and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

The Final Days (aka, "Strategic Chaos")

To:  Members of the General Court
         November 8, 2005
Re:  The Final Days (aka, "Strategic Chaos")

As you again rush toward what Senator Travaglini’s office calls "the Thanksgiving break" –– which we understand will last until January –– we urge you to adopt a Legislative Hippocratic oath: "First, do no harm."

Having waited all year to address vital issues, you are now in the "final days" – the strategic chaos that will have you continuing to pass conference committee bills you haven’t even read, that may or may not contain the items you already voted on.

We’d comment on the newest Senate version of the "kill the initiative petition bill" that was amended last week –– but no one can tell us what the "further amendment" was: do you know what it says? The Senate Journal for last week isn’t yet on line. We’ve read various accounts, including that you will now forbid paid petitioners, which is clearly unconstitutional. Senator Augustus’ office won’t tell us what his most "further amendment" is. So whatever it is, we oppose it on principle.

We recognize that the leadership doesn’t want us – or your constituents in general – to know what is going on up there, which is why everything was left to the last minute. This strategic chaos also increases their control over –– you –– and your own favored legislation.

We support health care reform, but have no way of knowing in time what will eventually come out of a conference committee; in the midst of this strategic chaos, things can get added and subtracted in violation of legislative rules. We support the part of senior tax relief that increases the value of homes to determine eligibility for the circuit breaker, and lowering the interest rate for deferral of property taxes. But we have no way of knowing what the final bill, in the midst of this chaos, will look like. We still oppose excluding seniors from overrides.

With state revenues rising, we want the income tax rollback to begin rolling again now; but our bill to do this is scheduled to be heard on November 15th, the day before you leave for "the Thanksgiving break."

Right now, the clearest message we have is that to allow a retroactive capital gains tax increase is fiscally disastrous, sending a message to investors nationwide that the Massachusetts Legislature has lost its collective mind – something which we ourselves always suspect during the frenetic final days of every legislative session.

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