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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, February 26, 2009

Beacon Hill time

You know things are bad when the watchdogs are making excuses. Or the guys relegated to the back benches by the latest power shift.

The Globe reveals the dirty little secret around the Statehouse (no, not that Gardner Auditorium is a dump): Massachusetts is burning and our leaders are playing Nero with fiddles. (Of course, I wrote about it last week, but then again, I don't have the power of the former paper of record.)

Emergency budget cuts. Ethics reform. Transportation overhaul. A fiscal 2010 budget nightmare.

And a week off for school vacations.

The Globe's Matt Viser leans on the ever reliable Statehouse News Service to tally up the "work." The House has met 19 times since January for a tad under 19 hours; the Senate has been in session 16 times for a shade under 11 hours.

Not that Deval Patrick was setting land speed records in assembling and filing a transportation restructuring bill.

But at least Patrick presented lawmakers with emergency 9C budget cut proposals and a comprehensive proposal to toughen the state's ethics laws. And he has also filed a fiscal 2010 budget.

All of which are sitting. Waiting.

There is action behind the scenes to be sure. The staffs of the House and Senate Ways and Means committees have been at the 12-plus hour days for most of this calendar year, poring over the Patrick plan and working up their respective chambers' own spending plans. These are the unsung and unseen worker bees.

But their bosses? Well unseen might be a fair description.

The ethics proposal gets to the heart of the problem. The House is slowly revving to life, a full month later than normal (which was already a languid pace) because former House Speaker Sal DiMasi waited unto the end of January to step down as a way of dealing with the ethical controversies swirling about him.

Even though you would think the new boss, Robert DeLeo, would have his new committee chairs firmly in mind after winning the speaker's gavel, it took him awhile to name names. And move offices.

Surprisingly, the pace seems to upset only the tiny contingent of Republicans. Here's the view of Common Cause executive director Pam Wilmot:
"I may be wrong, but I'm not sure we're at the point where the world is going to collapse if we take two more weeks to deal with some of these issues. I don't want to be an apologist for the system, which has many flaws. But we also need to be realistic and let it work. You can't get blood out of stone."
Which is what many taxpayers are saying about the proposed gas tax hike.

Or listen to North Adams Democrat Dan Bosley, perhaps the most visible victim of the DeMasi-DeLeo transition, stripped of his committee chairmanship:
"Is it slow? Yeah, but there are reasons for it. It's unfortunate because we ought to be talking about pension reform, transportation reform, and the budget."
I'm far from a legislature basher: I've spent some time as a staffer. But the reasons for the slowdown are just not acceptable for voters who have to show up every day, put it in a full day and clock out hoping they will be able to do it again the next day.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Fever said...

What power shift? In case you haven’t noticed there is a Democratic supermajority in the legislature and a Democratic Governor. C’mon, this blog is called Massachusetts Liberal; these clowns are in charge because of people like you. Let’s not forget, they all just gave themselves a pay raise. For whatever its worth I could care less how often they meet as long as services are increased and/or taxes are reduced. Unfortunately, both are moving in the wrong direction.

February 26, 2009 9:25 AM  
Blogger Outraged Liberal said...

Fever, you need to lower your temperature, it's warping you thinking.

The self-destruction of the Massachusetts Republican Party is self-inflicted. So Massachusetts has a two-tiered Democratic Party that attempts to reflect political reality. Tom Finneran was hardly a liberal. It's too soon to tell about Bobby DeLeo.

If you can't see there's been a big shift in power in the House, you need to look closer.

The pay raise was approved as a result of a 1998 referendum approved by voters -- liberals and conservatives. That some of them chose to take it is a personal decision -- would you turn down a pay raise?

But what really proves the weakness of your argument is this:

..."I could care less how often they meet as long as services are increased and/or taxes are reduced."

Nice trick. Tell me how you pull that off. What services? What do you cut? Which taxes go down to pay for thee increased services?

And don't tell me Deval's Cadillac. Take that up with the state police who didn't think a Segway was appropriate.

February 27, 2009 5:29 AM  
Blogger shap said...

You didn't understand Fever's well formed post. It's not that he wants both services to be increased and taxes reduced. He's just saying that if it's a successful government, we should see results. Meaning lower taxes and if that doesn't happen, more services.

February 27, 2009 9:42 AM  

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