CLT Update
Thursday, August 30, 2001

Rep. Vinny deMacedo; that one brave legislator

"The commonwealth is in a sad state if no member is brave enough to force votes on the record."

Boston Herald editorial
Stealth legislation on Beacon Hill again
Aug. 30, 2001

It's not easy to find a legislator who will stand up and be counted, one who will move beyond "go-along-to-get-along" and object to "stealth legislation" being passed in the obscurity of an informal session.

In the closing days of August, the fact is, it's not easy to find a legislator in his or her State House office during their lengthy summer vacation.

Like Diogenes searching for his one honest man, our quest was not easy. But after numerous calls and some conversations, we did find one: state Rep. Vinny deMacedo (R-Plymouth), who enthusiastically volunteered. He has pledged to object when the deficiency budget is called today in the House's informal session. His objecting will require a formal session to be held if the Stabilization Fund is to be altered and the surplus spent.

Who'd have ever thought it would be so difficult, so time-consuming, to find one legislator who would insist on simply playing by the rules -- the Legislature's own rules?

Besides the fiscal shell game that's being run with our $550 million tax over-payment, there's an important principle under assault. Major legislation depriving taxpayers of the rightful return of their tax over-payment, creating new and larger slush funds in which to stash it, passed by a mere handful of pols in informal session, deprives most citizens of representation. This is but another shameful example of what passes for democracy in Massachusetts.

It makes one wonder why we need to pay the salaries, expenses, and perks of 200 legislators, most of whom apparently  feel that their presence is not necessary. If Speaker Finneran, Senate President Birmingham (off on his cross-state campaign bicycle tour) and a few of their loyal coat-holders are going to run the state by themselves, then why do we need all that deadwood with titles?

Chip Ford

The Boston Herald
Thursday, August 30, 2001

A Boston Herald editorial

Stealth legislation on Beacon Hill again

The Massachusetts Legislature is about to commit another offense against democracy today unless at least one member stands up and say, "I object."

Both houses have scheduled informal sessions to pass a supplemental budget using the $550 million left over from the fiscal year that ended June 30. The Senate passed a version (in informal session) earlier to spend $672 million and the House passed a version (in another informal session) to send $496 million. A conference committee has been working to iron out the differences.

This is a whale of a lot of money to be spending in "informal" sessions reserved for non-controversial matters and attended by a handful of members who don't debate (the objection of a single member is enough to force a formal session).

Not only is the amount huge, major policy decisions are at stake.

If the leftover money isn't spent before Sunday, 60 percent of it goes to the rainy-day fund and whatever is left after that goes to income tax reduction next year. That fund is huge, one of the largest in the country -- $1.7 billion -- and is close to full, needing less than $100 million to hit its ceiling, 7.5 percent of budgeted revenues.

Here's the policy: Spending all the surplus to prevent a tax reduction isn't enough -- both versions would permanently raise the 7.5 percent ceiling to 10 percent of budgeted revenue. It would be the third increase in the tenure of Speaker Tom Finneran. Anything to avoid a tax cut, now or in the future, eh Mr. Speaker?

Well, isn't a bigger fund prudent when the economy is slowing? Not when the change would be permanent -- especially when the bills would also establish small temporary "mini-funds" to tap next year if needed, and no budget for the current year in place yet.

The commonwealth is in a sad state if no member is brave enough to force votes on the record.

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