March 2008
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Month March 2008

Putting Change Into Action

Greetings BMGers,

You’ve been an important part of the success of Governor Patrick from the beginning, and we are grateful for that. With that in mind, I thought I would outline some thoughts about the Governor’s agenda going forward to solicit your thoughts and constructive criticism.

As a regular visitor to the site, I realize that many BMGers are well informed about Massachusetts politics and have strong views about the best course of action on a variety of issues.  I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

With the casino issue decided in the Legislature, it is important to take a moment to review the long-term plan for the administration, and preview the next few months.  A review of what has been done and where the administration is poised to go will show that Governor Patrick has succeeded in bringing fundamental change to our state government.  

It’s Now Dirt Nap Time In America

Legendary Ad Man Hal Riney died last week.

One of the more celebrated creatives that made his mark, helping to create, and coming out of, the boon of the 1960′s, to usher in a new mode of operation for Ad Agencies.

A Modest Proposal

I have been reading the Department of the Treasury’s Blueprint for a Modernized Financial Regulatory Structure. Much of it is sensible, and the focus on rationalizing the current hodgepodge of regulation and granting the Fed increased regulatory powers over firms other than commercial banks that create credit. I want to make a modest proposal that I hope readers who are more economically sophisticated than I am can flesh out or shoot down, as appropriate. The notional value of all of the credit default swaps floating around out there is more than forty trillion (with a “t”) dollars. The basic purpose of a credit default swap is to hedge, or insure, against the risk that some firm will suffer a default or other problem with its credit. So, for example, if I am a bond investor, I might buy a swap from a third party to protect against the risk of nonpayment. The amount I pay is like an insurance premium. But the value of the swaps dwarfs the amount of the risk insured. This is because speculators with no risk to hedge against use swaps to bet on the credit of firms that issue bonds. The huge notional value of […]

DiMasi: Towns should be able to mandate GIC

Somehow I missed this, and it seems rather under-reported, but this is a big deal: DiMasi is saying (again) that municipal leaders should have “the sole decision” in deciding whether muni employees enter the Group Insurance Commission, the state's negotiator of health care plans for its employees: Last year, the Legislature passed a bill to allow municipalities to enroll their workers in the state health care system, the Group Insurance Commission. Instead of premium increases as high as 20 to 30 percent, the GIC has seen single-digit percent increases on average the last five years. Cities and towns can benefit from this by joining the GIC and they should. In addition, we passed pension reform which, combined with the health care reform, could have saved cities and towns hundreds of millions of dollars. Unfortunately, we have not seen cities and towns take advantage of these reforms. I believe that municipal leaders want to join GIC because they also believe that they can provide savings and good health care for municipal workers. I also believe that municipal leaders should have the sole decision in determining whether their communities join GIC and deliver on the promise of property tax relief on the […]

Term Limits, An answer to Beacon Hill Gridlock?

From  the CONSTITUTION OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS

Article VI. No man, nor corporation, or association of men, have any other title to obtain advantages, or particular and exclusive privileges, distinct from those of the community, than what arises from the consideration of services rendered to the public; and this title being in nature neither hereditary, nor transmissible to children, or descendants, or relations by blood, the idea of a man born a magistrate, lawgiver, or judge, is absurd and unnatural.

In my opinion one of the more serious problems with both our State and Federal Government is career politicians, beholden to maintaining excessive power and influence regardless of party affiliation.  From this 1995 Cato Institute study on term limits comes this important quote

The nation’s Founders strongly believed in rotation in office. They left term limits out of the Constitution because they did not foresee that politics would become a career for so many people. Short term limits would remedy that mistake. Nothing is more important today than reversing the pernicious rise of a professional political class.

Rather than continue the brow beating of Deval or the overly innuendoed  ”Is DeMasi mobbed up syndrome” how about getting to the root of the problem by addressing one of the causes of how elected officials get to much power by using our citizen initiative process to enact term limits.

Speaker Too Powerful

Regardless of what position you have on the casino bill it’s clear that the speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives is much too powerful.  First it was Finneran and many people felt that he abused his power.  The fact is that the position of speaker is much too powerful and it’s up to the house membership to show some courage and modify the rules so that democracy prevails.   Those who opposed the casino bill may be pleased that it failed, but in the future it could be a bill that you support that the speaker blocks.  I’d like to hear your thoughts on this issue. Ken Cabral

What does it mean to “ban” someone?

Let’s start with a hypothetical: tomorrow I wake up a deranged lunatic who rants crazy rants that are insulting, straw mens and just don’t belong anywhere. Let’s say I violate several BMG rules an hour. And let’s say, after a few months of doing it, I finally get banned. Does that mean I can just create a new user name and, presto!, I’m back on? Because that’s what’s happening right now – as John Howard, the “egg and sperm guy” has crawled his way back to the forum, this time masked under the pseudonym “they”. And the most sickening thing about all this is some of the people doing their best to combat John’s insane and irrational words, calling him out on it, have been berated and have had their posts outright deleted on the matter. While that doesn’t describe myself, I know of at least one important contributor to this board – who actually advances discussions and brings weight to  the matters at hand – has had his or her postings removed and been warned by one of the Editors. Meanwhile, someone who was banned and created a new handle has been given the benefit of his doubt… and […]

Vote Kate and Slate

Kate Donaghue here, asking for your vote at the Third Congressional District Caucus on Saturday, April 5 in Shrewsbury.  I am running as part of Congressman McGovern’s endorsed slate for delegates to the Democratic National Convention.  I respectfully ask for your vote for me and the slate.

I am running for delegate to the national convention in the 3rd Congressional District and I ask for your support.  I am running pledged to Hillary Clinton.  I am part of a slate with Senator Harriette Chandler, Senator Ed Augustus, Joe Carlson and Representative Vincent Pedone.  I think it is important to have a balance of elected officials, union representatives and grassroots activists representing Massachusetts at the convention.   I spend much of my life volunteering for the Democratic Party, our candidates and our issues.  I’ve spent weekend after weekend volunteering for my candidate in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  I’ve spent hours on the phone both recruiting volunteers and talking with voters.  I would appreciate your vote for me and the slate at the caucus at 1 PM at SAC Park, 438 Lake Street, Shrewsbury.  Arrive early for reasons explained below.

I’ve been posting on BMG since 2005 and am proud to be a part of the Blue Mass Group Community.  I’ve worked hard to encourage people to get actively involved in the Democratic Party and in promoting our candidates and issues.  

Today I am going to focus on what to expect when you attend a caucus and why you should attend.  While I was writing this I got a call from a friend who had been to her first presidential caucus four years ago.  She described it as “exciting and dramatic.”

More below the flip.

Internet purchases — how much MA use tax will you pay this year?

Or I suppose you could just leave line 32 on Form 1 blank.  It’s not like the Mass DOR currently has a way of tracking your purchases from Amazon, after all.

But the Mass.gov site is very clear about the law.

Use Tax on Out-of-State Purchases

Individuals who purchase taxable tangible personal property for use in Massachusetts from out-of-state businesses that do not collect Massachusetts sales and use tax must self-assess their use tax liability and remit the amount directly to the Department of Revenue. Examples of taxable items include computers, furniture, jewelry, cameras, appliances and any other item that is not exempt.

The Massachusetts use tax is 5 percent of the sales price or rental charge of tangible personal property on which no Massachusetts sales tax was paid, where the property was purchased to be used, stored or consumed in the Commonwealth.

The coming marijuana debate

We’re not hearing much about it – thanks to the depleted State House press corps, we aren’t hearing about most of the stuff happening on Beacon Hill – but sometime between now and November, we’re going to get the chance to debate the appropriate punishment for adults caught possessing marijuana for their personal use. Whether it will be an intelligent debate is another story. As I write in a column today,  reefer madness still reigns in some dusty corners of the State House, and “some media types over at the Boston Herald, in the juvenile end of the talk radio dial and among lifestyle-obsessed local TV news anchors, can’t seem to talk about marijuana policy without giggling.” As with the casino debate, decriminalizing pot will bring out the nanny conservatives who believe in outlawing sin and the nanny liberals who like to protect people from vices that might be bad for their health.  Gay people (with the help of the SJC) stood up to those attitudes a couple of years ago, arguing that their freedom  shouldn’t be limited to actions politicians approve of. Whether the state’s pot-smokers will show a similar backbone remains to be seen. Also blogged at Holmes […]