State Auditor Diana DiZoglio has launched an audit of the Massachusetts Legislature, where she previously served in both branches.
"As I committed, my office has begun an audit of the state Legislature," DiZoglio said in a statement Tuesday. "We hope this will increase transparency, accountability and equity in an area of state government that has been completely ignored. Historically, the Legislature has been a closed-door operation, where committee votes have been hidden from the general public, and legislation has been voted on in the dark of night."
DiZoglio ran on a campaign of encouraging transparency, after earning a reputation as an independent voice who was willing to stand up against -- and clash publicly with -- leadership during her three terms in the House and two terms in the Senate.
"Taxpayers deserve more -- they deserve the opportunity to weigh in on legislative, budgetary and regulatory matters that are important to them. Everyone should have equitable and transparent access to and information about all state-funded agencies, including the Legislature. Unfortunately, the Legislature has not been audited since 1922, while Massachusetts ranks as one of the least transparent and least accessible state governments in the nation," her statement about the audit says.
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The Legislature is exempt from public records law and has come under criticism for keeping committee vote tallies private. Most joint committees do not publicly share a breakdown of how every lawmaker votes in the polls that advance or kill legislation, and the House and Senate do not take recorded votes even on most of the bills that make their calendars.
In the fiscal 2023 budget, about $46.9 million is going to the House of Representatives, $29 million is earmarked for the Senate, and $10.9 million will be spent on joint operations. Gov. Maura Healey proposed a roughly $1 million increase across the board for the Legislature in her fiscal year 2024 budget recommendation.
When DiZoglio raised the idea of auditing the Legislature on the campaign trail, former Auditor Suzanne Bump told CommonWealth Magazine that the auditor lacks authority to do so. DiZoglio responded by telling the outlet that the Legislature should not be exempt from accountability.
The state auditor's governing statute says the office can audit the "accounts, programs, activities and functions" of "all departments, offices, commissions, institutions and activities of the commonwealth, including those of districts and authorities created by the general court."
Two months into her term, DiZoglio has announced audits of the MBTA, the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority in light of allegations of racial discrimination, and now the Legislature.
"It is my hope that the Legislature welcomes the opportunity for an audit to uncover where we can, and must, do better as a state government. Our office looks forward to working with them," DiZoglio said.
House Speaker Ron Mariano did not comment Tuesday.
A spokesperson for Senate President Karen Spilka replied to a request for comment Tuesday night.
"Under the Massachusetts Constitution and as the separation of powers clause dictates, the Senate is required to manage its own business and set its own rules. Those rules require that the Senate undergoes an audit every fiscal year by a certified public accounting firm experienced in auditing governmental entities and provide that audit to the public. Further, Senate business is made public through journals, calendars and recordings of each session, while payroll and other financial information is publicly available on the Comptroller's website. If anyone wishes to view this information, it is available to the public," the spokesperson said.