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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, November 19, 2009

Pols gone wild

There wasn't some of the blatant stupidity that has marked some legislative sessions -- like the infamous 2000 House "Toga" party.

But the simmering animus between lawmakers and Gov. Deval Patrick boiled to the surface to close the first year of a two-year term that is likely to be the unpopular governor's one shot at political redemption.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo's angry rebuff of Patrick's call to tackle an education reform bill by staying in session a little longer stripped bare the personal hostility among Patrick, DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray.

“I thought it was fascinating that the governor, with the number of charter schools that are throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, that he happened to pick one that was about a half-mile from my community,’’ DeLeo told reporters.

Yep, it's all about you Mr. Speaker.

Let's review the year, which opened with former House Speaker Sal DiMasi engineering his re-election only to step down and eventually be indicted. By the time DeLeo moved up, several months were frittered away although lawmakers did, in the end, produce significant legislation reforming pensions, ethics and transportation under Patrick's prodding.

After returning from summer break, the House and Senate spun their wheels during the fall. Sure they passed about 60 laws and counting since Sept. 1, but they were the mostly of the sick leave bank, land-taking and bridge-naming variety.

And when it came to the crucial issues at hand -- a reeling economy -- the silence was deafening.

I take that back -- lawmakers have once again risen to the defense of the Quinn Bill and hack holidays as off limits in the budget-cutting process.

As for the one significant reform piece of legislation -- on that carries the potential of increased federal funding -- well, sorry Deval. The Senate was just too preoccupied to take it up until the last week of the session and the House didn't want to rush it through.

Besides, there's plenty of time in January before the federal funding deadline looms. And that way Patrick will have no choice but to swallow what lawmakers put before him or face the prospect of being blamed for the loss of federal dollars.

By many accounts, Patrick is a less than skilled executive, one who doesn't push hard for his objectives. It is his weakest selling point to an electorate looking for a leader next year and a theme that has been and will continually be hammered upon by his gubernatorial rivals.

But count me as one of those who think it is the performance of the Great and General Court that can and should be the focus of attention. The legislative foot dragging while the commonwealth is reeling from the recession is appalling.

Throw that into the context of DiMasi, former Sens. Dianne Wilkerson and James Marzilli and current poster child Anthony Galluccio and you have the image of an out-of-control band off politicians who equate taking away Evacuation Day with taking away Christmas.

Thousands are out of work and here's a chamber that works part-time, protects its perks (and its own) while everything around it crumbles.

Or that's how Patrick's campaign commercials will say it.

Sadly, there's no real solution in sight. The Republican Party's continued slide into irrelevancy makes it unlikely the local branch will be able to field a credible slate of candidates to challenge incumbents and change the nature of the branches. Maybe they are working hard behind the scenes, but I doubt it.

A new governor? If you really belief a new man or woman will change the dynamic that has existed on Beacon Hill for the last 20 years, you are eagerly awaiting the rival of the jolly fat man in the red suit next month.

There are myriad problems facing the Commonwealth and few solutions. The ones that exist are not easy. But in the face of this reality, members of the Great and General Court will no doubt be proudest of this headline as reflective of their "accomplishments" in 2009.

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Blogger Quriltai said...

Here's where I diverge...Deval Patrick could have chosen to take a page out of Bill Weld's book, and put his reputation and capital on the line by recruiting like-minded Democratic candidates for open primaries. He has a core of very loyal supporters, who could make a difference in a contested primary. In Sal's old seat, though, with a candidate tailor-made for his approach...nuthin'.

At the same time, I have to think that outreach to newer, more persuadable members, has been lacking. These members with no perks to take away, who already have the leaky offices and back parking spaces, should be open to Deval. Instead, on the most divisive votes of the session, freshman and sophomore legislators have voted with the leadership over the governor.

Instead, every special election has passed with Deval on the sidelines; I've yet to hear of him trying to bring more amenable members into the Legislature. If Deval was actually in the middle of trying to shape the Lege, I could have a lot more patience. Instead, he's doing nothing about a problem, then complaining about the problem.

November 19, 2009 10:34 AM  
Blogger Outraged Liberal said...

Fair points -- but one or two members aren't going to make much of a difference. And some of the more likely supporters of better government has been co-opted by committee chairmanships that brought them inside the fold.

A total shakeup is necessary and that ain't going to happen. Patrick has too much to worry about for his own skin and the GOP hasn't really shown it has what it takes to mount even a token opposition.

November 20, 2009 5:07 AM  

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