Our conversations with Warren Tolman and Maura Healey

The two leading candidates for Attorney General, Warren Tolman and Maura Healey, have been kind enough to sit down with Bob and me to talk about their visions for the office.  By popular demand (and with the permission of both campaigns), we’re posting the full audio of our conversations so that you can hear what they had to say about their priorities and several important issues of the day. We hope to have a chance to write up highlights of the conversations separately, but for now, here is all of what they had to say in our conversations.

Obviously, the interviews were conducted in rather noisy eating establishments, so we apologize for the background noise. FYI, the casino discussions start at about 40:00 for Tolman, and at about 35:00 for Healey.

Tolman:

Healey:

Full disclosure: I am volunteering for the legal team seeking to overturn the Attorney General’s ruling and get the anti-casino question on the ballot.

Justice Ralph Gants to be the next Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

Congratulations to Justice Gants! - promoted by david

Justice Gants combines scholarship and compassion.  I appeared before him when he was a Justice of the Superior Court to keep a woman in her home during a care and protection matter – and I can attest personally to his compassion as well as his scholarship; he agreed that a transitional living apartment was subject to the rule in Serreze – that as long as part of my client’s welfare grant went to rent, she was a tenant with tenancy protections.  (See http://masscases.com/cases/app/30/30massappct639.html ).

I have also heard him teach in a panel context, watched and listened to videos of oral arguments, and read his decisions on occasion.  In selecting Judge Gants, Governor Patrick has deepened, strengthened, and enriched the Judicial Branch.

Well done!

Video from our Governor Candidates Forum at the 2nd Policy Conference (April 2014)

Video on the flip! - promoted by david

We thought our April 6 Conference in Worcester was a great day, due in large measure to the focus and commitment of progressive activists from across the state (many of whom are BMG regulars. Hi!).

Summaries of the day have been written up on Blue Mass Group by DrBoerl, and there are member-authored summaries on our blog, too. Check ‘em out, and if you were there, please leave some feedback on our post-conference survey!

In addition to panels with policy experts, the last part of the day turned to electoral politics. To a still impressively crowded room, candidates Steve Grossman, Juliette Kayyem, Martha Coakley and Don Berwick joined us, one by one, and responded at length and in depth to tough, focused questions –and persistent follow-up ones– by our moderator, Jordan Berg Powers. Jordan’s inquiries were derived from candidates’ responses to our Endorsement Questionnaires, which go deep on structural and policy roots of economic inequality (as outlined in our Shared Prosperity agenda).

We have heard over and over again from members that the Forum was invaluable. Indeed, even at the very last minutes of a long day, the room was still packed and the audience’s attention still rapt and focused.

Stand with Steve Grossman as he takes on the NRA

Grossman clearly sees guns as a winning issue on which he can draw a contrast with Martha Coakley. Interesting! - promoted by david

Hello fellow BMGers-

I’m writing to ask you to stand with Steve this Thursday, April 17 at 1 p.m. in a press conference on the State House steps as he debates Jim Wallace, Executive Director of the Gun Owners Action League (GOAL) — the official Massachusetts state affiliate of the NRA.

Steve has proposed an aggressive plan to fight gun violence here in the Commonwealth.  In a Blue Mass Group last week, Steve applauded Speaker DeLeo for taking the lead on gun control legislation soon to be proposed in the House. But he also urged lawmakers and the Attorney General to add three additional reforms: limit gun purchases to one a month, require gun manufacturers to use smart gun technology, and create an interstate regional task force to deal with the torrent of illegal guns crossing our borders.

I’m asking you to stand with Steve on Thursday at 1 p.m. on State House steps to show the NRA that the families of the Commonwealth want common-sense gun safety reform!

In full disclosure I work for the Steve Grossman Campaign.

Time to kill 15% Rule before it kills the Dem Party...

An even more provocative suggestion from the author, in the comments: "Eliminating the convention altogether and putting that money toward local party-building efforts would be money better spent." Has the convention outlived its usefulness?

As I've stated previously, I don't particularly like the 15% rule, and would favor dropping it if the primary were moved to earlier in the year. On the other hand, I see the value of candidates proving some ability to create an energized grassroots organization early in the process. I just wish there were a way to do that without also seeming anti-democratic, and that's how the rule seems to me. - promoted by david

A recent BMG posting by gubernatorial contender Joe Avellone should have raised serious questions for all Democratic party insiders. He pointed out how the convention 15% rule in its current form (15% on 1st ballot or out) was detrimental to the Party and certainly not small “d” democratic.

As a former State Committee member who can remember back when the original 15% rule was adopted, I would have to agree with Avellone’s contention. If the “15%-on-1st” were operating back then, John Kerry would have been shown the door in the Lt. Gov. race, he never would have been Lt. Gov. or had the platform to jump to US Senator.

I get that the 15% rule was adopted to cut down on fringe candidates…if someone could not achieve 15% of delegates within two ballots, they were dropped off…but, to raise the bar to just one ballot when the field is crowded with good, qualified candidates seems overly restrictive and makes the party look anything but inclusive. We are not a party for the favored few, but it increasingly gives that public impression.

Also, the convention requirement forces candidates to spend enormous amounts of money courting delegates and paying for convention expenses, paraphenalia and nonsense. This money could be far better spent courting regular Dems and Unenrolled voters across the state. There was a time when the media actually covered the state conventions in a big way…there were tv booths and crowded press sections…that made the expense somewhat defendable with “free” media results. That is not so today…it’s a one story barely and forgotten.

Why I'm for Repealing the Casino Law

Maura Healey is a Democratic candidate for Attorney General. For comparison's sake, we asked Warren Tolman his position on casinos. His bottom line: "I would vote against repeal." - promoted by david

The significant law enforcement, consumer protection, and public safety impacts of expanded casino gaming in Massachusetts make this a central issue for our next Attorney General, the chief law enforcement officer of our commonwealth.

Therefore, I believe you have a right to know exactly where I, and all the candidates for Attorney General, stand on casinos.

I’m opposed to expanded casino gaming and I support the current effort to repeal of the gaming law. I do not believe a modern economy that is focused on creating opportunities for every person can be built on gambling.

The few communities that have voted in favor of casinos are going through tough economic times and many see casinos as a much-needed boost. But evidence from across the country tells a different story. Casinos don’t lay a foundation for diverse economies, they take over. Local restaurants and entertainment venues lose patrons, other industries steer clear, personal bankruptcies and home foreclosures jump, and the costs for police and related services soar

I’ve asked people what local businesses they visited during trips to Mohegan Sun or Foxwoods and the answer I get back for the most part is, “the gas station.”

Some casino supporters act as if we’ve learned nothing in the years since passage of the gaming bill but the last three years have, in fact, taught us a lot. We’ve seen several cities and towns resoundingly vote down casinos after the industry operators had a chance to make their best pitch.

All of which begs the question: Are casinos really a good idea if they’re only good enough for certain cities? I live in Charlestown and I’m opposed to a casino there. The voters of East Boston agreed and voted No on casinos in Boston. Plenty of state leaders have said the same in their hometowns. I know we can do better for everyone.

There are stronger ways to grow our economy. Infrastructure redevelopment creates construction jobs and yields long-term benefits for residents and businesses. Investments in education and job training allow our state to compete for higher-paying and higher-skilled jobs over the long term. A more progressive tax structure, raising the minimum wage, fighting for pay equity, and unionizing our workforce will all do more to support working and middle class families than casino gambling will do.

Recent studies show that casinos may even widen the income gap because gambling proceeds are regressive taxes. They disproportionately affect poorer people who have little discretionary money to lose in the first place. No one wants the government to serve as big brother and tell people how to spend their money but casinos thrive on addictive behavior – just like tobacco companies – and are designed so that people lose. Given all of the evidence about the ills of gambling, I don’t believe in waiting for problems to develop. We need proactive leadership at all levels.

If casinos are built, then the decision about who will be our next Attorney General becomes even more important. It will be the duty of the Attorney General to help protect the public from the accompanying risks, including loan sharking, predatory debt collection, drug and gambling addiction and organized crime. I know some of these challenges well from my years running the Public Protection Bureau in the Attorney General’s Office. As your next AG, I will ensure that our newly-formed Gaming Division recruits the state’s best lawyers to combat these challenges. And I believe that gaming industry should pay for the division.

I will also create a team of investigators stationed full time at the casinos to watch out for abuses just like the teams that Senator Elizabeth Warren successfully fought to put into the banks to watch out for abusive and deceptive practices.

Recently, the Attorney General declared that the current repeal petition was not valid to go to before the voters. The opinion stated that it is improper to shut down the licensing process now that several casino operators have applied. But voters made a decision to shut down the greyhound tracks with a ballot question and that was an industry that had been running for years. I am not concerned about the well-being of casino operators, I am concerned about the well-being of the residents of Massachusetts.

The final decision is up to the courts, but I believe on a matter of this magnitude, the voters should have a chance to be heard.

I also know that the worst reason to support casinos that haven’t been built is because we think we’re already stuck with them. If we have to refund the application fees, so be it.

I support repealing the gaming law and moving Massachusetts forward with smart, sustainable economic policies that help everyone.

What would you ask Maura Healey?

Your humble editors are sitting down with Attorney General candidate Maura Healey on Monday afternoon.  As we did with Warren Tolman a couple of weeks ago, we’re soliciting your questions for Healey.  What would you like to know?  We’ll get in as many of your questions as we can.

The Background of my Delegate Letter

The 15% rule rears its ugly head. Joe Avellone is running for Governor. UPDATE: several alert commenters have noted that the "15% on the first ballot" rule has been in place for the last couple of election cycles. It is not new for 2014. - promoted by david

When I entered the governor’s race in January 2013 I had one thing on my mind, how best to serve the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. As a lifelong Democrat I have always wanted to run for office. I started by volunteering for Senator Kennedy in New Hampshire in 1980. I worked on Paul Tsongas’s presidential campaign in 1992, and on John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign. I believe that my skillset is perfectly suited for the challenges that Massachusetts faces today. My experiences in the private sector, combined with my service as a town selectman and officer in the Naval Reserves, will allow me to get the results Massachusetts needs.

I started this race by talking to voters all across this Commonwealth. I visited over 140 towns last year talking to middle class families about the problems that they are facing. I focused on gateway cities and towns that haven’t seen the economic recovery that much of Greater Boston has. But then the State Party changed the convention rules in August and I had to change course. I went from talking to voters all across the Commonwealth to 5,000 delegates to the Party’s Convention this summer.

Previously, candidates needed to receive 15% of the delegate vote by the second ballot at the State Convention. This year, however, candidates must receive 15% by the first ballot. Whether the rules were changed to save time or to make the convention rules easier for delegates to understand, the result will be a weakening of our party.

This week, I sent out a letter to all elected delegates alerting them to this rule change. I told them upfront that the change in rules would limit participation in our democratic process and it would go against our ideals of fairness and equality. I’m not looking for pity. I’m looking for a fair shot. When I entered this race I knew that I faced an uphill battle, but the rules changed midway through the game, and the hill only got bigger. As Democrats we always talk about giving every individual an equal opportunity at success. The change in our nomination process is diametrically opposed to that very idea. The new rule favors party insiders and candidates with wide name recognition.

Elections best serve the people when multiple viewpoints are put forward. I firmly believe that all of the five Democratic candidates could serve this Commonwealth well if elected as the next Governor of Massachusetts. I believe that the wide range of backgrounds of all five of the candidates adds to this campaign and makes each candidate better. It’s clear that all candidates for Governor have brought new ideas to this campaign that will make our party better.

As Democrats, let’s have an open primary that allows all Democrats to have a say in choosing our nominee.

New disclosures on spy centers lead to protests in Boston, nationwide today

Is anyone listening? - promoted by Bob_Neer

Looks like the surveillance state has put its foot in it again.

The New York Times has revealed that since “early 2012″, the National Counterterrorism Center now has access to all data, not minimized for privacy in any way, that was authorized for collection via the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. That includes the phone metadata dragnet on all US calls, and much else besides. NCTC’s job is to streamline data sharing between federal and local agencies, via so-called “fusion centers” – 85 domestic spying centers that now exist all over the US. The spy centers act as clearinghouses where federal and local law enforcement data meet; Massachusetts’ ones are run out of the Massachusetts State Police and the Boston PD. So, local police forces across America, without a warrant, subpoena or reasonable suspicion of any kind, are now able to access what the NSA has on you and generate “Suspicious Activity Reports.”

Fourth Amendment, schmourth Amendment. This is the Age Of Terror (TM). No warrants or probable cause required!

So, predictably enough, when these “Suspicious Activity Reports” get leaked, they turn out to be mostly collected on people of color, and to be filled with unverified and often racially motivated gossip. The policies of our own fusion centers only forbid investigations solely motivated by race – so, if you are black and also Muslim, the policy is not violated.

We’re rallying today at 2pm at the Boston fusion center at 1201 Tremont St., Boston (by Ruggles) to protest these kinds of unconstitutional and unjust shenanigans by law enforcement. At the same time, we’re releasing a new report reviewing the unconstitutional policies of the Commonwealth Fusion Center in Maynard, MA, and filing FOIA requests to dislodge more information about how the fusion centers share and use data on all of us. Simultaneously, there will be rallies in LA, Oakland, Dallas, Charlotte, DC and elsewhere. Though it started with Digital Fourth here in MA and with the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, we now have a rack of supporters in this, including (here in Boston) the ACLU of Massachusetts, the Defend the Fourth Coalition, #MassOps, the Massachusetts Pirates Party, and (nationally) the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, CodePINK, Critical Resistance, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future and Restore the Fourth.

Unless we act, this is the future of law enforcement. It won’t be what you’ve done. It will be what an algorithm suggests you may do, based on your friends, interests and expressive acts on social media. It’s already all too easy for local people who aren’t planning any crime, like Cameron D’Ambrosio in Methuen or Travis Corcoran in Arlington, to get swept up in this net. It’s time for it to stop.

For more on fusion centers, check out EFF’s new FAQ on why they are such a problem.

How the MA Delegation Voted on the Progressive Caucus and Black Caucus Budgets

Interesting - I'd like to hear from Tierney and Kennedy in particular. - promoted by david

This week is budget week in the House. Today, the House voted on two progressive alternative budgets from within the Democratic caucus: the Congressional Progressive Caucus’s “Better Off Budget” and the Congressional Black Caucus’s alternative budget. The House will vote on the House Democratic caucus’s budget, the House Republican caucus’s budget (the Ryan budget), and the Republican Study Committee’s budget later this week (I presume tomorrow).

A majority of Democrats voted against the Progressive Caucus’s budget: 103 to 89.

A majority of Democrats (but nowhere near the full caucus) voted for the Black Caucus’s budget: 116 to 76.

Over at the Daily Kos, I looked at the roll calls for both votes, compared them to each other, and compared them to the votes last year on the corresponding budgets.

Here, however, I’d like to highlight the MA delegation.

Jim McGovern (MA-02), Katherine Clark (MA-05), and Mike Capuano (MA-07) voted for both the Congressional Progressive Caucus budget and the Congressional Black Caucus budget.

Richard Neal (MA-01), Niki Tsongas (MA-03), and Stephen Lynch (MA-08) voted against the Progressive Caucus budget but for the Black Caucus budget. Last year, Lynch had supported both.

Last year, John Tierney (MA-06) voted for both corresponding budgets. This year, he opposed both.

Joe Kennedy (MA-04), who himself is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, voted against the CPC budget, as he did last year as well. However, in 2013, he at least voted for the CBC budget. This year, he voted for neither of the two progressive alternative budgets.

House Committee Proposes More Than 50% Cut To Arts

Incredibly stupid. The arts are good for the economy and our quality of life -- QED your editors here. - promoted by charley-on-the-mta

BOSTON, April 9, 2014— Statement by Matt Wilson, MASSCreative Executive Director on House Ways and Means Committee Recommended Funding of the Massachusetts Cultural Council in FY15 State Budget:

“We are deeply disappointed with the House Ways and Means Committee’s recommended funding for the Massachusetts Cultural Council, which would cut the state’s investment in arts and culture by more than 50%.

“Massachusetts is home to large-scale museums, theaters, and orchestras, as well as numerous community-based playhouses and art centers that drive our economy, enhance the academic performance of our students, and build vibrant, connected communities. Core to the success of these cultural institutions is public investment in the arts through the Massachusetts Cultural Council. The budget proposed today by the House Ways and Means Committee is a step backwards.

“Over the past 25 years, the Commonwealth’s investment in the creative community has declined nearly 60 percent. Twenty-five years ago, the state invested $27 million in the creative community; 10 years ago that investment was $19 million. Today, it stands at $11.1 million and the House Ways and Means proposal would cut it to $5 million. Arts organizations in Massachusetts, particularly the smaller and community-based ones that do so much for the downtowns of our Gateway Cities, and enhance the educations of under-resourced youth, operate below full capacity and are not having the impact that they could be having on the economic health and educational success of our cities and towns.

“Rep. Cory Atkins (D-Concord), chairwoman of the Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development, has filed an amendment to increase funding for the MCC to $16 million in the final House budget. MASSCreative will work with its statewide members to urge their Representatives to support this amendment. MASSCreative and cultural leaders will continue to meet with lawmakers to request increased investment in the arts in Massachusetts.”

 

 

 

 

 

An Afternoon With Richard Tisei

Further evidence that what the MA legislature needs for effective diversity is not more Republicans, but more real Democrats, which is to say progressive Democrats. - promoted by Bob_Neer

I am a member of the Reading, Ma Rotary, and today we had a special guest. Richard Tisei.  He announced he wasn’t going to be political.  Then he launched into the Republican talking points on the ACA using deception and outright falsehoods all the way.  I will try to recall his words and where he is wrong.

1.  Massachusetts had a 15% uninsured rate before our health care law went into effect.

Correction:  Ma had a 7.3 or 6.4%(depending on the survey) before the law was enacted.  Half of what he said and the national average was 16% at the time.

2.  The Cadillac Tax on high premium health plans will be taxed at 40%.

Correction:  The tax is on the overage of health plans above $27,400 for families, meaning someone would pay $1040 excise tax, not the $12,000 he implied for a $30,000 policy(he did not check obviously how this tax works). Who has a $30,000 dollar policy anyway?

3.  The Medical Device Tax at 2.5% on sales will lead to layoffs and shipping devices and manufacture overseas.

Correction:  The Medical Device tax was lowered when industry representatives met with Max Baucus, and accepted the tax because they would get more customers because more people would be covered with insurance.  If shipped to other countries, there is no tax.  The excise tax can be deducted as an expense, and the effective rate drops to 1.5%.  Profits in this industry run from Baxter International at 2.3 billion to Care Fusion at 293 million.  As for R/D this mostly from ex camera sources.  With added insured their profits will climb, and costs will be passed on.

4.  The law is too complex and the President has given waivers beyond his power to do so.

Correction:  Most of the waivers have been asked for by insurers or Republicans.  They are arguing against themselves.

5.  People have lost their insurance, and are now uninsured.

Correction:  There are more insured in the country since the ACA has gone into effect.  The uninsured rate has been lowered by 2%  to date and counting.

This is what I remember.  It may be helpful to attend some of his events and straighten him out when he says these things.  This is going to be the main Republican pitch this year.