed breakdown of state spending.
His presence had frustrated efforts by Democratic leaders to send back to the Senate a supplemental budget that would deposit $350 million to the state's rainy day fund and set aside money for other purposes, including $10 million for cities and towns affected impacted by deadly tornadoes.
Because the House was meeting in informal session, it takes an objection from only one member to prevent a bill from being passed.
"I've asked for a full formal session where we can debate the amendment and vote up or down on it," Lyons said earlier Friday. He sat alone in the back of the chamber but was occasionally joined by other Republican colleagues, including freshman Rep. Marc Lombardo of Billerica.
Rep. Paul Donato, D-Medford, a member of Speaker Robert DeLeo's leadership team, waited patiently behind the speaker's rostrum for much of the day, apparently hoping that Lyons would end his vigil.
Then late in Friday, Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. JudyAnn Bigby called Lyons and promised to provide him with the information.
Lyons agreed to abandon his vigil, allowing the supplemental budget to move forward.
"They decided that they had made their point," Donato told reporters after he sent the bill back to the Senate for final action before it goes to Patrick. "It was time to go on to other things,"
Lyons conceded that he'd decided to hold the vigil over the objections of Republican state Rep. Brad Jones, minority leader in the Massachusetts House.
"I'm new to the game," Lyons said. "People have different opinions."
Democratic leaders wanted to pass the budget quickly. If the parliamentary standoff had continued, the House would have had to call a formal session to pass the bill. There were no formal sessions of the House scheduled for next week.
Lyons' amendment called for the administration to provide a detailed breakdown of how public benefits are distributed, including benefits that go to immigrants who hold green cards and those who may be in the country illegally.
"It's about transparency," Lyons said.
The amendment was added to the budget during an earlier vote in the House, but was later stripped from the spending bill by the Senate.
John Walsh, chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, had issued a statement Friday accusing Lyons and his Republican colleagues of "holding hostage" funds needed for education and other projects around the state.
"What he is doing is so much like the political games being played by the Republicans in Washington. It's not even funny," said Walsh.
Lyons was unapologetic.
"I was happy to spend some time with you," Lyons joked with Donato as he left the empty chamber Friday.
This program aired on October 15, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.