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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Better Way

Bill McKay, the camera-friendly US Senate candidate played by Robert Redford in the 1972 movie "The Candidate" (notable for Mike Barnicle's performance as a toady sycophant) ran on the slogan "A Better Way."

There surely must be a better way to run a government. But no one has found it yet. Or is too busy to try.

The Globe's Matt Viser offers a solid representation of the last-minute frenzy that surrounds a legislature that is watching every second of the clock tick down on its ability to do business. I lived that gut-wrenching experience as both a reporter and legislative staffer and it is all too nightmarishly true.

Make sure to check out the video of Charlie Glick, an earnest lobbyist, plying his trade.

And the Herald's Enterprising Reporter also reflects a the reality, looking at the other things that lobbyists do to contribute to the session-ending chaos.

So with less than 24 hours left in a session that began in January 2007, legislators are facing a number of significant measures -- including a Mass. Pike bailout, bond bills, health care cost control, land takings necessary for cities and towns to develop projects and veto overrides in a budget that is already precariously balanced, if at all.

To name a few.

It's a time that reporters and staffers dread, because you have no idea what will happen and when. It will take days for the hard-working House and Senate clerks to sort through it all. If we are lucky, there will not be any nasty surprises.

Dorchester Rep. Martin Walsh (not to be confused with the state senator from Arlington who tried to slime him in avoiding arrest) summed it up well:
"Everyone panics. You have so much stuff that's moving. It creates this perception of craziness."
Why does this happen -- every single time? Let's turn to Joseph Driscoll of Braintree:
"Most people work better on a deadline. It's when inspiration comes."
I'd opt for a different sort of "-ration," desperation.

I liken it to a form of torture. It's not as inelegant as waterboarding to be sure, but members are not in control of their lives, at the beck and call of leadership on when to vote and on what. Often they don't have much more information on what vote the leaders want.

Another metaphor is they are mushrooms: kept in the dark and fed manure.

To pass the time, they engage in games. In 2000, we had the Animal House budget debate, complete with chants of "Toga, Toga." This year we have the DeLeo-Rogers speaker battle.

Yes, Bill McKay was right when he said there has to be a better way. But fans also know what McKay's first act was when we found out he won:

He turned to his campaign manager and said "What do we do now?"



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