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Cindy Creem

Reforms likely to pass the Senate but not Robert DeLeo’s House of Representatives.

Following Sunday’s Globe exposé of patronage hires at the Probation Department, and yesterday’s move by the Supreme Judicial Court to suspend Probation Commissioner O’Brien, the Senate today proposed a budget amendment to reform some the Probation Department’s most egregious  structural problems, with a proposal that reduces some of the Legislature’s influence in Probation Department hiring.

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William Flanagan

For 10 years now officials in Fall River have lobbied the state to invest in the development of a biotechnology park in the area – the SouthCoast BioPark. And over the past few years the state has invested about $70 million dollars on road improvements for the industrial park, including a new highway ramp off Route 24.

Meanwhile in the background casino interests have been working to build support among local officials to turn SouthCoast BioPark into a resort casino. By “working” I mean making campaign contributions to Fall River mayor William Flanagan.

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Charlestown District Court

Legislative Payback to Judges is Part of Long Standing Tradition

Rep. Mike Rush sponsored a budget amendment that was adopted into the House budget that directs Justice Robert Mulligan to move the offices of the Chief Justice for Administation and Management (CJAM) from prime downtown office space to a dingy 3rd floor office space at the Charlestown District Court. The amendment was inserted by Robert DeLeo in a closed door session, without public debate.

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The biggest problem with the Massachusetts House of Representatives is that representatives are more afraid of crossing the Speaker than crossing the voters. They will take votes which they know are unpopular with voters in their district and which they don’t agree with themselves in order to make sure that they are in the good graces of the current Speaker.

Today the Speaker is Robert DeLeo. DeLeo’s father Al spent 50 years working the floor of the Turf Club at Suffolk Downs. Protecting and expanding gambling in Massachusetts is a personal mission for DeLeo. And, as Speaker, DeLeo controls who in the House gets to be part of his ‘leadership team,’ who gets the committee chairmanships, and who gets invited to the closed door meetings where the real policy of the legislature gets decided.

Legislators are more afraid of the consequences of crossing DeLeo on this issue than they are of crossing the voters.

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Robert DeLeo

The Massachusetts House of Representatives passed the casino bill on Wednesday with a veto-proof 120-37 vote margin. The bill would authorize up to two resort style casinos and up to 750 slot machines at each of the state’s four race tracks.

Supporters say this will will bring in thousands of construction jobs and would capture $1.1 billion that Massachusetts gamblers spend in nearby states. The question is, who captures that money, and where does it go afterwards? The answer is simple – first the state takes its cut of the money in taxes, after that the rest leaves the state in the form of pure profit for out of state gambling interests from Nevada and New Jersey. In fact the casinos are likely to take in more than just what is currently spent out of state and send it out of state.

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Reps. Murphy, DeLeo and O'Flaherty rewarded for their service to the lawyer's lobby

The Equal Justice Coalition has recognized a number of legislators for their service to the legal community. They are:

  • House Speaker Rep. Robert DeLeo
  • Rep. Charles Murphy
  • Rep. Eugene O’Flaherty
  • Sen. Steven Panagiotakos
  • Sen. Cynthia Stone Creem
  • Sen. Patricia Jehlen

The Equal Justice Coalition is a lawyer’s lobby group which advocates for state funding for legal aid for civil actions by poor clients, to pay for representation in domestic violence actions, divorce actions, child custody etc.

EJC successfully lobbied for $10 million dollars of state funding for the legal community. According to their own press release, when it looked like legal aid would suffer the same budget cuts as our schools:

In published letters, 38 managing partners of law firms, and 107 general counsel attorneys went to bat for legal services. Lawmakers have listened, apparently rescuing MLAC from disaster. Lobbying for legal-aid is no easy task…

And today those lawmakers were rewarded.

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Rep. Eugene O'Flaherty

Representative Eugene O’Flaherty is House Chair of the Judiciary Committee. In that position he has the power to block any legal reform he doesn’t like. No matter how popular the reform, or how much public or legislative support it has, if he doesn’t like it, it doesn’t go through.

And there is a long list of popular reforms that he’s been able to block for years. Many eventually get through – but not before a lot of damage is done.

This year O’Flaherty is blocking:

  • CORI Reform (H3523),
  • Shared Parenting (H1400)
  • Alimony Reform (H1785)

Each of these bills have been introduced for the past several years. All of them have wide popular and legislative support. Many legislators have legitimate differences over over these bills – but they have never gotten an opportunity to debate them – because O’Flaherty has already decided – they aren’t coming out of committee. Whether you are for them or against them, I think all people of good will believe that these are the types of issues which should be debated before the entire legislature, and where legislators, as representatives of the people can vote their conscience.

But Rep. O’Flaherty doesn’t think so. And even though he represents only the city of Chelsea, he is happy to decide these issues for everyone. His answer is “no”.

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Rep. Robert DeLeo puts the State ahead of your town.

Last week a group of legislators lead by House Minority Leader Rep. Bradley Jones drafted a resolution to level fund local aid. Passage of this resolution would have gone a long way toward protecting cities and town from more budget cuts. Our towns have already taken a disproportionate share of budget cuts last year.

As we reported earlier, this resolution was not even allowed to  be heard on the floor of the legislature. By avoiding a vote the leadership provided political cover for Senators and Representatives who are willing to balance the state’s budget mess on the back of our schools, police and fire departments again this year.

Because there was no vote, we will never know for sure everyone who was against this resolution. We can be certain that at the very least Rep. Robert DeLeo, Sen. Therese Murray, and Sen. Steve Panagiotakos had to be against it because they have wide discretion in what makes it to the house floor and on all budget matters. Read the rest of this entry »

Massachusetts State House

Last week the legislature announced that they would be cutting local aid to cities and towns by up to 4%. This is on top of deep cuts last year which fell disproportionately on cities and towns, and spared budgets at the state level.

Legislative Republicans drafted a resolution which would level fund local aid and give cities and towns specific guidance. Passage of this resolution would help ensure that this year, needed budget cuts would happen at the state level – where they belong.

The resolution establishes:

1. Establish a minimum level of Chapter 70 and Unrestricted Local Aid equal the amount proposed by the Governor for FY’11

a. The minimum Chapter 70 appropriation must equal $4,048,324,258 for FY11; and
b. The minimum Unrestricted Local Aid appropriation must equal $936,437,803.

2. Establish a minimum level of funding for each of the following accounts to equal the amount proposed by the Governor for FY’11

a. Reimbursement to Cities in Lieu of Taxes $27.3 million
b. Regional School Transportation $40.5 million
c. Special Education Residential Schools $135 million

But on Thursday the Democratic legislative leaders ( Rep. Robert DeLeo, Sen. Therese Murray,  Rep. Charles Murphy, and Sen. Steven Panagiotakos ) blocked the resolution from even coming to the floor. The resolution was not even debated. This gives them political cover. Now we will never know who would have voted against this resolution. When your legislator comes to town to campaign this fall I’m sure they will all claim they were in support of level funding local aid. But you will never know for sure. This is why we need reform.

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The Massachusetts State House

Legislative leaders announced Friday that they intend to cut up to 4% from local aid next year.

There are two pools of local aid:

  • Chapter 70 – which is aid specifically for education, which cities and towns use to supplement their school budgets. This pool is roughly $4 billion dollars per year.
  • Unrestricted local aid – which towns generally use to supplement either education or public safety, like extra police. This pool is roughly $1 billion dollars per year.

You can get a sense of how much local aid your town gets from DOR.

The entire state budget last year was about $30 billion. So this local aid is only about 16% of the total state budget. The 4% cut in these two accounts represents a savings for the state of only 0.6% of the budget.

But the impact will be tremendous. Read the rest of this entry »

Marie St. Fleur

Marie St. Fleur was an up and coming legislator, vice chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee and a member of the  Judiciary Committee and by all accounts someone who was going do well in the Legislature.

But she quickly found out how little power representatives have to get things done. They find out quickly – if you hope to have a future you have to vote with the House leadership.

First she tried to get out of the Legislature and run for Lieutenant Governor with Thomas Reilly in 2005.  Even though she’s popular in her district and could probably win re-election easily she’s decided against seeking re-election.

“Government is stuck right now…We can’t get it together to make a decision.”

In my conversations with legislators, several have said off the record that in the House a large number of representatives are “demoralized” because so little gets done. The result is that many legislators are deciding against seeking re-election. Read the rest of this entry »

RSS Massachusetts Election 2010

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    The candidates came out swinging. Brown started by immediately questioning Warren’s claim of being a native american saying that “She checked the box claiming she’s a Native American, and clearly she’s not. The only way to set the record straight is to release your personnel records … and you refuse to release your records, and […]
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  • Elizabeth Warren: Is She Anti-Business? September 13, 2012
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  • Ron Paul Responds to TSA: Introduces ‘American Traveler Dignity Act’ November 19, 2010
    Ron Paul continues to be a true American hero.
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  • Taking Down Scotty Brown November 9, 2010
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  • Post Election Analysis: What are people saying? November 5, 2010
    Republicans were disappointed that they lost all their congressional challenges, and all their races for statewide constitutional offices. Democrats are savoring a “clean sweep” in Massachusetts in the middle of a devastating collapse at the national level. There are many good post election analysis articles out on the web worth looking at. I don’t have […] […]
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  • Video: Barney Frank’s Graceless Victory Speech November 4, 2010
    Frank calls out his opponents including the Herald, by name – and the Herald has a reaction: Newspapers live for moments like the one Barney Frank gave us on election night. To be called out – by name – by a 30-year incumbent. It doesn’t get any better than that. Now you’d think that a […]
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  • Video: Rep. Elect Dan Winslow and Sen. Bob Hedlund on the Future of the Massachusetts Republican Party November 4, 2010
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  • Video: Charlie Baker's Concession Speech November 4, 2010
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  • Joe Van Nes: A Final Message November 4, 2010
    I congratulate Bill Keating on his win. This letter is not aimed at him, just the system in general in which we all live. I hope Mr. Keating has the ability to stand up to special interests and keep the people in mind when he is tempted with money and power. I would also like […]
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  • Massachusetts 2010 Ballot Questions Election Results: Yes, No, No November 4, 2010
    Question – 1-Drop Alcohol Sales Tax – Ballot Issue 2119 of 2168 Precincts Reporting – 98% Name Votes Vote % Yes 1,107,141 52% No 1,029,925 48% [section_spacer] [section_spacer] [section_spacer] Question – 2-Repeal Housing Permit Option – Ballot Issue 2105 of 2168 Precincts Reporting – 97% Name Votes Vote % No 1,212,121 58% Yes 860,661 42% […]
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