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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, May 14, 2009

Sports, politics and revenge (II)

Massachusetts lawmakers may be having a hard time reaching consensus on how to handle a gaping budget deficit, but they surely have no problem in sticking it to the man who is planning to run against them next year.

The"reforms" contained in the Senate version of an ethics bill -- demanded by Gov. Deval Patrick after the 2008 troubles of former House Speaker Sal DiMasi and former Sen. Dianne Wilkerson -- seem to be directed in an entirely different direction that Patrick was headed.

In addition to aiming at stake at the heart of a new fund-raising gimmick devised by Patrick, senators are looking to gut the authority of the Ethics Commission -- a tenacious but already virtually toothless panel that drives them crazy.

The Patrick bill started with beefing up the commission's authority by giving it subpoena power and other tools that would have enabled it to carry out investigations. The bill was written with the Richard Vitale case in mind -- where DiMasi eventually won a battle with the commission when he refused to hand over documents deemed legislative work product.

But senators -- who now face what amount to major annoyance and niggling fines from the commission -- appear to be headed in the opposite direction. The proposal would actually strip the commission of much of its authority and toss in yet another agency to adjudicate allegations.

I'm surprised senators didn't claim this is consolidation aimed at saving money by eliminating the need for an ethics commission whose work duplicates that of the administrative law judges.

If Patrick is waiting for reform before revenues, we may be waiting a very long time.

Joan Vennochi has more on this too.

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