Every baseball fan loves statistics, but there are no good statistics for judging the performance of legislators. One of the few statistics available is percentage of roll call votes missed, so that number takes on an outsize importance. I have worked hard to maintain a near perfect voting record in all my voting roles — as a citizen, as a Town Meeting member, as a Selectman, as a State Representative and as a Senator.
However, on July 30, I chose to attend an important meeting outside the State House in my role as Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, even though I knew it would cause me to miss several hours of busy roll call voting. As a result, my stat for this year so far is the worst in the Senate — an abysmal 64.2% through July 30. The only votes I missed were on that day, but it looks bad. It is a token of my commitment to my job that I made this choice — doing the most valuable thing instead of the thing that looks best.
July 30 was the last day before the summer break. The Governor had vetoed a number of line items in the budget and the main agenda for the day was to cast dozens of roll call votes overriding those vetoes in quick succession. Generally, legislative leadership does not take up veto overrides unless they are certain they have the votes they need. The overrides were all expected to be heavily lop-sided and my vote would make no difference in the outcome.
The Massachusetts District Attorneys Association was also holding its summer meeting on that date. This was a special opportunity to sit down with the District Attorneys and hear their perceptions and concerns about legislation pending before the joint Committee on the Judiciary.
The voting agenda for the day included some potentially controversial issues in addition to the routine overrides. I coordinated with the Senate President to assure that those issues were voted on or otherwise resolved earlier in the day. Knowing that nothing controversial remained on the agenda, I announced on the floor that I was departing for the meeting and left the State House at 4PM. I returned to the State House at 10:30PM. By then the Senate had adjourned, so I missed 57 routine roll calls in the hours after 4PM. Afterwards, I submitted a statement for the record indicating how I would have voted on each of the roll calls that I missed.
Chairing a legislative committee is a great opportunity for leadership and service to the Commonwealth. Doing the job well means that you reach out to key constituencies relevant to your committee and understand their needs and concerns. I spend much of my time these days meeting with people involved in the criminal justice process — everyone from victims to ex-prisoners. I also spend a lot of time visiting courts, prisons and programs. I frequently travel long distances for these meetings. Each one of these meetings is valuable and hard to arrange.
I wanted to let people know the story behind the statistic.
U do a great job. I am grateful 4 ur service.
No problem in my mind, Will. Keep up
The good work
Will, you’re doing a great job while being in one place at one time. What more could one ask? Thanks for your service,
I trust your integrity and commitment to public service.
Thanks so much for this note. It reinforces my inclination to be skeptical of “facts” presented by an opponent without also hearing the other side of the story. Makes it hard to ferret out the truth, if there is one. Democracy is not easy, though it’s usually worth the effort.
I usually shy away from politics. And pretty green with it all. The whole dysfunction in congress and the house of reps, makes one sick and wishing for something different from the OLD BOY system.
Although I dont read all your emails, I at least brose through them. I think your going a great Job reaching out to the general public, and keeping us current. More politicians should follow your example.
Dear Senator Brownsberger,
Benjamin Disraeli: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.
You do a wonderful job for your constituents.
Will, I applaud the
respect for constituents that your note represents.
It is also fascinating to get some insight into “day in the life of a committed legislator”.
Your reputation as committed and dependable is solid with people who know you, but its a nice courtesy that you followed up with this brief.
The challenge is for voters who only know you from a stat.
Though we don’t always walk down the same path I will never question your dedication to your job. Keep up the good work!
We support you not because of your stats but because you think and vote in a way of which we highly approve. Fortunately, there are no sportscasters with more interest in themselves than the game they’re covering who can keep the camera on themselves by quoting the kind of statistics that computers have enabled. So don’t worry, keep up your excellent work, and thanks for representing us so well!
Thanks for the explanation Will
You are doing great work.
You made the right choice, Will. Thanks.
We all need to make difficult decisions regarding conflicting scheduling issues. You were faced with one and made a decision which you thought was correct. It seems like it was one which was well thought-out. You have been a dedicated elected official committed to the needs of not only the people who elected you but also to all of the citizens of the Commonwealth.
No need to apologize for using your judgment in determining priorities. I trust your decision.
Your doing a great job. I see no problem here. Thanks much for the heads up!
Senator Brownsberger, chairing the Senate Joint Committee on the Judiciary is a tough responsibility. You have done well and I am certain you will continue to do well. Thank you for the note.
Your honesty is commendable! Your party is deplorable!m
Thanks for the rational makes sense to me
Keep up the good work
Will, no one does transparency better! Thank for the update. Thanks for being committed to your constituents and committee members and those who matter most. Agreed, people can choose to interpret reported data on only one level. We all need to stay vigilant and seek the fuller story before making decisions.
You’re doing a great job, Will! Keep up the good work.
I don’t care about arbitrary calculations. I am convinced whatever you decide to do for our
State is always for the best.
I don’t need statistics to confirm my trust in you.
Thank you for your service.
Will you are the best. Hard to be in two places at once. As usual your transparency is admirable.
Good for you, Will. Keep up the good work.
Will. You did the right thing. You are still batting up there with Ted Williams in my opinion even though you missed those meaningless votes. In my opinion,it would have been wrong as Chair of Judiciary to miss that meeting.
Will your voting track record is a one time event it is not important. If your voting track record becomes a trend then your constituents should become concerned
Einstein said it best. Not everything that counts can be counted. And not everything that can be counted counts.
You lost me when you said that your vote would not make a difference. The reason was that they had enough votes to pass the bills. That is sad. What you are saying is that bills do not go for a vote unless the Speaker or President have the votes to pass a bill even if it is a bad bill. You should do something about that. If that is what is happening maybe we should have term limits. Wait, we did have term limits but DeLeo changed that. It is called public service. It is not called career opportunity.
I wouldn’t look at as a term limits issue, John.
We have a budget with hundreds of line items in and we just have a very cumbersome process where every branch can adjust any of those items. The Governor can make dozens or hundreds of tweaks to the budget and we have to vote on each one of those by roll call if we wish to enforce the decisions we made earlier in the process. That can take hours and hours, so it is appropriate for leadership to streamline that voting through a negotiation to the extent possible.
We might be able to rethink cumbersome nature of the budget process, but that’s the issue in this case.
Thanks for the note, Will. It’s good that you filled us in on your reasoning – which makes good sense.
Thank you, Will, for your excellence.
Dear Senator Brownsberger,
You are to be praised for writing such a frank letter and explaining how you prioritized your time and your votes. I am very grateful for the effort and work you do, particularly keeping a close watch on Gov. Baker who has indicated a desire to eliminate some regulatory safeguards. You have my continuing support!
Will, you are the most impressive representative that we could have. Thank you for taking the time to send this email.
Your honest came through the very first time we spoke. Since then you have earned my trust. That has not changed.
Thanks for giving us the background and context. I admit I often see statistics and make a decision from them without knowing how they are compile – my bad. I’ve always enjoyed your columns and appreciate your looking at the long and the big picture. I’m glad you are there, and just wish I was in your district!
I forgive you Will! It sounds like you did all the right things under the circumstances.
Will, you clearly thought the situation through and made the right decision, even it it wasn’t politically expedient. That’s what I would have hoped you would do.
And following up with this communication helps us understand–also the right thing to do.
Your missing votes sounds very justifiable. There must be other legislators whose official duties cause them to miss votes, also. Why isn’t there a third way of recording votes other than “Yes” or “No” to account for
absences due to performing other legislative duties? Or allowing you to call in your vote when you working on
legislative business? could you arrange to be called when a vote is occurring?
Anne Covino Goldenberg
It happens. I’m not sure I would change the voting system. It’s designed above all to be accurate.
Placing substance over form was the professional way to deal with the conflict and you chose correctly. I understand that if there had been a controversial roll call in which your vote would have made the difference, you might have chosen otherwise.
With all best wishes for continued success,
Thank you for you continued service.
Will, thanks for the explanation. I appreciate all you do.
I always appreciate your clear, honest communication and your dedication to your job and your constituents. Thank you for your explanation and your service.
You made the correct choice
Keep up the dedicated service! It is appreciated.
Will – Thank you for your excellent representation, presentations, and informed judgment on the issues. Your thoughtful work – and persistence in arriving at solutions – are greatly appreciated.
All the best,
Will, I read all the comments that you received> I second every one of them.
I am totally confident that you made the right decisions. Thank you Senator!
Thank you for letting us know the reason for your bad stat. I am confident you made the right decision and always act in the best interests of your constituents.
You did the right thing, of course, by your action and the right thing to explain why and the important and positive consequences resulting. Keep up your excellent performance!!
I read your penance. Say three Our Father’s and three Hail Mary’s and you shall be justly absolved.
Will, this is commendable. You are an amazing public servant.
Your devotion to your job and your integrity
Should be a model for every legislator to
As Lynn Bishop said “hard to be in two places at once”. However if you could I would be glad to vote for you twice.
Our President said his terms would be transparent, he should look at your record and see what transparency is all about.
Richard B. Sullivan
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