You Wouldn't Want to be the Clerk

No wonder Bob McQueen is retiring.

Bob is the Clerk of the House of Representatives, the guy in charge of keeping all of the legislation in some semblance of order.

And, he's been doing this job for 43 years.

He's the guy you see announcing all the bills at the Speaker's podium, if you ever watch the House on "Gavel to Gavel," the cable channel that MediaOne occasionally remembers to actually broadcast out here in Western Mass when the legislature is in session.

During budget session he actually stands there a dozen hours a day, or longer, patiently keeping a bunch of rowdies, your elected officials under control. He's the one that tells us when we're out of order, not playing by the rules.

If the truth be known, he knows more than anyone else in the House. But don't tell The Speaker that I told you so.

His biggest job is keeping all the pending, and passed, legislation in order, as I said.

And, this time of year, that means sorting through about 8,000 bills that the House members filed for action during 1999. Last week was the deadline to file legislation. And, we filed a lot.

Of course, we had some help from you, which is one reason Massachusetts deals with more bills every year than any other state. Because, this is the only state that anyone can file legislation.

All you have to do, when you say to yourself "There ought to be a law", is call your own Senator or Representative and tell them to file your idea as a bill.

This time of year, every bill has to be assigned a number (like H546 or S201, H for House, S for Senate, depending on where the bill was filed).

After the first of the year, when committees are assigned, every piece of legislation filed has a hearing before at least one committee, where it must pass the muster before going on to the entire House for action.

The bills range from silly, like my friend Representative Susan Pope's bill to make six the official number of the Commonwealth. To the serious. Very serious. Like the state budget.

Now, take the budget. The Governor will file a budget.

The House puts a budget together, at which point you might as well put the Governor's budget in the garbage. Somehow, however, I can't toss any of them. I think I have a file cabinet full.

And, the Senate puts a budget together. Then, everything gets combined and all hell breaks loose. About May. Or June.

But December is the season to file legislation. Which, first, is why I'm writing about Bob McQueen. And, secondly, because everyone asks all of the legislators what legislation did you file?

I could give you a long list. Because we all sponsor or sign on to a lot of bills. I can't even tell you how many. Probably a hundred? No, probably more.

If you'd really like to know, wait a few months, and go up on my homepage on the world wide web. It's celehahn.org. And, you'll find a list of all the legislation I'm sponsoring. Right now, you'll only find the legislation I sponsored for the 1997-1998 session.

For example, I agreed to co-sponsor most of the legislation initiated by Associated Industries of Massachusetts, because it is legislation that will strengthen our business community, that will make Massachusetts an easier place to conduct business, that will lower taxes for you as well as businesses. And, when businesses do well, our cities and towns, and our citizens, do well.

Closer to home, I'm taking the lead for legislation that will allow Westfield State College to build a new field house. I'm sponsoring the MTA legislation for the Rule of 90, allowing teachers to retire when their age and years of service total 90. And, if you pay college tuition, I'd like it to be tax deductible.

Of course, I've refiled my legislation to eliminate taxes on airplane parts and service, a move to benefit the fixed based operators of the state at airports, including our own Barnes. I'm tired of pilots and airplane owners flying off to be serviced in states that don't tax them.

A new piece of legislation, brought to my attention at a national convention of legislators, is also on my agenda--being sure that the guy who rents you a car does not have to be a registered insurance agent.

Some day soon, when I've straightened it all out, I'll give a longer, better list. But, to do that I need the help of Bob McQueen.

And, Bob, I'm really going to miss you.

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