AIM's 2015-2016 Legislative Scorecard: Grading on a (Laffer) Curve

The state’s biggest employer trade group, Associated Industries of Massachusetts, released its 2015-2016 Legislative Scorecard today, ranking all 200 legislators by how dependably their votes advanced AIM’s legislative priorities.

This edition of the scorecard also trumpets a very clear story line — when it comes to supporting the state’s business community, it’s a tale of two chambers: House good, Senate bad. In AIM’s own words:

While the House of Representatives and Speaker Robert DeLeo successfully forged consensus on important measures such as wage equity and energy, the Senate hewed to a more progressive, ideological approach that produced a steady stream of bills with the potential to harm the Massachusetts economy.

Wow – who knew that all our Senators were Keynesians, Socialists or worse and that all our Representatives were devotees of Hayek?

The scorecard offers no information about roll call vote numbers or the dates of votes (although such information is available on the tallies made by other interest groups). AIM asserts that the Senate scores were “based upon many of the same issues” as the House scores, but even a quick review shows significant disparities between the votes AIM used to determine the scores in the respective chambers.

For example, AIM takes the Senate to task for twice voting against its preferred position on the amount of compensation employers should be liable to pay to employees in wage violation cases. You would not know from the scorecard that the House also took two votes on this issue, with results (largely along party lines) very similar to the votes the Senate took. While the Senate votes on this issue were included in the scorecard, the House votes weren’t.

Two years ago, AIM decided against issuing any Legislative Scorecard for the 2013-2014 session, explaining that “the complexity of the lawmaking process and the sometimes arcane rules of each chamber make it nearly impossible to render a fair judgment on the votes taken by individual legislators.” Those constraints are no longer in operation, it seems. While the scorecard issued today raps the Senate for voting for an amendment prohibiting public utilities from adding fees to their customers’ electric rates to subsidize new natural gas pipelines, it ignores the fact that four members of the House (including one of the most liberal and one of the most conservative) offered the same amendment in that body’s energy bill deliberations, but the amendment was ruled “out of order” through an arcane rule —  a parliamentary decision by House leadership that precluded a vote on the substance. (It also ignores the fact that more than 90 of the 160 Representatives sent a letter to House Speaker DeLeo in support of the Senate’s position.)

It was fairly clear, well before today’s scorecard came out, that the House was more friendly to AIM’s interests during the past legislative session than the Senate was. What’s less clear is why AIM chose to rig the results this time.  Is House leadership that susceptible to flattery?

 

Dig in on Legislative Primaries - Elect Progressives September 8th

Another useful resource from the good people at ProgressiveMass. - promoted by david

Voting day for state primaries is just around the corner!  Progressive Massachusetts has endorsed in five races in the upcoming state primaries on Thursday, September 8. and our endorsed candidates need your help!

When Progressive Massachusetts supports progressive candidates in primaries, we are doing two important things for the long-term movement –

  • Making the legislature more progressive, so we can get more legislation passed
  • Building the bench of progressive leaders who someday can run for even higher office

Do your part this weekend.

Information is below on how to help our five progressive endorsees:
Monica Cannon (events in Roxbury)
Mike Connolly (events in Cambridge)
Pat Jehlen (events in Somerville, Cambridge, Medford)
Jack Lewis (events in Framingham, Ashland)
Moses Dixon (events in Worcester)

And don’t forget to donate to our candidates if you haven’t already!

Remember, your time and dollars go much further in state legislative races — and you’re investing in the movement long-term.

 

I think this is a problem. Remember the slap on the wrist of that "Brock" guy so as not to ruin a white guy's life? Well, check out this Springfield case - the same attitude seems alive and well, here

Read the comments, in which a long-time BMGer speaks of his personal acquaintance with the people involved. - promoted by david

Here is a quote from the case: “In the Becker case, the 18-year-old former East Longmeadow High School student was originally charged with two counts of rape, which could have netted him 20 years in prison. He would later submit to facts sufficient for a guilty finding on two lesser charges of indecent assault on a person age 14 or older.

Prosecutors wanted him to serve two years in jail on the lesser indecent assault charges, but Estes ordered the case continued without a finding. If Becker stays out of trouble with the law, stays away from drugs and alcohol and stays away from the victims, the case will not go on his record as a conviction, and he will not have to register as a sex offender.”

 

The rest of the article:  http://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2016/08/who_is_thomas_estes_judge_in_d.html

 

  Title of article: “Who is Thomas Estes? Judge in David Becker sexual assault case under glare of spotlight following ruling”×:

“Putting this kid in jail for two years would have destroyed this kid’s life.”  Said the defense lawyer.

What about the victiims?

Jamie Eldridge Goes There

Where a lot of BMG’ers have been on the subject of the state’s Democratic Party for some time. His comments as reported in the Globe:

“There are plenty of conservative Democrats who have been elected, unchallenged, for years if not decades, including at the local and legislative level….I personally think the time is ripe … for Sanders supporters/ progressives to ‘take over’ the Massachusetts Democratic Party, and have a serious influence on its platform, candidates, and policies.”

Outsourcing Education: Charter School Chain Owned by Sketchy Turkish Imam

Weird... - promoted by david

Why do we award tax dollars to schools owned by sketchy foreign entities with an anti-semitic past?

Turkish politics rarely makes a blip in the American media. Modern Turkey, which formed after the fall of the Ottoman Empire in the 1920s, was secularized by Young Turks (Attaturk, not Ugyur, and friends). The Turks sided with the Allies during World War II, which led to their charter membership in the United Nations. Adjacent to the Middle East, the Asia part of Turkey has provided the United States with a militarily strategic location since then. However, aside from casual mentions relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is little media coverage in Turkey.

This news blackout, however, changed this summer when an attempted coup cropped up, only to be duly quashed by the Turkish government. The coup itself was a pretty much a joke. The plotters took over the national media, only to have President Erdogan use Face Time to call his supporters into the streets. Erdogan put the blame on Fetullah Gulen, an imam who claims to support a moderate form of Islamism and whose followers were believed to have infiltrated the government. Oddly enough, Gulen has been living in Saylorsburg, PA for the last 17 years, and has a network of 140 charter schools across 26 states.

Twenty Years of Welfare Reform

Good discussion. - promoted by Bob_Neer

I haven’t fully absorbed this yet, but it clearly bears discussion.


20 Years Since Welfare’s Overhaul, Results Are Mixed

“Mixed” seems a bit too kind for what this piece describes.

She notes that before welfare reform, 68 percent of poor families received cash assistance. Today, that’s dropped to 23 percent.

The new program did work for millions of families, but not all. Many of the most disadvantaged people have been unable to get or keep jobs, and they’re worse off than they were before, in part because there’s now a five-year lifetime limit on welfare benefits — and in some states, it’s lower. Arizona this year cut the limit to one year. The idea was that people would be encouraged to find work if they knew their monthly checks would end, but instead, some have been left high and dry.

One year! I am a spoiled college-educated kid from Somerville, and I’ve had one period of unemployment that was longer than a year.

To me, welfare reform is Bill Clinton’s unforgivable sin (and by extension — you know who’s). It’s the root of all liberal distrust of the Clintons.

Sure, one can argue that the country demanded it, “welfare queens,” the shadow of Reagan, etc. But they also could have FOUGHT — they could have made the case FOR welfare as an anti-poverty tool and social safety net.

They made a different choice. If we give President Clinton the benefit of the doubt that he really believed it was politically necessary, then the best we can say is that he chose political necessity over people.

I guess we should just be glad we’re not one of the mixed results.

Shouldn't the SJC Just Vacate Every Case Annie Dookhan Touched?

The Annie Dookhan drug lab scandal, five years in. - promoted by hesterprynne

Just asking. I am not a lawyer.

I suppose there are arguments against this — I don’t know, some drug kingpin walks? — but I don’t see how anyone really big is in jail just because of Dookhan.

Make no mistake, she ruined lives by fabricating evidence. This is just about the worst thing a justice system can do.

Let them all go, I say.

Early Voting in Massachusetts?

Yes, early voting should be available for the November election (not for the September primary). Here's a Globe story, and here are the Secretary of State's regulations. There isn't anything I could find on the SoS's website, though. More information would indeed be very helpful. It's a big change ... you'd think people would be talking about it. - promoted by david

Does anyone have information on early voting in Massachusetts. I’ve seen conflicting information. On one hand, there apparently was a law passed to allow for early voting, starting in 2016.
But my town’s (Randolph) website has nothing on it to indicate that voters are allowed to vote early. Only absentee voting is mentioned, which has conditions attached. The town website connects to the Secretary of State’s website, which also has no information.
Does early voting only apply to the November election? If the law was mandated to be implemented in 2016, shouldn’t it already be in place? After all, we have already had one election in 2016, and there is another next month.
I’m curious whether anyone has seen information in their town about this.

BOOM: SJC rejects pipeline tax!

The MA Supreme Judicial Court has ruled out the proposed pipeline tax, intended to help build the Spectra gas pipeline. In so doing, they’ve done what our sad-sack, corporate-controlled House of Representatives wouldn’t do, in spite of 97 Reps’ signatures against the pipeline and a 39-0 vote in the Senate to ban the tax/fee.

From Conservation Law Foundation’s press release:

According to the opinion by Justice Cordy, DPU’s 2015 rule (“Order 15-37”) allowing Massachusetts electric customers to be charged for the construction of interstate gas pipelines is prohibited by the plain languages of statutes that have been the law of the land in Massachusetts for almost two decades.

In his opinion, Justice Cordy wrote, Order 15-37 is “invalid in light of the statutory language and purpose of G. L. c. 164, § 94A, as amended by the restructuring act, because, among other things, it would undermine the main objectives of the act and reexpose ratepayers to the types of financial risks from which the Legislature sought to protect them.”

Here’s the full opinion. (Cordy, unfortunately, is returning to the private sector.)

How nice to get bailed out by the SJC. How pathetic that our House of Representatives spit the bit when given the opportunity to protect consumers and our habitat.

Forever Is a Long, Long Time: Charter School Question Would Drain Hundreds of Millions from Public Schools

Particularly after yesterday's vote by the state Democratic party to oppose Question 2, the issue is joined. - promoted by hesterprynne

With the exception of our vote for president, our most important vote on November 8 will be the one we cast on Question 2. Most of our school systems are already short of money. In January or February, there’s also a good chance that Governor Baker will cut money already promised to us in this year’s budget. These Chapter 9C cuts will likely increase the deficits many of our school systems already face (in the past, special education circuit breaker and regional transportation funds have been cut). There will be more pressure on our property taxes. And for what?

The proliferation of charter schools. And why? That’s the billion dollar–and I mean billion dollar–question. Charter school proponents, largely the business community and billionaires:

  • Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation[6]
  • Democrats for Education Reform[6]
  • Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance[6]
  • Alliance for Business Leadership[7]
  • Billionaires

Proponents of the question pitch this question in Orwellian fashion:”Lifting the cap on public charters is a social justice issue. … Massachusetts may have one of the best public school systems in the nation, but for too long the achievement gap has prevented our kids from reaching their true potential.” Advertising by proponents is almost as disconnected from the truth as Donald Trump, claiming that the bill will bring in more money to public education. If charter schools were public schools–rather than some weird quasi-public hybrid–this might be true. The fundraising done by new charters will bring more money to… charter schools. Presumably through donations, since charter rely on both public and private subsidies.

The Commonwealth spends almost half a billion dollars a year on charter schools. Money that would otherwise go to the public school districts. Some of this money reimbursed, but to public school districts that are already underwater, the reimbursements still don’t allow them to breathe. Cash-strapped school systems like Holyoke, Springfield, and Boston lose millions in funding. Smaller school districts lose less, but the loss is no less painful. As a selectman in Granby, I witnessed our school district try to deal with an $800,000 budget gap. It was finally reduced to $350,000 and paid for out of our shrinking stabilization fund. We’d already raised taxes by 7.7% to pay for a very necessary school building project. The $223, 000 we lost to charter schools would have come in handy.

Voting NO on Question 2 is NOT a vote against existing charter schools. It’s a vote against adding up to 12 more a year forever. It’s against adding additional siphons to every public school in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Guess who wants to challenge Sen. Warren in 2018?

Fresh off his business bankruptcy. Reminds me of Donald Trump: another far-right candidate with a string of business bankruptcies to his name. - promoted by Bob_Neer

None other than Curt Shilling.

It looks like the retired athlete, Trump endorser and conservative call-it-like-he-sees-it kind of guy believes he has what it takes to challenge Elizabeth Warren, the rock star of the American Left, in 2018 for her seat in the U.S. Senate. He said as much in an interview with AM radio station WRKO yesterday.

Apparently, the job he really wants is President of the United States but this would be his first stepping stone.

All I can think is that this would be a colossal waste of both time of money for folks on both sides of the race. As a Trump-lite, he might take note of what the Presidential vote looks like here in November before going forward.

But, hey, if she is going to have an opponent, much better him than someone credible.

"An Olympic Event Where 1st Prize Is the Chance to Lose Billions"

An NYT headline that should please the No Boston Olympics folks.

Of course, absent something to rally around like the Olympics the possibility of comprehensive improvements to our declining infrastructure — especially restoring the MBTA to developed-world standards from its current emerging market also-ran status — have passed from unlikely to almost zero (looking at you, Governor “no paradigmatic improvements for the MBTA on my watch” Baker, and the “not on mine either” legislative leadership). Despite brave words from No Boston Olympics (“We need to move forward as a city, and the decision to drop the Boston 2024 bid allows us to do that on our own terms, not the terms of the USOC or the IOC.”) I haven’t seen any moving forward organized by the Forces of No — certainly not on their (c) 2014 website.

But a bid by Rome, which hopes to follow a similar low-cost model, may already be in jeopardy: The city’s new mayor, Virginia Raggi, has very publicly objected, saying that Rome’s municipal deficit is too vast to consider hosting the Olympics. “Historical data from the Olympics, discounting eventual episodes of corruption, shows us that the costs are not sustainable,” she said in June. “Other cities have already withdrawn their bids for these reasons. And I don’t think they were thinking about corruption or Mafia infiltrations.” She was probably referring to Boston, which last year ended its effort to host the 2024 Games over anxieties about the cost.

Actually, in the case of Boston folks were, in fact, worried about political corruption and organized crime, among other concerns, but never mind, point taken.