Student climate advocates plan to virtually lobby state lawmakers this week in support of rules changes they say would help clear up clouds that linger over the legislative process.
The Massachusetts Youth Climate Coalition plans to hold a series of Zoom meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday, during which more than 140 students between the ages of 12 and 25 will ask lawmakers to support rules changes the coalition says will make it easier to track the progress of climate legislation.
Adopting rules that govern House and Senate activity and the flow of bills is one of the first major actions of a new legislative session, typically handled in mid- to late January.
"It is very frustrating not just to lose, but to have no way to learn why we lost, who disagrees with us and we can hold accountable," the coalition said in a statement. "Youth are preparing to pressure legislators to make public declarations of support and put key members of leadership under the microscope. We refuse to cater to the business-as-usual, behind closed doors, status quo that dominates the last year of the Massachusetts session."
The Legislature has 29 joint committees, 11 House committees and 11 Senate committees, and their approaches to releasing information vary. Some hold votes in public executive sessions, others disclose the results of email polls, and some will provide only a total vote tally but not information on how each member vote. Each committee sets its own rules, with the decisions up to the chairs and members.
The coalition, formed in February 2020, is made up of 15 organizations including four Sunrise Movement hubs, Our Climate, Boston Climate Strike and the Boston Student Advisory Council.
The coalition has three transparency asks: that all committee votes be public and posted on the Legislature's website, that House and Senate leaders give lawmakers at least 72 hours during business days to file amendments to a bill coming up for debate, and that the House lower its threshold for roll call votes.
Roll call votes, where each lawmaker's position is recorded, are not required for most bills. When not required, roll call votes occur at the request of a representative or senator, provided a sufficient number of their colleagues stand up with them in support.
Senate rules require the support of one-fifth of the body, or a number equal to members of the minority party — currently, three, as Democrats hold 37 out of 40 seats.
House rules require 10 percent of the members to support a roll call, which works out to 16 of 160 members. The climate coalition wants that number lowered to eight.
The coalition says it is holding the lobby days "in partnership with Act on Mass's Transparency is Power Campaign."
Act on Mass, which backs progressive causes and pushes for transparency on Beacon Hill, announced its campaign in December, similarly seeking rules changes that would require all committee votes to be posted online, allow legislators and the public 72 hours to review a bill before a vote, and reduce the House roll call threshold to eight representatives.
According to the Act on Mass website, seven House lawmakers have committed to backing all three changes as rules amendments: Reps. Mike Connolly of Cambridge, Russell Holmes of Boston, Vanna Howard of Lowell, Patrick Kearney of Scituate, Steve Owens of Watertown, Danillo Sena of Acton, and Erika Uyterhoeven of Somerville. Uyterhoeven co-founded Act on Mass before winning her House seat last fall.
Eight others have committed to at least one amendment, according to the organization.
Rep. Paul Tucker of Salem backs the committee vote disclosure, and Reps. Brandy Fluker Oakley of Boston, Tami Gouveia of Acton, Natalie Higgins of Leominster, David LeBoeuf of Worcester, Jack Lewis of Framingham and Adam Scanlon of North Attleborough back both the committee vote proposal and the 72-hour review period. Rep. Rady Mom of Lowell told the group he supports the 72-hour window and the lower roll call threshold.