Legislative leaders haven’t been making a lot of friends on BMG of late. Admittedly, I’ve been part of the firing squad as well. But often forgotten in handicapping the inter-branch warfare is how much, when moved, legislative leaders have contributed and can contribute to our State.
Health care reform is one area of great credit to the legislature. I’d cite Sal DiMasi’s emphasis on “green jobs” in the prior legislative session as another.
Our former speaker was ahead of the curve in pushing green jobs via his Green Jobs Act of 2008. He found a friend in the Governor’s office (and got help from Secretary Bowles). Now Massachusetts is is in a good position to capitalize on the green jobs agenda being pushed furiously by President Obama.
Sal’s signature bill created the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. The CEC is funding training programs to create a workforce geared to environmentally-friendly industries. The CEC has also allowed Massachusetts to make strong bids for federal funds in energy conservation and new technologies. It’s no wonder the State won $25m for a wind turbine testing facility on the Charlestown waterfront.
But this could all be just the beginning. The seeds that Sal and Governor Patrick planted through the Green Jobs Act are ready to bloom given the White House’s emphasis on the issue. For anyone paying attention, in between announcing Judge Sotomayor for the high court, meeting with Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas and raising dough for Senate Majority Leader Reid, not to mention addressing North Korea’s missile tests, the President (and especially the Vice President) were talking up green jobs, a key element of the President’s recovery and long-term economic agenda.
The stimulus package is pumping serious cash into energy programs such as weatherization (which I posted about previously). Now the US Secretary of Labour Hilda Solis is announcing $500m in grants for green job training, also from the stimulus package. I’d like to think that with the CEC we can maximize this new funding stream to our advantage. Vice President Biden was in Denver with his Middle Class Task Force discussing green jobs this week. Next week, the CEC and UMASS Lowell are hosting their own Clean Energy Workforce Development Forum. It is all coming together.
So in this season of in-fighting and political opprobrium it is worth giving credit where credit is due. Sal saw the light and it was green. That was pre-recession. Now, in the midst of it, with stimulus funds flowing, we can grab a disproportionate slug. And beyond that we need to patch into how we can sustain a green economy once the stimulus pump-prime dries up. The White House is already looking toward that future. We should as well. Thanks to Mr. DiMasi for helping to give us a better chance.