By Matt Murphy
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON -- The Massachusetts House on Monday set the ground rules for a potential vote to discipline incarcerated Rep. Carlos Henriquez, approving a procedural order that includes an allowance for Henriquez to address his colleagues before they pass judgement.
Henriquez has refused to resign as he appeals his Jan. 15 conviction on assault and battery charges.
With a just a few House members on hand after a day of waiting, the House just before 5 p.m. adopted an order offered by Rep. David Nangle, the Lowell Democrat leading the House Ethics Committee's investigation into Henriquez, which outlines the voting procedure that will be followed to possibly expel Henriquez from the House.
The House plans its next formal session on Thursday. It's unclear when or if the committee will file a report.
The order (H 3893) specifies that a simple majority of House members present, after a quorum has been established, will be required to either reprimand, censure or expel a member of the House, and those votes shall be binding with no right to reconsideration or appeal.
If Henriquez is expelled by a majority of his colleagues, his 5th Suffolk District seat would immediately be considered vacant.
The procedure outlined by Nangle's order is the latest step as the House moves closer to taking action against Henriquez, who has resisted calls from House leaders like Speaker Robert DeLeo to resign and avoid the display of lawmakers publicly voting to oust or discipline one of their own.
Henriquez has been remaining in contact with his State House office aides from jail in Billerica, and on Friday had a letter delivered to the House clerk's office requesting a six-month leave of absence from the House. The letter was dated Jan. 15 - the day of his conviction - but was not delivered until Jan. 31.
Clerk Steven James said he is still reviewing Henriquez's request, but it remains unclear whether there is any formal procedure for a lawmaker to take a leave of absence.
Henriquez is serving six months of a two-and-a-half year sentence in the Middlesex House of Correction after a jury convicted him on two counts of assault and battery stemming from a domestic violence incident last summer.
Nangle's order set up the rules for consideration by the full House of a report of the House Ethics Committee, which has still not been filed. Once a report and recommendation from the committee is introduced on the House floor, only motions to postpone debate or amend the report can be filed.
The "accused," or in this case Henriquez, would be allowed to address the House after opening remarks by Nangle, and "from time to time" throughout the debate, but cannot vote or be present in the House when members cast their votes.
Since entering jail, Henriquez has twice been transported to the State House in handcuffs by the Middlesex County Sheriff's office to testify before the House Ethics Committee.