VOTE: Government Accountability (H.702) - March 26, 2024

Chairman McCarthy opened the House Government Operations Committee meeting on Tuesday morning by saying he was particularly busy visiting with the House Appropriations Committee regarding the grants bill, H.140. He shared with the Committee that he would like to offer an amendment to H.702 to insert the working Group concept from the previous bill into this one.

He said that “since 702 is on its way I at least wanted to see if the Committee was interested in trying to at least keep the conversation going for the Working Group.” The working group would be responsible for examining the process for state grants and contracts to determine if they are meeting best practices.

The amendment was supported unanimously with an 11-0-1 vote.

Representative Donahue (a co-sponsor) joined the Committee and started testifying on a second amendment, saying that the sponsor (Representative Cina) was delayed in traffic. The amendment will “not alter the priorities” of the Joint Government Committee in H.702 but allows “for one formal process” to trigger a performance review of a specific piece of legislation via a Legislative request by either chamber.

The Committee currently has no requirement to consider any request. Representative Hango commented that this would open “a Pandoras Box of all kinds of issues that may not be accountability issues but may be personal gripes or constituent requests.”

Donahue countered these would all have to garner support of the full House or Senate on the floor, so they are unlikely to be frivolous. Hango quipped that would mean more hours of debate on the Floor.

Higley added that the word “shall” is a concern, noting there had been some recent “frivolous resolutions” such as the Paris Agreement, repeal of section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Service, and clemency for Edward Snowden.

Cina arrived and explained these issues would require a member to organize, develop, and support a resolution then get it passed; so it will not be anything more than a mechanism to develop constituency around a topic not yet being considered by the Committee of its own volition.

McCarthy commented he has now “begun to come around” to the idea of a “safety valve that sort of goes around our traditional process,” even if that meant forcing the Committee to consider an issue. Cina thanked him and Donahue added that it is still “a choice if an issue of significant concern.”

Legislative Counsel explains that “issues of significant public concern” which has now become a “term of art because it has been defined here.” McCarthy clarified that “there is nothing about that language that prevents the Committee from setting its own agenda?” He followed by saying that the “bar is high enough to have to pass a resolution that I am not concerned… that this would lead to, kind of frivolous asks of the Committee.”

A vote was called, and the Committee was 7-4 in favor.

 

H.702 reached the House floor on Tuesday afternoon for a third (and final) reading of the bill, the goal of the bill is to create a feedback loop for legislation so that the performance of policies passed by the Legislature and be measured for effectiveness.

Representatives Cina of Burlington and Donahue of Northfield moved to amend the bill so that the Legislature could pass a resolution to have a particular policy reviewed. Otherwise, the Government Accountability Committee set up in the bill would determine themselves which pieces of legislation to review. This amendment was agreed to on a voice vote.

Representative McCarthy of St. Albans City moved to amend the bill by adding a reader assistance heading and two new sections, 6a and 6b. This was largely just a technical change.

McCarthy then introduced a second amendment, explaining that it would address the state government grant response time issues. They are hearing reports of “very long delays” in the execution and payment of grants. He explained the need to look at and report back on these issues.

There was another voice vote to approve these amendments. The underlying bill passed overwhelmingly.


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