×

My Turn: Rep. Blais: ‘Working for you’

  • BLAIS



Thursday, July 29, 2021

I use three guiding principles in my work as your state legislator: Listen carefully. Be thoughtful in my approach. Act with integrity.

In a recent Guest Column, Chesterfield resident Matt Barron questioned my integrity and mischaracterized my work, my approach and my beliefs [July 23, “Rep. Blais needs a 2022 primary opponent”]. He stated that I am a legislator who “repeatedly sells out their constituents to vote with the speaker of the House” and that “it is more important for her to do what Speaker Ron Mariano of Quincy tells her to do than what those of us who elected her instruct her to do.”

Mr. Barron points to the recent rules vote in the Massachusetts House of Representatives to make these accusations. Given his misrepresentation, I am writing today to share my perspective.

Two weeks ago, the House voted 129-29 in support of a House rules package (H3930). The two amendments that Mr. Barron noted were defeated with nearly all Republicans and only a handful of Democrats voting for them. In fact, not a single legislator in western Massachusetts voted for them.

Mr. Barron fails to mention that the rules package as introduced included new provisions that will lead to greater transparency and citizen participation. These new rules reflect the advocacy of many constituents and legislators, including myself. Contrary to Mr. Barron’s claims, the following rules honor the ballot question that passed overwhelmingly in the 1st Franklin District. They:

■Require the results of roll call votes taken on the floor to be posted to the public website upon completion of the tally by the House clerk.

■Require that the names of members voting “no” on legislation before a committee be posted within 48 hours of the final tally of the vote. The aggregate number of votes in the affirmative, members not voting, and members reserving their rights will also be made public.

■Require the live broadcasting of both formal and informal sessions.

■Require that members receive a summary of policy changes prior to the formal session where a bill will be considered.

■Allow members of the public to participate remotely in committee hearings.

I heard from many of you during the pandemic that you valued the opportunity to participate in virtual hearings. I am proud to have worked alongside colleagues from across the commonwealth to push for the continuation of this practice.

For too long, constituents in western Massachusetts have felt locked out of the State House because of the time commitment required to travel to Boston. This change is a big step toward regional equity when it comes to access to committee hearings.

I voted against a blanket amendment that would have required 48 hours to review legislation before consideration by the House because I had concerns about the unintended consequences of its broad scope and the limits it could place on my ability to advance priority pieces of legislation for our district. H.4664 — ”An act authorizing the release of certain land in the town of Cummington from the operation of an agricultural preservation restriction” — is an example to consider.

H.4664 had been introduced in each of the previous two sessions. Bryant Cemetery is a Cummington-owned cemetery that had reached capacity. Bryant Farm offered to donate an abutting acre of land to expand the cemetery. However, the acre was protected in the Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) program and required legislation to release it to become a part of the cemetery. A tragic death in the community made this legislation a time-sensitive priority for the town and its residents.

From the moment I introduced it, I worked hard with the town to advance this bill, getting it through the committee process, and, finally, ensuring its passage on the evening of Nov. 20, 2019. I am proud to have been able to move the bill across the finish line that day for the town of Cummington. Had the 48-hour rule been in place, I would not have been able to get this legislation passed on the last day of session before the holiday recess.

While Mr. Barron claims that I am against “bringing greater transparency and accountability to the work often referred to as the ‘people’s business,’” nothing could be further from the truth. I post my votes on the House floor on my website at repblais.org. There, you can also find a summary of the bills I have sponsored and co-sponsored, along with a list of 1st Franklin District priorities signed into law last session. You are always welcome to contact me directly about any action I take on behalf of the district at 413-362-9453 or at natalie.blais@mahouse.gov.

Each and every day, my actions are guided solely by the priorities of the constituents of the 1st Franklin District. I work for you and am not beholden to anyone but you — not to special interest groups, not to a speaker, and not to individual donors like Mr. Barron.

State Rep. Natalie M. Blais represents the 19 communities of the 1st Franklin District.