Gridlock on Beacon Hill over 'the can' - Boston News, Weather, Sports | FOX 25 | MyFoxBoston

Gridlock on Beacon Hill over 'the can'

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BOSTON (MyFoxBoston.com) -- A battle is brewing at the State House because something known as "the can" has been holding up business in the House of Representatives.

The can is a metal container that holds bills and sits on the house speaker's podium. Five Republicans on Beacon Hill are holding up business because they claim Democrats are not transparent enough and are taking advantage of their power. Two weeks ago, the small group began blocking business in informal sessions, measures like granting liquor licenses or sick leave.

The group claims the gridlock is because House Speaker Robert DeLeo decided against allowing rank and file members to look inside the can while on the House floor. Speaker DeLeo was concerned about the number of people flipping through the bills so he said only leaders on both sides or a person chosen by the leader could go through the can.

Republican leader Brad Jones doesn't have a problem with it because members can still go to the clerk's office to view the bills or go to their party leaders, but a small group of Republicans are upset, saying it's their right to look at bills on the House floor.

"These things did not happen because we are too transparent or too open," said Rep. Jim Lyons, an Andover Republican. "It happened simply because the majority party has been allowed for far too long to do whatever they want and now we are using the informal process within the rules to demand that we have a right, as legislators, to see pending legislation. It's very simple."

Rep. Betty Poirier tells FOX 25 being able to go through the can is a courtesy extended by the House Speaker.

"Going through the can, when it's on the rostrum, is a courtesy, that's not always been extended by every speaker. This particular speaker has allowed the Republican leadership, whoever happens to be covering the session, to be on the rostrum and to be very close to the action and to look into the can if they need to, but we have full knowledge of what is there prior to the session by going to the clerk's office, any member has access to what is going to be on the calendar that day," said Rep. Poirier.

Rep. Alice Peisch says having a crowd going through the can could raise security concerns.

"If we have 160 people up at the rostrum flipping through, frankly, there would be concerns about security of the paperwork in addition to the efficiency and right now informal sessions tend to be very efficient. These are non-controversial, local matters that are being taken up and as far as I know there is no objection to what's being taken up," said Rep. Peisch.

The Republicans have blocked business during the last four sessions since late August. Republicans only have 30 of the 160 seats in the House.

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