To the editor:

A new era begins on Beacon Hill as the Massachusetts House of Representatives has chosen a new speaker. With the departure of Speaker Robert DeLeo, D-Winthrop, for a job at Northeastern, Rep. Ron Mariano, D-Quincy, has taken over the top post in the Statehouse.

Historically, the speakership in Massachusetts has been somewhat infamous. For example, the three speakers prior to DeLeo were indicted for federal crimes. And while DeLeo cleared the low bar of not being a felon, he still was party to a number of transgressions that sowed public distrust toward state government.

DeLeo’s leadership was defined by its opacity – as each session began, the rules package that he supported would be filled with blatant efforts to seal off proceedings from the general public.

DeLeo made sure the state Legislature is exempt from open meeting laws. DeLeo made sure that legislators did not have ample time to read the bills they were voting on, opposing a measure that would allow legislators to read bills for at least 72 hours.

He made sure that amendments did not have ample time to be read before going to a vote, rejecting a measure that would allow for amendments to be mulled over for 30 minutes. And perhaps most bizarrely, DeLeo’s rules packages ensured that any committee vote or committee testimony did not get published.

That is astounding, but it is all true.

Massachusetts ranks among the top three states in the nation for lack of transparency. Usually, people are upset about something the government does, but here in Massachusetts we don’t even know what the government is even doing in the first place.

Our new speaker can usher in a new era of openness. Speaker Mariano, in an interview with the Boston Herald, promised to do exactly that.

But we must, as citizens, hold him accountable to this pledge. After all, in the past, Mariano has voted for DeLeo’s rules that reject transparency.

But, 2021 is sure to be a year of great change and new beginnings. Here’s hoping that Mariano, and a bipartisan group of legislators, can support common-sense transparency measures.

Local Reps. Lenny Mirra, R-Georgetown, James Kelcourse, R-Amesbury, and Christina Minicucci, D-North Andover, vote for transparency every legislative session.

Here’s hoping that two-thirds of their colleagues will join them when the rules are voted on in early January.

John Olds

Merrimac

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