Sunday, January 24, 2010

Diversity in the state legislature?

Despite an executive branch headed by the state's first black governor, no one keeps track of the racial makeup of the Legislature's work force - not the state Human Resources Division nor any central office in the House or Senate.

Lawmakers can hire whomever they want, however they want, and since they exempted themselves from the public record law years ago, they don't have to tell anyone.

Only 18 of 200 elected officials agreed to provide information on their staffers' race, age and gender to The Patriot Ledger.

Reached last week, no MetroWest legislator, with the exception of state Sen. Jamie Eldridge, responded to the Daily News' request for information regarding staff demographics. Some offices did not return calls. Other offices referred the News directly to the House Speaker's office. Other offices referred the News to the Legislature's human resources department, which then referred a reporter to the House Speaker's office.

Affirmative action - a hiring policy that encourages minorities to apply for jobs where they are underrepresented - was a phrase first used by President John F. Kennedy nearly 50 years ago. In the years that followed, it was the basis for federal equal opportunity hiring regulations that states, cities and towns had to follow, or risk losing federal aid.

But the same rules affecting all 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts and more than 50,000 state employees don't apply to lawmakers, their employees or committee staffs.

Read the full and rather interesting report on this disconnect created by the legislature in the Milford Daily News here

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