Monday, April 29, 2013

The Plum Book: United States Government Policy and Supporting Positions

United States Government Policy and Supporting Positions is commonly called the Plum Book. It is published after each Presidential election. It identifies presidentially appointed positions in the federal government.

The book is published, alternately, by the United States Senate’s Committee on Governmental Affairs and the United States House of Representatives’ Committee on Government Reform. Over 7,000 positions are listed. The lists include positions in the Legislative Branch, the Executive Office of the President and the Executive Branch Departments.

Types of categories listed are:
Senior Executive Service General positions; Senior Foreign Service positions; Government GS-14 and above level confidential positions and others. There are 5 appendices which include federal salary schedules and positions in the Office of the Vice-President.

There is online access to this publication starting in 1996 – 2012 in 4 years increments.
Please visit the State Library in room 341 of the State House on Mondays through Fridays from 9 am to 5 pm and use our public computers to view these publications and others.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Item of the Month for April 2013 - Questions and Answers on Legislative History

Senate                                                                        House
Lawmakers in the Commonwealth, members of the Massachusetts General Court, make the laws in the state. The Senate and House chambers (above) are where much of the legislative process happens. All proposed laws, whether they are or are not enacted can be researched in the State Library which is, of course, located in the State House.

In the course of any day in the library, there are inquiries about conducting legislative history. The wish to find this history is one of the major reasons for a visit to the library, be it a visit in person or by online inquiry. Reference staff help with inquiries of all kinds about the process and are often in receipt of questions such as the following:

1. What is Massachusetts legislative history?
It is the process of following a legislative petition (bill) to its enactment or to its failure.

2. What is the name of the Massachusetts legislative branch and how many legislators are there?
The General Court- there are 160 members of the House, 40 of the Senate. All are elected every two years.

3. There is a source which compiles legislative history for federal laws- "United States Congressional and Administrative News". Is there such a source for Massachusetts laws?
No, one must actually compile the history from scratch.

4. What are some official sources used in the library to conduct legislative history?
  • Legislative petitions or bills
  • House and Senate Journals
  • Massachusetts General Laws
  • Legislative Record or Index
  • Bulletins of Committee Work
  • Massachusetts Acts and Resolves

5. What is the difference between “chapters” of the Massachusetts General Laws and “chapters” of the Acts and Resolves?
The General Laws are organized into chapters representing overall subject areas. These chapters may be comprised of many different years’ Acts and Resolves. The Acts and Resolves are comprised of laws signed each year and the “chapter” numbers are assigned chronologically, determined merely by the date they are signed into law by the Governor.

6. How are the “general laws” updated?
These are updated when the legislature passes “acts” or “chapters” as mentioned above.

7. What are the compilations of the General Laws called? 
There are 3 compilations of the Massachusetts laws. The official set, published every two years, is updated with supplements. It is called General Laws of Massachusetts and is updated with supplements and Interim supplements. 

The two privately published sets- Massachusetts General Laws Annotated and the Annotated Laws of Massachusetts are updated with annual pocket parts and interim supplements.

8. How soon after the Governor signs a bill into law does it become effective?
Most become effective after 90 days. These 90 days include holidays and weekends. Some acts, become effective immediately and there will be wording saying: "This act shall take effect upon its passage". 

9. What is a “carryover provision” and does Massachusetts have it?
This provision allows a bill introduced in the first year of each two year legislative session which does not pass (elections are held in even years and the sessions are two years beginning in the January after the election) to be considered in the second year.

Before a rules change in 1994, a bill not passed in the first year would “die” and have to be reintroduced the next year and assigned a different number. The “rules change” allowed for a “carryover provision.”

10. What does “engrossment” mean?
Once both branches of the legislature have passed a bill, it goes to the Engrossing Division and is typed on special paper for a final vote enacting it.

Pamela Schofield
Legislative Reference Librarian

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Boston: On the Street Where You Live

A colleague and I were talking about Boston streets recently. There is some fascinating history to Boston streets. For instance there used to be two streets in what is now Government Center called King Street and Queen Street. King Street is now State Street and Queen Street is now Court Street. In the book: What they never told you about Boston, or, What they did that were lies by Walt Kelley. He tells us that King and Queen Streets were changed to distance themselves from the Royalty in England. In 1722 these two streets were near Corn Hill which is near where Tremont Street and Cambridge Street meet. King Street was named after King Charles I who was in power when the Puritans settled in Boston in 1630. Charles Street, the Charles River and Charlestown, Massachusetts are all named for King Charles I as well.

John Bonner map of Boston from 1722. Copy of rare map of Boston. Published by George B. Foster  Boston 1872

Carlton Osgood.  A New Plan of Boston from Actual Surveys.  Boston 1800f
Another fun fact about Boston streets from the Walt Kelley book states that Washington Street is the longest street in the Commonwealth, not including highways. It starts in Boston just beyond where it crosses Court and State Street and goes all the way to the border of Rhode Island. It is named for George Washington who visited for the last time in 1789. When he left many towns wanted to name a street after him. Over time one long street was created and most of the streets that cross Washington Street have to change their names when they cross Washington Street. Hence Berkeley becomes East Berkeley, Court becomes State Street, Boylston becomes Essex St., and Stuart becomes Kneeland St. The only streets that don’t change their names when they cross Washington are Massachusetts Avenue, Columbus Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard.

In our Special Collections Department there is a book called Record of the Streets that has short histories of the streets in Boston. The call number is F 73.67 .R44 1910.

Naomi Allen
Reference Librarian

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Code of Massachusetts Regulations (CMR)

The Code of Massachusetts Regulations (CMR) houses the state’s Administrative Law (regulations), including administrative orders and decisions, promulgated by state agencies pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act (M.G.L. c. 30A).

Updates (or filings) are published every two weeks in the Massachusetts Register by the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s State Publication and Regulations Division.

Each agency in Massachusetts is assigned a three digit title number. The first digit represents the cabinet office involved, while the last two digits represent the specific agency. The digit title number is then broken down into chapters and sections. For example:

105 CMR (digit title number) – Department of Public Health
105 CMR 125 – Licensing of Radiologic Technologists
105 CMR 125.004 – Types of Licenses

The CMR also consists of emergency regulations, which an agency can adopt temporarily until certain requirements are met. For more information on the rules and procedures involved in filing regulations, agency and title number indexes, as well as a list of filing and publishing dates, please see The Regulations Manual or visit the State Publication and Regulation Division’s website.

The State Library maintains an up-to-date complete set of the CMR, cumulative indexes of code updates going back many years, and submitted emergency regulations. In addition to the CMR, the library also houses back issues of the Massachusetts Register, which is an important resource when researching the history of a code. If you are unable to visit the library, a great online resource is the Trial Court Law Libraries’ website where you can access an electronic version of the CMR that is maintained regularly, and also the libraries’ compiled general subject index.

If you have any questions about the Code of Massachusetts Regulations, or other resources in our collections, please contact the State Library at 617-727-2590. You can also contact us via email through our Ask A Librarian form.

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

Monday, April 1, 2013

Rhymed Tactics: Military Tactical Verse from the Civil War

In honor of Poetry Month, take a look at this quirky book published in 1862- “Rhymed Tactics” is a small manual that was written to help soldiers master things like field maneuvers, group formations, and how to carry their weapons. Clever rhymes make essential information easy to remember, and the book’s small size (about 3 by 5 inches) meant it could fit into your pocket. See excerpt below:

“Rhymed Tactics” is part of the State Library’s large collection of military resources that also includes a number of tactical and cavalry manuals from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

If you haven’t yet seen our current exhibit on the Civil War, be sure to visit the State Library soon to see additional featured titles and learn about Massachusetts’ role during the Civil War.

Bianca Hezekiah
Reference Department