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Section Council Legislative Procedures

Any matter a Massachusetts Bar Association section wishes to take a position on must be approved by the MBA’s House of Delegates. Sections may not adopt positions on legislation or matters of public policy for any purpose other than to make a recommendation to the House of Delegates. Matters requiring such approval include:

  • Legislation a section would like the MBA to support in principle, to oppose, or to sponsor
  • Reports, recommendations or statements of public policy not necessarily related to pending legislation, such as positions on proposed changes to court rules or procedures

The Chief Legal Counsel and Director of Policy and Operations are available as a source of guidance in bringing matters before the board.

Section Council Legislative Procedures

Any matter a Massachusetts Bar Association section wishes to take a position on must be approved by the MBA’s House of Delegates. Sections may not adopt positions on legislation or matters of public policy for any purpose other than to make a recommendation to the House of Delegates. Matters requiring such approval include:

  • Legislation a section would like the MBA to support in principle, to oppose, or to sponsor
  • Reports, recommendations or statements of public policy not necessarily related to pending legislation, such as positions on proposed changes to court rules or procedures

The Chief Legal Counsel and Director of Policy and Operations are available as a source of guidance in bringing matters before the board.

General Procedure

The following procedures apply generally to all matters requiring MBA House of Delegates (HOD) approval.

  1. Establish your section’s position. In order for a matter to be considered by the HOD, the Section Council must first establish its own position through a formal vote. Matters initiated by a section’s practice group must also be approved by the section council, even if the practice group has approved the matter by a formal vote. If the council cannot reach a consensus, the matter will not be considered by the HOD.
  2. Coordinate with other sections. The section chair should make sure that all other interested sections are given an opportunity to review and comment on proposed matters prior to requests for action by the HOD. Generally this will require a month’s notice in order to allow ample time for review by other section councils. The Chief Legal Counsel and Director of Policy and Operations can be of assistance in identifying other potentially interested sections.
  3. Prepare a summary sheet and supporting materials. All matters being brought before the HOD must be presented on a summary sheet form giving background on the matter and summarizing the section’s recommendations. The summary sheet must also give the exact wording of motions to be presented for a vote. Click here for a summary sheet.

    The summary sheet and any supporting materials should be forwarded to advocacy@massbar.org at least two weeks before the HOD meeting to allow for distribution by mail in advance of the meeting. The matter will be not placed on the HOD agenda if this deadline is not met.
  4. Speaking on behalf of your proposal. The section chair (or a designee) will be asked to appear before the HOD to present the section’s request in detail.

    Your proposal does not become an official position of the MBA until it has been approved by the HOD. Approval of a matter by your section council, committee or practice group does not constitute endorsement by the MBA. It is therefore necessary to exercise discretion in speaking on behalf of your proposal.

    It can be appropriate, for example, to promote the section council’s position on a bill in Section Review, in the context of urging section members to contact their representatives on the House of Delegates in support of the bill. It is not appropriate to urge them to contact their legislators directly, unless the HOD has already voted to support the legislation and it has become the official position of the MBA. (All calls for action on legislation must be coordinated with the MBA’s Chief Legal Counsel.) Similarly, you, as a private citizen, have the right and responsibility to contact your legislator and express your personal position on any matter. However, you may not speak to a legislator (or to a reporter, or in any other public context) in your role as a representative of the MBA unless cleared through the MBA. If you are asked by the media or others to speak on any matter as a representative of the MBA, you should immediately contact the MBA's Director of Media and Communications at (617) 338-0682 or via email.

The Role of the Legislative Liaison

Each section has a legislative liaison and a legislation committee to follow legislative developments of interest to the section. Legislative liaisons and committees work closely with MBA’s Chief Legal Counsel and Director of Policy and Operations. The liaison and/or committee may do one or more of the following:

  1. Keep track of proposed legislation and provide status reports to the members, through the Section Review or other publications.
  2. Review proposed legislation and recommend an MBA position, in support or opposition, for consideration by the section council and ultimately the HOD. Bills filed by other persons or groups are often referred to the MBA for comment. These bills are forwarded to the appropriate section for comment and/or recommendation.
  3. Report on new legislation and assess the impact on practitioners.
  4. Draft new legislative proposals on behalf of the section, for consideration by other interested sections and the HOD.
  5. Work closely with the Chief Legal Counsel’s Office on lobbying activities to promote MBA legislative positions that have been endorsed by the HOD.

Filing of Legislation

Bills that have been drafted by an MBA section, practice group or committee, endorsed by the HOD, and are scheduled to be filed with the Legislature, must be submitted to the Chief Legal Counsel in final form at least two weeks before the first Wednesday in December in even-numbered years. At that time the Chief Legal Counsel will solicit appropriate legislators to sponsor the bill. The December deadline, established by the Joint Rules of the Legislature, applies to all bills to be considered in the subsequent legislative session, except in select and unusual circumstances when bills may be late-filed. Legislation that has been previously approved by the HOD may be resubmitted to the Legislature under MBA sponsorship with-out further action by the House of Delegates. Any such legislation must be resubmitted only by the MBA Chief Legal Counsel (not by sections directly) in order to ensure proper coordination of MBA legislative efforts.

Legislative Updates

MBA Lawyers Journal contains updates on legislation of interest to lawyers, including those bills which the House of Delegates has taken positions. Section Review will contain additional reports on significant pending legislation of interest even if the MBA has not adopted a position. Legislative reports are occasionally published in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.

Legislative tracking reports are provided to a section upon request. These reports are specially prepared by the Chief Legal Counsel’s Office to provide a bill history of every piece of legislation pending on Beacon Hill whose subject matter relates to a particular section or area of the law.

Legislative Alert

Periodically, sections and practice groups will receive a legislative alert via email from the MBA’s Chief Legal Counsel informing them of imminent legislative action on a bill on which the House of Delegates has taken a position. A legislative alert will be used when it is critically important for legislators to hear directly from individual attorneys regarding their endorsement of the MBA position in support or opposition to a bill.

LAWPAC, A Political Action Committee 

LAWPAC is the only political action committee endorsed by the MBA. Through the voluntary contributions of lawyers, LAWPAC makes donations to candidates for the Massachusetts Legislature who are supportive of the concerns of the bar.

Public Policy

From time to time, ad hoc committees are established by the MBA President to study and create a report with recommendations regarding an important issue affecting lawyers, the practice of law, or the administration of justice. Such committees are usually established when there aren’t existing sections or committees within the MBA qualified to address the particular issue; when the issue is so overreaching that it requires examination by a broader based group; when there is insufficient time available to allow the customary procedures to be followed; or for some other compelling reason as determined by the president. Any report from an ad hoc committee must be reviewed and approved by the HOD or EMB prior to its dissemination.