Spring has finally
arrived in Massachusetts: The birds are singing; I need a break from
national and international insanity. Time to again check in on
This week, there was a
hearing at the Statehouse on H.4121, Speaker DeLeo’s proposed gun
legislation. A member of the Gun Owners Action League, I trust the
analysis of GOAL’s chairman, Jim Wallace, who testified that his
organization had hoped it could support the bill because it has some
good provisions: addressing mental health issues, punishing
criminals who commit carjacking and home invasions with firearms,
and streamlining license renewals.
However, GOAL is
disappointed that the issue of chiefs’ discretion has not been
addressed and has actually been expanded to include FID cards. For
years now, GOAL has documented the many abuses of this clause, which
essentially gives the 351 Massachusetts chiefs of police final say
over who has civil rights in their own town, with no due process for
In my town, the police
chief seems to understand the Second Amendment, but citizens in some
other Massachusetts communities aren’t so lucky.
Gov. Deval Patrick
doesn’t think the bill goes far enough to stem the tide of illegal
gun trafficking, but I don’t see what that has to do with most of
us. However, I’m glad to hear that his administration understands
some part of “illegal,” though it doesn’t seem inclined to stem the
tide of illegal immigrants.
There’s just a short
time left to get the gun bill right; the legislative session ends
July 31. Other important issues remain in conference committee to be
resolved before that, or held until after the election. One that
should be done immediately is the welfare reform bill, with some
provisions added by Rep. Shaunna O’Connell (R-Taunton) and her House
supporters to address EBT card reform.
Supporters of the Tank
the Gas Tax petition are now collecting the second round of
signatures required to place it on the ballot; if you haven’t
already signed it, go to that website to learn where they will be
petitioning until the deadline of June 18.
I’d been very concerned
about a provision in the Senate version of the Election Laws bill
that would have made it even more difficult to win a ballot question
in the future. Sen. Stan Rosenberg, long an opponent of the
initiative petition process, had inserted language that would
require the governor’s Secretary of Administration & Finance to
write a paragraph with his opinion of a ballot question, to be
inserted in the red voter information booklet provided to every
household by the Secretary of State.
Not hard to imagine
what would be written about a tax limitation petition of which a
governor didn’t approve: “If this ballot question passes,
civilization as we know it will end. Paying this costs taxpayers
only a slice of pizza a day. This tax is an investment in whatever.
And what about the children?”
In the Senate bill as
written, the requirement for this paragraph wouldn’t take effect
until next year, but I could imagine a change in date being inserted
at the last minute, letting it apply to this year’s ballot
questions. “If you repeal the annual automatic gas tax increase,
roads will crumble. A bridge will fall on your head. Prove that it
I hadn’t expected an
assault on ballot questions in an Election Laws reform bill; was
alerted by Sen. Bob Hedlund (R-Weymouth), who’d been appointed to
the conference committee on the different House and Senate versions.
I contacted House Ways & Means Chairman Brian Dempsey (D-Haverhill),
along with the House Minority Leader, Brad Jones (R-North Reading),
hoping that the House Democratic leadership would join Republicans
in rejecting the Senate language. Finally, I called Secretary of
State Bill Galvin, asking for his help in protecting the initiative
Thanks to them all, the
offending language was not included in the final bill, but with Sen.
Rosenberg scheduled to become the next Senate president, it could be
back someday. He’s also a major supporter of a constitutional
amendment for a graduated income tax, so strategy on that issue is
quietly being discussed now by various advocates around the
commonwealth. Fortunately, constitutional amendments must be
approved by voters, who’ve rejected the grad tax five times.
So far this year, the
Legislature hasn’t passed anything too awful, not counting the $2
billion dollar increase in the state budget. I’m still waiting for
the income tax rate to return to 5 percent, as the voters mandated
14 years ago; it’s presently 5.25 percent.
allegedly low (which we could argue about, but that would take us
back to federal issues, where I’m not going today), Massachusetts
could be run with less revenue if it focused on better management. A
good manager would insist on EBT reform, oversee the Department of
Children and Families, cease subsidizing illegal immigration,
modernize treatment of the mentally ill, make the state
infrastructure a priority, and stop education and health care in
Massachusetts from being controlled by the massively incompetent
Darn, can’t stop
thinking about federal issues. What? Obama released five dangerous
Taliban leaders from Guantanamo Bay? Some crazy people want to
impeach him? I need a vacation.