If closed conference committee meetings are a tradition as Senate Majority Leader Fred Berry claims, it’s one that doesn’t go back very far.
State Rep. Ted Speliotis, D-Danvers, recalls legislators, the press and public being routinely allowed to attend such meetings during his first stint in the Legislature which began in 1979.
He still recalls how he became aware of the new rules.
Shortly after his return to the House, Speliotis said, he and his family were driving back home to Danvers from the Cape when, much to his wife and kids’ dismay, he decided to stop off at the Statehouse. He knew House and Senate negotiators were there trying to hammer out a budget and wanted to see what was going on.
As Speliotis tells it, he stuck his head into the House Ways & Means conference room and saw that the only people there were the few conference committee members. One, Harriett Stanley of West Newbury, asked what he wanted.
When Speliotis said he just wanted to listen in on some of the discussion, he was told that would not be appropriate.
Somehow in those 10 years the Legislature had begun a new tradition of secrecy. It’s one that should be scrapped.