Archive for the ‘Beacon Hill Blotter’ Category
It’s not often you get to see Howard Beale, the character from the movie “Network,” played out in real life. It’s one thing to be on the campaign trail and be told by conspiracy theorists to look at things like the book “The Creature From Jekyll Island” (about the Federal Reserve) or to find out why attorneys are not lawyers. It’s quite another to see someone come to a Ways & Means hearing and speak the truth about the manipulation of social services at the expense of the people they’re purported to serve, as well as taxpayers.
Enter Grace Ross, recent candidate for Governor, who was unable to get enough signatures to primary Deval Patrick. A self-proclaimed “activist for social justice,” I had no idea what to expect in her testimony on Friday, March 4th, in the last hour of the last day of a state-wide tour of budget hearings. Because her time was limited to 3 minutes, she presented a simple chart showing state revenue sources, from highest to lowest. Again, due to time constraints, she wanted to make sure we were aware of the fact that food stamps (now called “S.N.A.P.”) and Unemployment Insurance were the two largest generators of income to Massachusetts – and that’s beating a Lottery that is ranked 1st in the nation, reaping over $4B annually. She even reiterated that the sales tax increase was a mistake… gasp! Read the rest of this entry »
My schedule has been dominated by the joint Senate and House hearings for Ways & Means and the testimonies we’ve been hearing from agency after agency is a plea to level fund or restore some of the lost appropriations to the services that provide critical and in some cases, Constitutional, support to the citizens of the Commonwealth. I should be used to it by now, of course.
When I first joined the Finance Committee for my home town, we had just entered into the first year of cuts to Local Aid and local receipts were also trending downward. Whether it was animal control, the library or the regional school district, the message was always the same. Fortunately, the town of Whitman had been frugal for years and had reserves and retiring debt, along with strong leadership in all our Departments, which allowed us to backfill accounts and protect vital services. Read the rest of this entry »
Yesterday, I engaged in a brief dialogue via Twitter with two people who support the actions taken by the 14 Wisconsin State Senators who, this past week, left the state in order to avoid a vote that would adjust state employee pension and health care contribution.
Specifically, Governor Walker of WI has proposed that state employees to pay 5.8% of their salaries toward their pensions (they pay almost nothing now) and he wants them to cover 12.6% of their health care premiums (their share would go up from $79 a month to about $200; the average private-sector employee pays about $330). Coming from the private-sector, myself, I believe that everyone needs to make concessions to help our states and country get out of the financial disarray that we’re stuck in. Read the rest of this entry »
The title of this blog entry does not reference the movie, but a hard fact for two of the towns I represent. Both Abington and East Bridgewater have aging facilities that need repair or replacement. Whitman’s Duval school also needed a roof repair. The past week’s events were dominated by the meetings with the MSBA and votes involving the final decision by the people of East Bridgewater to fund a new high school. Not only did the Abington Woodsdale school and the Whitman Duval school get their respective repair approvals, but all the hard work done by “A Better Community,” Superintendent Susan Cote, and the people of E.B. paid off with a positive vote to move ahead with the new school project.
Additionally, the residents of East Bridgewater also approved a new Senior Center to replace the terribly undersized building next to Town Hall. It was good to see that the townspeople recognized citizens at both ends of the spectrum who aren’t always able to effectively represent their interests. Read the rest of this entry »
This week’s posting for the BHB will be unique in that I have been extremely busy reviewing as many of the 5,258 bills introduced into the 187th General Court (for which final sponsorship was due this past Friday) and continue to be busy this weekend with commitments to Boss Academy, the studio my wife and I own – the winter recital is this weekend. Therefore, I’ll briefly review meetings and, most importantly, deliver on the transparency of government that I’ve promised you by posting (below) each and every bill I authored or for which am a co-sponsor. Read the rest of this entry »
In 1952, CBS aired a historical reenactment show called “You Are There,” hosted by Walter Cronkite, who would begin the program each week with “What sort of day was it? A day like all days, filled with those events that alter and illuminate our times… and you were there.” Actors would play key historical figures and recreate scenes from American and world history and there would be a reporter narrating the scene as it unfolded.
This past Tuesday, Treasurer Steve Grossman and I had a meeting regarding a mortgage relief plan for homeowners and we each spoke about the chance to make significant contributions to the Commonwealth through our roles on Beacon Hill. The Treasurer recalled watching Cronkite’s show as a child and expressed the excitement he felt each time the words, “and you were there” were uttered. It was must watch television for him and, as he explained, gave him a unique perspective on history – something he hoped to play a big part of someday.
As my fourth installment for the Beacon Hill Blotter, I hope that I am able to give you a sense of the activity and context of what transpires here at the State House. It’s my goal to enlighten and also document the work being done by myself and my colleagues to move Massachusetts forward. Read the rest of this entry »
Growing up, I used to look forward to visiting my grandparents. On my father’s side, I especially relished the chance to ride on Grandpa’s lap when he mowed the lawn. Watching him operate his Lionel train set was awesome and I felt I’d died and gone to heaven when he’d “help” me with a project at his workbench. Without fail, he’s proclaim, “Good enough for government work,” as we (he) would finish making a wooden boat, a model rocket or a pencil holder. My grandfather, Wilmer Diehl, had been a mechanic in the Army, specializing in airplanes, so following his service, he was recruited by American Airlines to become a “flight engineer.” It was, literally, a new seat in the cockpit -the third – and was a role that he and a select few from the military pioneered for commercial aviation. His favorite joke, both in and out of the military and throughout his life, was the quip about his work meeting the minimum for government standards. Everyone who knew Will understood that the joke really was that he never did anything unless it was to meet the highest standards he set for himself – be it work, family, or his faith in God. Read the rest of this entry »
One of my expectations as an elected official is that I am held accountable by the voters every two years for my actions on their behalf. It is my job to vote on tough, politically uncomfortable issues in a public manner. And when I was first elected, one of those tough votes I expected to take occasionally was on legislative pay raises.
That changed in 1998 due to a state Constitutional amendment; legislators now get near-automatic pay hikes. And, when questioned by angry voters, they are able to simply absolve themselves of responsibility by pointing to this sham of a Constitutional requirement. Read the rest of this entry »
The 2011 Red Sox bullpen seems to be shaping up. Hideki Okajima is back in, Bobby Jenks looks to be a huge asset and, between Bard or Papelbon, we should have a lights out closer. If all goes well, the Sox pitching staff has the makings of a World Series-bound crew.
The 2011/12 bullpen for the 187th Massachusetts General Court also has some promising talent and, with 20 (possibly 21) new Republican State Representatives, it is welcome relief to the returning member of the House GOP. Still outnumbered 4:1, the caucus was in an even greater minority last session, serving in a 9:1 ratio (16 members vs. this sessions count of 32, pending the Durant/Alicia court case). But with a diverse group from around the state, Beacon Hill has the potential to make a significant and positive impact on the future of this great Commonwealth. Read the rest of this entry »