CLT Update
Saturday, January 27, 2001

Beacon Hill Cabal now pushes for four-year terms

"If candidates ran half as often, they'd use half as much state money."

State Sen. Richard Moore
Associated Press
Jan. 26, 2001
Lawmakers seek longer terms in office

Is there no limit to their arrogance, their shameless pursuit of personal power and privilege? Is democracy in the People's Republic slowly but surely being extinguished, incrementally consumed by absolute rule?

This week a large majority of our alleged "representatives" voted Tom Finneran -- Imperious Maximus -- "Speaker-for-Life," but that wasn't bad enough. If the speaker can now reign supreme for his lifetime, surely Finneran's vassals are now due longer terms as well without the demeaning nuisance of having to stand for election every darned two years!

So they've proposed extending their own terms in office from two to four years. They're willing to settle for four years ... at least for now. How far off can proposing lifetime terms for themselves be while intoxicated by this rampage of arrogance.

Again this is blamed on the Clean Elections Law that was overwhelmingly approved by voters two-to-one. Now, amending the state constitution to four-year terms for legislators will "save money" in the Clean Elections fund, don't you know.

This is the same Clean Elections Law they used as a scapegoat last year to fatten their expense accounts. They claimed that the fund-raising limits imposed by the new law, if implemented, would prevent them from raising enough on their own to provide constituent services. So they gave themselves generous backdoor pay raises, then sent the law off to be "studied," putting it off for another session!

That was a perfect example of what happens when voters buy into false legislative promises and are foolish enough to amend our constitution on the Legislature's recommendation. Recall Question One on the 1998 ballot, the constitutional amendment proposed by the Legislature that promised to stop legislators from raising their own "base salaries" (and provided them instead with automatic pay raises every two years).

This year they got their automatic 8 percent pay raise, but it sure didn't stop them from doubling their expense accounts last year and increasing their "per diem" allowances, and won't prevent them from increasing them more in the days ahead.

But hey, the voters were snookered by them the last time, handing them everything they wanted. Who knows just how much the Beacon Hill Cabal can put over on us, until they give it another shot, and another!

State Sen. Brian A. Joyce (D-Milton) is the only politician ever to have a CLT 2 PAC endorsement publicly revoked).

CLT&G Withdraws its PAC Endorsement of Sen. Brian Joyce

Tax group withdraws Joyce endorsement

Yesterday he rationalized, "If you had a four-year term, you'd have less need to raise money and more time to legislate." What we'd wake up and find is Beacon Hill pols with four years instead of two in which to raise even more money to discourage opposition!

I'd like to hope "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice shame on me" will kick in, but I just don't know any more. When we have voters like Brian ("One less trip to the voting booth for me") Hamilton in the AP report below, it should cause us great concern. Brian, do yourself and your fellow citizens a big favor: just skip voting altogether.

Chip Ford

Associated Press
Friday, January 26, 2001

Lawmakers seek longer terms in office
By John Mcelhenny

BOSTON (AP) Two hundred years ago, the state Constitution required lawmakers to run for re-election every year to make sure they traveled to their districts at least that often.

Eighty-three years ago, lawmakers' terms doubled as transportation evolved and allowed lawmakers to keep in better touch with their constituents.

Now, some lawmakers want to lengthen their terms still further, to four years. They say it would allow them to spend less time fund-raising and more time legislating.

Opponents see it as a power grab, intended to further decay the democratic rule of the people.

"If they're cocky and arrogant now, that would immediately double if they were there twice as long," said Barbara Anderson, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

The subject is a touchy one on Beacon Hill this week, after the House on Wednesday voted to lift the eight-year term limit of House Speaker Thomas Finneran. Only one day before, Finneran had said he didn't want to be "speaker for life."

Ken White, director of the government watchdog group Common Cause, said the move to extend lawmakers' terms is another attempt to make the Legislature less responsive to voters.

"Doubling the amount of time between elections would further decrease the accountability of representatives to their constituents," White said.

Sen. Brian A. Joyce, D-Milton, disagreed. He said more time between elections would mean lawmakers could spend less time attending fund-raisers and asking for money, and more time serving constituents.

"If you had a four-year term, you'd have less need to raise money and more time to legislate," Joyce said.

Angela Meyer, 25, a public health graduate student, worried that four-year terms would distance legislators from their constituents.

"They'd lose touch with who they're serving," she said.

Lawmakers have proposed the idea of extending their terms before. Last year, a proposal to lengthen only senators' terms from two to four years garnered little support.

This time around, Sen. Richard Moore, D-Uxbridge, suggested House members' terms be doubled an important change, considering that the Senate and House would have to approve the proposal. 

In fact, two successive Legislatures and the voters would have to approve, since it requires a change to the state Constitution.

Voters would never go for that, Anderson said.

"Why would voters vote to disempower themselves?" she asked. "What they really want is to be legislators for life just like the speaker, so they never have to go to the voters."

But Moore said a new consideration the state's new Clean Elections law might sway some voters.

The law will make available tens of millions of dollars in state money for candidates who agree to spending limits, beginning in next year's elections.

If candidates ran half as often, they'd use half as much state money, Moore said.

Massachusetts is one of 12 states with two-year terms for senators, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Forty-four states have two-year House terms.

U.S. senators serve six-year terms, while U.S. House members serve two-year terms.

Brian Hamilton, 42, a medical billing specialist, had a simple reason to prefer four-year terms over two.

"One less trip to the voting booth for me," he said.

The Boston Globe
Saturday, January 27, 2001

A Boston Globe Editorial
Brave legislators

HOUSE SPEAKER Thomas Finneran has long been a critic of the House rule that imposed an eight-year term limit on the speaker, saying that the limit would lead to succession battles that would be disruptive to the institution.

Certainly Finneran's own election fight in 1996 was disruptive, but only because he, then Ways and Means chairman, had the brass to go against Representative Richard Voke, the majority leader, who would normally have succeeded to the office.

In fact, the rule was put in place in 1985 to prevent a repetition of the overlong speakership of Representative Thomas McGee, who presided for 10 years. McGee's last term was a tumultuous one, and he was eventually driven from office by the challenge of George Keverian in a war that was extremely disruptive.

This week, the term limit was voted out. All 24 Republicans voted to keep it, abandoning the support for Finneran that was his trump card in 1996. But only 15 Democrats had the independence and fortitude to vote no. They were: Representatives Ruth Balser of Newton, Paul Demakis of Back Bay, Carol Donovan of Woburn, Barry Finegold of Andover, Patricia Jehlen of Somerville, Kay Khan of Newton, Jim Marzilli of Arlington, Thomas McGee of Lynn (son of the former speaker), Anne Paulsen of Belmont, Ruth Provost of Sandwich, Byron Rushing of the South End, John Slattery of Peabody, Frank Smizik of Brookline, Ellen Story of Amherst, and Philip Travis of Rehoboth.

Their courage deserves to be remembered.

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