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January 26, 2013

Tarr seeks rules changes in state Senate

(Continued)

Jones also filed a proposal to limit the ability of lawmakers to “inoculate” themselves from up-or-down votes on amendments to bills such as the budget by filing further amendments to refer the issue for further study. The rule change would require a two-thirds vote to send an amendment to study, unless the author of the original amendment agrees.

About half of Jones’ amendments are new this year, while others have been filed in the past.

“The rules are really a statement of how we’re going to conduct the people’s business, and I think therefore the rules should be focused on accountability, individual responsibility of members, and a clear delineation of responsibilities-slash-power of leadership,” Jones said. “Ultimately, most of the power the speaker has is that given to him or her by the membership. So oftentimes it becomes convenient to say, ‘Well, the speaker’s tremendously powerful. It’s their decision. They do all this.’ But ultimately most of that power derives from the members giving it to them.”

Senate Republicans have also outnumbered their Democratic colleagues in the number of rules amendments offered in recent years. Two years ago, under Tarr’s first term as minority leader, Republicans sought to open informal sessions to broadcast media, to disallow the practice of members’ pairing of votes, and more reporting on how supplemental budgets affect the overall annual budget.

In the Senate, the proposed rules this year are largely the same as last year.

“We have moved along a minor set of changes in the existing Senate rules. They’re really technical in nature, and relate to things like Senate personnel office name change to human resources,” said Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, the acting chairman of the Rules Committee. If the technical changes weren’t adopted, “nothing in the world would change,” Rosenberg said. “They’re so minor,” he said.

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