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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Have you seen them?

There's one week left in Massachusetts' fiscal year, a little more than a month before the Legislature wraps it up for the year. You would think Beacon Bill would be abuzz with activity.

You would be wrong.

While Gov. Deval Patrick gets set to unveil another major initiative with the potential to roil the waters, the members of the Great and General Court are top candidates for a milk carton. Public activity has been at a minimum. As the Statehouse News Service (subscription required) notes:
The current iteration of the General Court, to a higher degree than its predecessors, has relied on behind the scenes talks amongst lawmakers and with special interest groups to develop consensus legislation and dispose of amendments. In this environment, formal House and Senate sessions have grown fewer -- the branches have held only two formals each this month after holding only two non-budget formals each in May -- and legislative leaders appear content to limiting formals for occasions when leaders are ready to present colleagues with their proposals.
There have been some notable achievements to date, mostly of the not doing kind: the rejection of the anti-gay marriage amendment and casino gambling. There has also been a life sciences bill and a number of transportation infrastructure bond bills.

But the No. 1 question on most people's minds is taxes -- and there has been no visible movement. A corporate tax restructuring measure will be part of the budget whenever it emerges from conference committee.

But property tax relief -- a top item on Patrick's campaign agenda -- hasn't even been a visible notion on lawmakers' radar screen. Not that there is a lot they can actually do about it. But signs that the Legislature is even noticing the angst have been few and far between in branches that prefer to work below the radar screen.

There have been 135 laws passed so far this year on top of 230 laws passed a year ago. Most of them are decidedly unsexy -- establishing sick leave banks and allowing people to become public safety officers despite civil service age requirements.

Some would argue it is unfair to judge this session of the Great and General Court until it's work is complete at the end of July. Fair point.

But lawmakers need to recognize the media can't live for long on a diet of combating bicycle theft stories and will turn its attention to the 800-pound gorilla in the room: income tax repeal.

Time is quickly running out for decisive action to make a financially strapped public find a reason not to get rid of the tax.

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