Thank you, House, for passing non-compete reform!

An important piece of legislation, which no doubt could be made even better. - promoted by david

It’s been a long time in coming, and it took a lot of discussion and persuasion – but the House listened! And it passed a strong non-compete reform, voted 150-0, limiting non competes to 12 months, with a ‘garden leave provision’: 1/2 of salary, or some mutually agreed upon compensation, to be paid until the non-compete expires.

Notification of any non-compete clause must be served before employment starts – and not weeks later, as it is usually done, at the discretion of the employer. Yay!

The Senate, I hope, will close the loop and pass its own version, including the garden leave provision.

This is good for the employees – and good for the high tech economy, allowing workers to mingle more easily from startup to startup. Cross-pollination is good for a healthy high tech economy!

Second Walsh Aide Indicted

Ugh. - promoted by david

Joan Vennochi:

Unpleasant but lawful conduct will be the argument in defense of Walsh’s aides. According to Wednesday’s indictment, festival organizers hired eight union laborers and one foreman because Sullivan and Brissette insisted upon it. It will be up to federal prosecutors to show that the effort by Sullivan and Brissette to persuade or pressure constitutes unlawful “extortion,” or, conversely, for the defense to show it actually was “permissible, maybe even fairly common contact,” said noted criminal defense lawyer Harvey Silverglate.

Ortiz has won that argument before.

I have no immediate comment, other than this: Ruh roh.

Annals of Income Inequality: June, 2016

A couple items from the income inequality file.

First, as State House News reports (paywall), the Baker administration is about the business reining in the overtime hours of the 39,000 people in the state who work as personal care attendants. PCA’s, as they are called, assist people who have severe disabilities with daily activities like getting dressed and bathing. This help enables many disabled people who might otherwise need to live in a nursing home to remain in their communities.

The cost of the PCA program is rising, and to cap that increase the Baker administration is restricting the number of overtime hours that PCA’s may work. As you may imagine (there being 24 hours in a day), many of the 26,000 people receiving PCA services require more than 40 hours a week of assistance. Nonetheless, the administration is targeting this program for savings by requiring advance approval by the state for any PCA working more than 40 hours per week, up to a maximum of 60 hours.  No word on whether the administration is anticipating that this restriction might result in more nursing home placements of persons now able to live outside that setting.

PCA’s now earn $13.68 per hour, which translates to an annual income of $28,454 for a forty-hour week. (If you’re curious, the income necessary to afford a studio apartment in the state is $36,142).

Second, as DigBoston reports, the Baker administration is asking the Legislature to increase the amount of economic development tax credits the state awards to corporations annually from $30 million to $50 million, and also to allow the administration complete discretion to decide which corporations receive these new incentives (aptly named Extraordinary Economic Development Opportunity Credits).

By “complete discretion” to award these credits, the Baker administration is proposing that, to quote from its bill:

The decision by the secretaries to designate or not to designate a proposed project as an extraordinary economic development opportunity shall be a decision that is within the sole discretion of each of the secretaries, and may include such conditions as the secretaries shall in their discretion impose. Such decisions shall be final and shall not be subject to administrative appeal or judicial review… or give rise to any other cause of action or legal or equitable claim or remedy.

Wow – so much for the separation of powers. It’s not clear (to me at least) that this “extraordinary” delegation of authority to the executive branch to award tax credits, which expressly precludes any sort of court review to control abuses of discretion, would be constitutional.  The Supreme Judicial Court has in the past approved laws in which the Legislature delegates its power to tax — but on the condition that certain safeguards have been met, including that some means of judicial review is available for parties aggrieved by the resulting decisions.

In any event, interested persons are invited to suggest to their Legislators that funding overtime hours for PCA’s to provide assistance to persons with disabilities is a higher priority, especially in this time of severe budget austerity, than funding extraordinary tax credits for favored corporations.

 

Support for Carbon Pricing Amendment in Energy Omnibus Bill

Beat me to the punch this morning! We set a goal, and now we have to accomplish it -- the carbon fee/dividend is one way to do it. More info on the whole bill here from the legal eagles at Foley Hoag. - promoted by charley-on-the-mta

The Massachusetts Campaign for a Clean Energy Future, a coalition of organizations supporting the implementation of carbon pricing in the Commonwealth, supports Amendment 48 to S. 2372, the energy omnibus bill, sponsored by State Senator Michael Barrett (D-Lexington) that would implement economy-wide carbon pricing in Massachusetts.

A recent report showed that Boston and the region face significant danger from climate change, and we also know that carbon dioxide emissions across New England are rising.  Additionally, a recent ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld provisions of the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) of 2008 that require limits for multiple emission sources to decline annually. The GWSA also mandates that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts cut carbon dioxide emissions to 25 percent below the 1990 level by 2020 and at least 80 percent below 1990 by 2050.  Additionally, a recent report indicated that carbon emissions from the region’s power plants rose in 2015 after years of decreases.

The coalition supports including the carbon fee and rebate proposal as part the energy omnibus bill to address these concerns. The carbon fee and rebate policy has helped to reduce fuel consumption and grow the clean energy sector in British Columbia and other places and will give the Commonwealth the biggest bang for our buck in meeting the Global Warming Solutions Act mandates. Most importantly, we believe it will help reduce carbon dioxide emissions and combat climate change.

The amendment is based on two proposed bills that would create a common sense carbon pricing system in Massachusetts – S. 1747, which has 48 co-sponsors, and S.1786.  The amendment requires the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs to establish a system of greenhouse gas emissions fees charged to fossil fuel importers.  The revenues from those fees would go into a special dedicated fund for rebates, and be passed on directly to households and employers in order to minimize any increased costs in living and doing business.

Since low- and moderate-income households tend to use less energy than wealthier ones, if the rebate is an equal amount per person or per household, on average they would likely come out ahead, but everyone would have an incentive to reduce their use of fossil fuel in order to pay less in fees.

In passing this amendment, Massachusetts would be implementing a policy that encourages residents and businesses to use less fossil fuel, thus reducing carbon emissions while helping the economy.  We are confident that a carbon fee and rebate policy can be tailored to meet the needs of the Massachusetts economy.

House Benghazi report -- "never mind"

Republicans are losing faith in Trump and trying to play nice with Secretary Clinton. - promoted by Bob_Neer

According to the New York Times, the House Select Committee on Benghazi released its final report today. The result? No new evidence of anything. Two years (more than the investigations into 9/11, the JFK assassination, the attack Pearl Harbor, and the failed response to Katrina), more than seven million dollars, and no new evidence of culpability or wrongdoing.

The purpose of the committee was clear, especially after House majority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) clarified them:

“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?” Mr. McCarthy said. “But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened, had we not fought.”

In other words, a witch hunt.

Neo-birtherism and Sour Grapes

This is a losing issue, as Brown has himself convincingly demonstrated. - promoted by Bob_Neer

Our friend Scott Brown, who may be the only person is one of the only people (Thanks to jimc for pointing out that Endicott Peabody also lost in both MA and NH, albeit 20 years apart in his case.) in history to lose races for the US Senate in two states, is calling on Elizabeth Warren to take a DNA test to prove her Native heritage.  He’s even reprising his “As you can see, she’s not.” line.  Truth is, Ancestry.com has run commercials featuring people who were surprised by their results, but it obviously has no bearing on qualifications or stances on issues.  I find it hilarious that he seems to care about the “real” Native Americans that Warren supposedly pushed aside, never mind that Harvard has confirmed she never received any benefit from checking that infamous box.  If I were Warren I’d be tempted to say sure, I’ll take a DNA test just as soon as you and your candidate take IQ tests!:)

A right without access is not a right

The costs are too damn high. - promoted by charley-on-the-mta

Yes, that was the decision today, one that all Democrats including the presumptive nominee for president cheered.  A right without access is not a right.  You know where I am going, eh?   If, according to our presidential nominee, affordable health care is a right, then access to wealth that makes health care affordable must be part of the equation, no?  The average premium for single coverage in 2015 is $521 per month, or $6,251 per year.   This is the cost of the policy, not including co-pays and all the rest, but let’s just round it out to $8,000 which is still far less then the $10,000 per person we expect to pay per person this year for actual health care.

 

So what is “affordable”? Can anyone tell me?  Can the Democrats who support the private ownership of health care insurance please weigh in on this?  Can we say that $15 an hour is too high a wage when we know that health care will cost the individual between $6,000-10,000?  Looks to me like the courts have may have done us a favor on this. The “Affordable Care Act” like so many things in Washington (Right to Work for example), is anything but what it sounds like, eh?

 

Single Payer NOW…or at least, let’s start the path to it with a public option for ALL.

 

Thank you.

 

Down-spinning the platform battle

The DNC platform negotiations are gathering rather more attention than usual. And how they’re going, and who’s exercising influence … well, depends on whom you ask.

Here’s the AP:

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A draft of the Democratic Party’s policy positions reflects the influence of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign: endorsing steps to break up large Wall Street banks, advocating a $15 hourly wage, urging an end to the death penalty.

Impressive! By any previous standards this is pretty darned progressive. Yet here’s the take that’s typical of the Sanders supporters on my various feeds:

During a 9-hour meeting in St. Louis, Missouri on Friday, members of the DNC’s platform drafting committee voted down a number of measures proposed by Bernie Sanders surrogates that would have come out against the contentious Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), fracking, and the Israeli occupation of Palestine. At the same time, proposals to support a carbon tax, Single Payer healthcare, and a $15 minimum wage tied to inflation were also disregarded.

via Betraying Progressives, DNC Platform Backs Fracking, TPP, and Israel Occupation | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community.

Two thoughts on this:

First, it’s right for the Hillary delegates to take their lumps from the Sanders progressives on the substance. I obviously support a carbon tax, and we need to run screaming away from fossil fuels ASAP. Fracking should end. Palestinian dignity ought to be supported — we’re overdue for a new narrative and public language on Israel/Palestine and Hillary’s not giving us that.  Single payer would be great.

That being said, there’s a tendency to measure the strength of one’s commitment to goals (stop global warming; health care for everyone) with a particular set of means (carbon tax; single payer). And simply put, those two policy tools are really, really hard to get passed and stay passed. In some really fine posts, (here’s the other one) David Roberts at Vox has taken on the political problems of the carbon tax*. In Australia they passed it (yay!) … and then repealed it (boo!). With single-payer, the Vermont legislature agreed to it in theory … and then couldn’t fund it. Oh well.

Political sustainability is a big part of economic and environmental sustainability. Simply put, the HRC platform people are looking towards the general election, and they see the political cost to Dem candidates as prohibitive. And with the House and Senate potentially in play, one can see the reason for playing it “safe”; whereas flipping both houses of Congress would really be a “political revolution”.

Somewhat dishearteningly for political true believers, you typically make a choice between the strength and “purity” of your ideas, and the breadth of your coalition. But considering the mood of the country — and the demonstrated appeal of Sanders’ agenda — I’m willing to bet a Democratic Congress would be pretty darned progressive. But you gotta win first.

The necessities of stopping climate change and getting health care for everyone haven’t gone away. There’s more to come in the platform negotiations. The Sanders people are doing their job, and bringing energy, vision and passion. I hope they will come to acknowledge their own power, and claim credit for their victories and influence along the way. This will keep people engaged, thereby growing their influence.

Keep pushin’. We can get things done.

*I would be remiss if I didn’t include this hopeful rebuttal from Judy Weiss of the Citizens Climate Lobby, a very fine pro-carbon tax group.

The United Kingdom, 1707-2016. RIP

Dated monarchy commits suicide in public. Older Britons have screwed the rising generation -- one reason Trump, the angry codgers candidate, is applauding so vigorously. - promoted by Bob_Neer

In the history of Europe few things have been as transparently good as the day the Berlin Wall came down: freedom — personal, cultural and economic — was to be had and a bright new world was created… a world in which walls came down.

“Brexit” is the opposite of that… Walls are going back up. Whatever hope one might have had after the fall of the Berlin Wall is now on life-support.

In a campaign that was breathlessly naive (“everything will be fine once we leave, don’t worry about it”, “the British people are tired of hearing from experts”) and egregiously mendacious (“money for NHS”, “Scary immigrants”, “nobody will regulate your pillows!”) the “Leave” campaign, spanning the entire spectrum from passive-agressively racist to nakedly racist, convinced the English people (not the Scots or the Northern Irish, mind you) to walk blindly into a caustic uncertainty, thereby signing the UK’s suicide note with a flourish.

This is likely the end of the United Kingdom. Scotland will exit and will flourish for it. In a decade they will have a larger economy than England. Englands military will suffer, as integrated into Scotland as they are… Irish reaction is yet to be gauged but if I were a betting man, I’d say the tipping point of Northern Ireland wanting full integration with the Republic of Ireland has been reached and breached. And if they don’t, what are they going to do, put armed Irish guards to the south looking across a border at armed Northern Ireland guards??? Are Northern Irishman again going to stand off against other Irishman, and again on behalf of the British? That always ended well in the past, dinnit?

The English people have traded their security, their status and their stature for a blind alleyway that will leave them smaller and more isolated then they have ever been. That they believe a pot of gold is hidden in that blind alleyway doesn’t excuse them from the coming pain, and the worst pain when they realize that there never was no pot of gold. I predict about two decades of shrinking ego before they re-apply for entry in the EU… if the EU is still around.

Although I believe the worst of it will be visited upon the English, the chaos attending disintegration of the UK will not be confined to the British Isles. Over the next few years the European Union will face another wave of exit attempts… Greece almost certainly… and France will try, and maybe even some others, but as the scope of the disaster in England slowly unfolds the taste for exit will, one hopes, gradually turn to ash on the tongue… that is to say, unless and until the resulting chaos enables some demagogue or another to stir up national hatreds. At that point, all bets are off. A de-stabilized EU is a scary thing.

Enter Vladimir Putin and his fever dreams of a Russia re-emergent. We might as well either consign the Ukraine to him right now or mobilize NATO. Help from the EU, and the hope of maybe someday even EU membership, was the thinnest threads of Ukraine’s hope against Russia and was Putins biggest fear. In the resulting chaos of the next decade or so… Goodby to all that. And if the Ukraine falls, well… Poland is going to have to do something about that. Will it militarize? Will it call on NATO? What about all the states that were once part of the former Soviet Bloc? You have no idea. You think the Tsarnaev brothers and their once-remove Chechen nationalism-cum-Islam was dangerous? Childs play. The further along Putin gets the more some Croat or Serb or Slovak vows never to serve a Soviet master again… and prepares for war. These are countries that are now NATO members… and there’s a reason for that. A de-stabilized EU only emboldens Putin.

Will all this come to pass? I don’t really know. I hope not. But I do know that this is an epic, world changing event, on the order of the Berlin Wall coming down, but in the other direction. That it was based on lies and transparent stupidity is the scariest thing of it all…

Myopic Nationalism Is Still Rising

Brexit - oy. - promoted by hesterprynne

In historic vote, Britons decide they hate 70 years of peace and prosperity:

“Yes, we remember recovering from World Wars caused by national pride. We then enjoyed our lives in the EU, but now I would much rather go out of this world feeling nationally superior, than allow our younger generation to enjoy that same integration, peace, and opportunity that we were able to enjoy.”
-70 y.o. Codger in the Midlands

Closest thing to a filibuster in the US House

Bravi. - promoted by david

House Democrats, including many if not all of our delegation, just passed the nine-hour mark in their occupation of the House floor demanding votes on gun control legislation.  Many Senators, including ours have joined them for at least part of the time, with Elizabeth Warren apparently making a donut run for the members.  This effort is being spearheaded by John Lewis, who probably of all members knows a thing or two about sit-ins.  Our own Katherine Clark seems to be Lewis’s co-leader in this, leading Rachel Maddow to point out that they can now be remembered as Lewis & Clark.  (I’m updating at 9:20 at which time the two of them are being interviewed by Rachel.)  Officially the House stands in recess subject to the call of the chair and the C-SPAN cameras have been cut off.  We are getting feed via Periscope from a California member, which even C-SPAN is using in lieu of their own cameras.  We just learned that someone is hitting the nearest Target for sleeping bags to accommodate an all-night stay.  This wouldn’t be an issue if the real House were more like model Congresses I have participated in whereby any legislation filed gets a hearing and those that clear committee get a vote.  In some cases the rules were that the plenary would still vote on a committee recommendation of ought not to pass.

UPDATE: There has now been a gathering of the public outside the Capitol in support of the Democratic sit-in.  We also expect the GOP to come back into the chamber shortly to attempt votes on other items.

Wexit? [with poll]

Elizabeth Warren is being vetted to serve as Hillary Clinton’s running mate.  That puts her on a genuinely short list of potential candidates for the job of vice president, with all that that would entail for the Senate, the country, and especially for us here in Massachusetts.

So, on the eve of the “Brexit” vote in England, it’s time for a Wexit vote right here, where Warren first made clear her intention to run for Senate: Should she stay, or should she go?