Monday, February 22, 2016

Massachusetts Boards and Commissions

Within the Massachusetts Government, there are a large number of boards and commissions that are associated with state agencies. Often when I am adding public documents to our digital repository, I will find reports that were authored by or for certain commissions or boards I know nothing about. These boards have a wide range of responsibilities. Some have very narrow missions while others watch over large numbers of licensed business and professionals or supervise government spending. These boards and commissions are an important part of our state government, but it is not always understood who these groups are or what responsibilities they may have.

Boards and commissions are governmental organizations that work with specific agencies to set standards and agendas, act as advisors, influence policies and regulations, assist with business strategies, or create studies of industries or specific topics. Members of these boards and commissions are appointed by the appointing authority (often the Governor but this can vary depending on the board.) Members are appointed based on skill, interest, or experience in a certain field. Many boards and commissions have seats saved for members with very specific backgrounds or qualifications but others are open to anyone looking to get involved with state government or have issues they believe to be important. Usually, these positions are unpaid besides reimbursement for some expenses, so it is a commitment many citizens choose to make because they care about certain topics or problems and wish to make a difference.

One of the best resources to find out more on this subject is the Boards and Commission website run by the Office of the Governor. Recently, Governor Patrick started a database that allows citizens to search through state agencies for boards, their legal authority, purpose, board members and vacancies that may be available. While the boards here are only those that the Governor is the appointing authority, it is a great way to find out about hundreds of boards and commissions and the type of work they do.  If you are interested in how to be appointed to a board, the Commission on the Status of Women put out a basic guide back in 2012 about the appointment process that has helpful advice and ideas. With these resources and a little research into specific organizations, we can better understand the rolls of these commissions and the work they do.

Stephanie Turnbull
Reference Librarian