I want to congratulate the Massachusetts House and
Senate for finally passing their versions of "Melanie's Law" and dealing
with the scourge of drunken driving.
Of course it's not law yet and my deadline doesn't allow me to wait to
see what comes out of the House-Senate conference committee that is
addressing the differences between the two versions. One sometimes
wonders, how many more must die....
I had earlier planned to write about the Sept. 27 Statehouse hearing on
the bill to continue the voters' income tax rollback, which the
Legislature froze in 2002. But the hearing was postponed until Nov.15,
one day before the Legislature is scheduled to shut down for the
holidays. Meanwhile, state revenues continue to climb far beyond
expectations, leaving a billion-dollar surplus that should be used to
obey the will of the voters — which is to reduce the income tax rate to
The hearing on the Proposition 2½ override bill, allowing only one
override attempt a year in each community, and allowing underride
attempts for all communities, is scheduled for Oct. 25.
In my 28 years as a taxpayer activist, attending more Statehouse
hearings than I can count, I cannot recall any time that hearings on
bills were held so late. Usually they take place in the spring. There
were times when the Legislature didn't get around to voting on them
until the last few hours of the year, but at least there was an attempt
to act as if they were being taken seriously enough to be publicly
I'm hoping there will be a hearing on the new health-care bill which is
being drafted by legislative leaders to meet a looming federal deadline,
so I can argue that repeal of the nursing home tax would be helpful.
While I'm waiting for all this legislative activity, I'll just continue
my personal and ongoing celebration of the 25th anniversary of the
Proposition 2½ campaign, which took place during the fall of 1980. This
week I celebrated at the Topsfield Fair, where it all began.
Back in those days, the fair's Trade Center was called the Exposition
Building, and various nonprofit and political groups were given free
tables along the right-hand wall. In 1979, when Prop 2½ was just a title
on an initiative petition, I worked for Citizens for Limited Taxation as
the office secretary and was also expected to collect signatures in my
My then-husband had taken my son and me to the Topsfield Fair the autumn
that I moved to Massachusetts, and it was love at first sight, or more
accurately, first taste. There was, for instance, a little red shack
right between the midway and the exhibits that served the best pizza
imaginable. So I suggested to my boss that I should spend the full 10
days at the Fair.
I'd drive up Route 97 in the morning, grab a fried dough, and set up the
table with petitions from all the cities and towns in alphabetical
Common Cause was beside me with an information table; its local
director, Paul Jackman, and I became good friends. Right-to-lifers
passed out literature next to the League of Women Voters. The Essex
Country sheriff's table was across the aisle; Sheriff Reardon's men
helped me decorate my table with cornstalks and let me wear their
leather jackets when it got cold in the evenings.
Various taxpayer volunteers joined me each day to ask fairgoers, "Do you
want to limit your property taxes?" We had a cute, colored flyer
featuring a cartoon Minuteman with quick talking points, and a
four-page, single-spaced explanation of all the petition's complexities.
Citizens ignored the former, and forced us to run to nearby towns to
reprint the latter several times.
Yes, children, back in the old days, people were interested in politics
and issues, and stopped between riding the Ferris wheel and visiting the
baby pigs to sign petitions. Sure, the petitions had pizza sauce,
powdered sugar and kielbasa juice on them, but back then, they couldn't
be disqualified for "stray marks" that kept them from being "pristine"
as they can now.
By Columbus Day, my Topsfield Fair team had collected more than 20,000
signatures, while I gained five pounds on fair food and met a lot of
citizens, some of whom may be reading this column! It was a fun way to
We used the fairgrounds for a few more petition drives, then new
management put an end to the free tables. This year, the new Common
Cause redistricting commission petition wasn't there, and the red pizza
shack was gone, but I did enjoy my fried dough, German French fries (a
delicious European alliance!), fruit smoothie and gritty, old-fashioned
fudge to go. I also found a leather belt for my celebration dress, a
small piece of fur for my cat, and toy bow-and-arrow sets for my
grandchildren. Also bought a miniature John Deere dozer in the Agway
shed for the kids' sandbox.
I watched the speckled baby pigs, absorbed the flower show, and listened
to Mitch Ryder at the Grandstand, all the while recalling the days of
old, when I was first an activist, and Proposition 2½ was in its
Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem
News, Newburyport Times, Gloucester Times, (Lawrence) Eagle-Tribune, and Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Providence
Journal and other newspapers.