Tuesday was hearing day in room B-1 at the State House for a whole passel of clean energy/climate bills, including and especially H.2836, “An Act re-powering Massachusetts with 100 percent renewable energy”.
Presenting the bill were Reps Sean Garballey, Decker; along with co-sponsors Garlick, Donato, Jack Lewis, Robinson, Vitolo (natch), Gouveia, and several others. It was a mix of old hands and decidedly newer faces. Some of these new reps got elected by putting this issue at the top of their priority list, and have apparently a given it a much-needed boost in the building (Vitolo, Robinson, Gouveia et al). It now has 102 co-sponsors between the House and Senate.
My Rep. Garballey (Arlington) is one of the presenters of the bill. He gave a very concise, informed, and passionate speech in its favor, which put this bill in its proper national and worldwide context. He talked about the climate crisis; the treachery of the Trump administration; the meaning of Massachusetts’ leadership, and the context of other states like CA and NY taking action and even surpassing us. It was really fine work.
Marjorie Decker also gave concise, passionate remarks in support of her bill. Regarding the short window of opportunity we have to act, she said “this what keeps me up at night”. She spoke of helping people in industries that will inevitably suffer in a clean energy transition — which is really taking responsibility on both ends. A moving, relatable speech.
They were followed by advocates for net-zero energy “stretch codes” — opt-in municipal building codes, which would boost net-zero-emissions housing development. The testimony, from realtors, architects, and developers, is that this now completely viable economically — even cash-flow positive. Also discussed (though I missed it) was legislation regarding zero-emissions vehicles and energy storage.
There is no shortage of clever, conscientious, win-win strategies to combat this grave threat. We’re pretty smart in Massachusetts; we can do this.
But pardon my cynicism …
I’ve been to great hearings at the State House before. There’s a buzz in the room; everybody sees each other, and everyone’s on the same page. A lot of people have done inspiring work on policy design and political mobilization, and you get to see it up close, presented and represented in the people’s house. It’s awesome!
And then the actual bill gets to leadership, or committee. Leadership lets the corporate lobbyists in the back door. Cigars are smoked (I imagine). Backs are slapped. Transactions are implied (not explicit, horrors). Time fritters away.
And leadership kills those great bills, those great bold plans and hopes and dreams, dead. Or they gut them so that they’re bereft of all ambition and power.
And those “good” reps are left to apologize to their constituents. and try to tout their meager accomplishments in their newsletters.
That’s the way of DeLeo-world under the dome. That’s pretty much all I’ve ever known from this Speaker.
And my Rep — all of these reps, as far as I know — voted for him. Those who were around, like Garballey and Decker, even voted to remove the Sticky Speaker’s term limits in 2015. That’s my good rep who supports good bills.
And that’s why I warned Garballey in November: If you vote for DeLeo again, I’ll support a primary challenger. How can you work so hard for an agenda, and then vote for a guy whom you know is going to croak your bill? It is truly Lucy and the football; the definition of insanity. And I’m not accepting excuses anymore. On this issue, failure is unthinkable.
So maybe this time is different. Reps Garballey and Decker had better hope so. It was a really fine showing Tuesday, with a big assist from those new reps. And I hope they all end up making me and my cynicism look very stupid. I’ll cheerfully take that result.
But prove it. Don’t come back to us saying we tried. In more than one sense, there will be hell to pay.