Jun 6, 2024 - News

Spill of the Hill: Co-sponsors ≠ votes

Animated illustration of a teacup made out of the Massachusetts State House dome pouring tea into the rest of the State House.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

This is the first in a series of columns exploring the ins and outs of how lawmakers operate in Massachusetts.

June on Beacon Hill means sailboats along the Esplanade, overheated tourists and a rare burst of legislative energy at the State House as lawmakers push through a handful of campaign promises before they head home until next year.

Why it matters: In the Democrat-controlled Legislature, even overwhelming support for a bill doesn't guarantee passage — or even a floor vote.

  • Leaders tend to cite a lack of "bandwidth" to explain why popular bills often die on the vine before the August-to-January recess.

Take the effort to stop "wage theft." It's a top priority of organized labor and has 92 House co-sponsors — over 57% of the chamber — but hasn't even received a committee vote.

  • Business interests are fighting the bill behind the scenes, so leading Democrats have it bottled up until a compromise can make it easier for moderates to get to yes.

Between the lines: On Beacon Hill, co-sponsorship does not equal a "yes" vote since lawmakers know only a few complicated bills will get votes each year.

The bottom line: The end of the legislative session is all about picking from 200-plus politicians' wishlists, taking stock of the political climate and personality clashes, then notching a few wins before going home for reelection.


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