and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
November #3

If only we could send Massachusetts legislators
to some deserted island
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Wednesday, November 15, 2006

I wish "Lost" had not gone on hiatus until February; I think I was just starting to "get it."

The people on the island are working out their karma, learning lessons that they did not choose to learn while they were alive; so they can move on to a better afterlife than they would have earned if they hadn't been given a second chance. That's my theory, anyhow.

It is also a revelation. It explains what I and people like me are doing in Massachusetts. We died in a state of sin, and this is our punishment.

In our past life, some of us were politicians like the legislators who have killed the initiative petition process. And now we must pay for having been enemies of democracy, who, unless we could lie, scam or schmooze our way through life, would have been on moral and intellectual disability.

Instead of taking honest jobs at our level of ability, we preferred to run for the Legislature and start working on our pensions. We got automatic pay raises no matter how badly we performed, and we got re-elected no matter how badly we behaved.

Others of us "lost souls" must just have been voters, clueless by choice, who elected and re-elected the people who had contempt for them. Now, in our Massachusetts purgatory, we must accept the role of informed voters who look at our fellow citizens in dismay as they make bad choices, again and again.

What did I do in my past life to deserve Doug Petersen as my state representative? How many votes did I take to put off an issue until after the election to protect my cowardly pals who had opposition? Did I, in that misspent incarnation, break my oath of office to uphold the Constitution?

When the Legislature refused to vote on the initiative petition called "the defense of marriage amendment" in the Constitutional Convention last July, Petersen wrote for this newspaper: "I would say that the vote to adjourn reflects not trickery but a cooperative effort by legislators to gain more time to consider a matter of extraordinary and serious significance. It seems very reasonable that on an issue of this magnitude, legislators should deliberate on this matter without the glare of the media and the heat of elections. We are scheduled to take up this issue again on Nov. 9, 2006."

Well, they were scheduled all right, and once again Petersen and 108 others resorted to trickery, though the Constitution clearly requires them to vote. When they ignore the petition again in January, it will die, and with it any chance for any group, liberal or conservative, to ever change the Constitution.

If another Supreme Judicial Court, in the future, attacks gay rights, gay activists will not be able to use the initiative petition process to defend themselves. The precedent has been set, and approved by Rep. Petersen. Other local legislators who refused to vote were Fred Berry, Tom McGee, Ted Speliotis, Mary Grant, Barbara L'Italien and John Keenan.

These legislators have also voted to kill the simpler initiative petition process for a law by killing the income-tax rollback that was passed by the voters in 2000.

So the only tools left to citizens in a one-party state are gone. And yet citizens walked into the voting booth last week and gave these arrogant politicians their vote. They deserve the government they get; if only the rest of us didn't have to get the government they deserve.

Some people are outraged by the treatment of our state Constitution: their suggestions range from suing legislators for violating their oath of office to offers to run against them in two years on a simple platform: "I respect the voters and the Constitution".

My own preference would be to arrest Senate President Travaglini, who presided over the ConCon, and House Speaker Sal DiMasi, who orchestrated the violation of petitioners' rights, and hold them until the vote is taken. Governor Romney looked into our suggestion of withholding legislators' pay until they do their job, but the Legislature is exempt from his control. He is, however, withholding $425 million in spending that includes several local pork projects.

Happily, a solution has been found by the petitioners whose "health care for all" initiative petition was also not properly addressed.

The SJC has ruled that legislators must vote on the initiative petitions, but doesn't have a remedy if they don't. The "health care" advocates filed a suit last week with a remedy: It asks that any petition ignored by the Constitutional Convention be placed by the court directly on the ballot.

They let me be one of the ten signers of the lawsuit, which would also save other petitions on other subjects in the future. I figure that those of us who support this remedy may be favored by the gods, and eventually earn our way off the island of the lost. The others may be eaten by a giant white polar bear; I hope.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle Tribune newspapers; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Lowell Sun, Providence [RI] Journal and other newspapers.