CLT Update
Thursday, December 13, 2001

They have got to go

Researchers who have studied the relationship say in no other state does the Legislature have such a grip on what goes on in the courts. And now, that relationship is under close examination, as the state's highest court grapples with a case of enormous interest to lawmakers -- whether the Legislature's killing of the Clean Elections law can stand.

The Boston Globe
Dec. 12, 2001
Judges wary of challenging Beacon Hill

"They have finally caught on to what I've always been afraid they would recognize -- they can get away with anything," said Citizens for Limited Taxation chief Barbara Anderson.

The Boston Herald
Dec. 12, 2001
'Animal House' still lags in implementing reforms

This year's House debate on the governor's line-item vetoes was again marked by flagrant dishonesty in voting....

A Boston Herald editorial
Dec. 10, 2001
Phantom voting returns

From the adoption last week of a congressional district map essentially unchanged from the gerrymandered map drawn a decade ago to the nullification of the Clean Elections referendum, the dominant theme of this Legislature has been incumbent protection.

A Telegram & Gazette editorial
Dec. 9, 2001
The money trail

I'm struggling to catch up here, so please bear with me. Barbara and I just returned after an emergency visit to see her mother in western Pennsylvania. We hung in here until the budget was finalized, but she needed to be there; her mother is taking her last breaths. Barbara couldn't fly (under doctor's orders since her lung surgery), and can't yet drive, so it was either I drive her out or she couldn't be at her mother's bedside as ...

Thanks to so many of you who wrote wondering where the Updates had gone! I got your messages while out there, and was stunned by how much they were missed. I logged on from out there every morning to catch up with the Boston Herald, Boston Globe, etc., and kept Barbara apprised of local news.

The first order of business upon our return is a big congratulations to Carla Howell and her "Small Government is Beautiful" state Libertarian Party! They turned in 75,516 certified signatures to the secretary of state last week -- enough to avoid any frivolous signature challenge and to qualify their initiative petition to repeal the state income tax. It still needs to go to the Legislature in the spring and -- if as expected, the "Great and General Court" again dodges its constitutional duty as usual and vote it up or down -- they will need to gather only about 9,500 more signatures to put it on next November's ballot.

CLT will soon poll its membership to determine whether or not we will support this apparent ballot question.

Next, let's look at the state Supreme Judicial Court -- or as I prefer to call it, the Supreme Judicial Kangaroo Court. From experience, I adopted that terminology many years ago after personally confronting it. This was before my old organization, Freedom First, merged with CLT in 1996 to officially form Citizens for Limited Taxation & Government.

CLT had its own stark experience when it tried to do by initiative petition "Rules Reform" of the Legislature back in the early-80s. After the signatures were turned in, the SJKC ruled literally that what the Legislature does internally is none of the peoples' business, and threw it out.

There's been so much going on that I don't know where to start to catch up, so I'm going to just dump it on you and let you consider. In the days ahead, I'll put it up on our website hopefully in a way we can use as at least a reference, which has always been my goal. Read as much as follows, quit when you've had enough.

As we sat in a hotel room in Pennsylvania, Barbara was doing an interview with a Boston Herald columnist. The topic was "legislative reform" and what to do about it, if anything. [The resulting column appears below] Hell, the Legislature even now ignores its own reforms, its own "rules." So long as "Imperious Maximus" Finneran controls his sheep, and the state itself, nothing will change. Either get used to it, or we act. CLT intends to recycle his sheep in the next year.

This is a cleansing benefit of traveling to a state with a clean political environment like Pennsylvania, one of states with no "budget crisis" and a legislature that goes home after conducting the peoples business. Massachusetts is far from normal, though I recognize that it's easy to think it is if you never get out of here.

And how about the AFL-CIO's utter petition drive failure? Remember how many times we've been told by them -- our dependable opponents -- and their ilk that getting signatures to put a question on the ballot is "too easy"? So unionists, what happened to your two proposals?

It was a "learning experience" they defend.

I'll bet it was, and one I hope they'll remember.

Chip Ford

The Boston Globe
Wednesday, December 12, 2001


Judges wary of challenging Beacon Hill
By Frank Phillips
Globe Staff

The state's Supreme Judicial Court offered only tepid opposition to a budget rider pushed through by the Legislature two weeks ago to strip judges of their power to hire probation officers -- an assault on judicial independence.

Hearing no vocal protest, Acting Governor Jane Swift obliged House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran and went along with the change, which gutted a major court reform without any debate.

The judges' acquiescence, if disappointing to some, was not surprising. The judiciary has long avoided offending the Legislature, perhaps gunshy after retaliation against judges who failed to cooperate with legislators' demands.

Researchers who have studied the relationship say in no other state does the Legislature have such a grip on what goes on in the courts. And now, that relationship is under close examination, as the state's highest court grapples with a case of enormous interest to lawmakers -- whether the Legislature's killing of the Clean Elections law can stand.

"It's clear the Legislature has decided to reclaim control of the courts," said Ken White, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts. "We have seen in the past the Legislature use means both petty and substantive to undermine the authority of the courts. Unfortunately we are headed to a return to the bad old days."

Judges cannot be blamed if they fear retribution from the Legislature, which maintains control over individual appropriations to each of the state's 61 courthouses -- an unusual system that allows legislators to reward and punish individual judges through the budget process.

In 1981, then Senate President William M. Bulger famously slashed Housing Court Chief Justice George Daher's budget and demoted him after he resisted Bulger's demand for a job for the son of roguish Governor's Councilor Patrick J. Sonny McDonough. Then in 1995, former SJC chief justice Paul Liacos, who had crossed Bulger and other legislative leaders, discovered that a budget rider knocked out his use of a hideaway office at the district court near his Peabody home. Last year, Senate Ways and Means chairman Mark Montigny inserted language that gave him a say on who is hired at the New Bedford District Court after getting in a dispute with the presiding justice.

"It is clearly a situation in which the judiciary will privately complain and is concerned, but they feel incapable of publicly expressing their feelings for fear of reprisals," said Charles Chieppo, a spokesman for the Pioneer Institute, a fiscally conservative public policy advocacy group.

The institute is preparing to release a study that strongly criticizes the Legislature's direct involvement in the management of the courts. It says lawmakers have increasingly used budgetary powers to encroach on the judiciary, which a 1978 court reform sought to protect from such interference.

In the most recent budget, Finneran succeeded in taking the authority to hire probation officers away from Chief Administrative Justice Barbara Dortch-Okara and giving it exclusively to commissioner of probation, John J. O'Brien, a Finneran friend and a close ally of other legislative leaders. Dortch-Okara had refused many lawmakers' demands to hire those they referred to her.

When the budget measure landed on Swift's desk two weeks ago, Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Margaret Marshall, who oversees the court system, sent no written communication to Swift nor did she seek a meeting with her. In an interview, Marshall said she conveyed the SJC's opposition "orally" to Swift's staff.

"I don't think there is any possibility the message was not communicated," Marshall said.

Her decision not to intensively lobby Swift has angered some in the legal community.

"By not putting it in writing, the message is loud and clear that it doesn't really matter," said retired Dorchester chief justice James Dolan, a strong critic of the Legislature's encroachment on the courts. "This was the time to make the final push to prevent this from happening. It called for a visit to the governor and a public statement."

But Marshall said the hectic few days that Swift had to analyze the $22.6 billion budget made it more difficult to directly communicate the court's opposition.

One SJC justice, John M. Greaney, did break ranks with his six colleagues and sent a letter to Swift expressing his opposition to the provision. His letter also raises questions about the SJC's commitment to fight patronage when he writes that his fellow justices "have chosen not to comment on the legislation regarding the probation service. I do not agree with them on that point."

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Coalition for Payraise Repeal (CPR)

For Immediate Release
Wednesday, June 5, 1996

For further information contact:
Chip Ford / Barbara Anderson

SJC Denies Release of Hostage Petitions

This afternoon the SJC ruled that the Secretary of State can kill the initiative petition process on a whim, putting the once-constitutional right of the people in serious jeopardy.

In one paragraph and without explanation, Justice Lynch ordered that the Coalition for Payraise Repeal's motion was denied. CPR had asked the court to force Secretary of State William F. Galvin to release our hostage petitions as he used to be required to do by the state constitution.

"We figured the fix was in as soon as Justice Lynch interrupted our attorney's opening statement to argue 'practicality' while ignoring constitutionality," said Chip Ford, chairman of CPR. "Consistency from the Beacon Hill Establishment has followed this effort from beginning to end; consistent denial of the law, the constitution and the people's rights under it."

"The court issued no explanation for its one-sentence ruling, because there is no credible explanation that could be made," said Barbara Anderson, CPR vice-chairman and executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. "We still had faith in the courts to stay above the political fray, but even the highest court in the state has joined in the assault on the initiative petition process."

Credit by the Legislature is due the Associated Industries of Massachusetts, which filed a brief in support of the Legislature's pay and pointedly noted: "...the Legislature is enjoined to ascertain and establish by standing laws honorable salaries' of the judges of the Supreme Judicial Court." That chilling reminder may have saved the Legislature from its constituents' outrage in November. We will be following AIM-filed legislation over the next few years to see how it fares.

- 30 -

There you have it folks. We have finally been stopped -- by the last potential vestige of legitimacy in state government, the state's Supreme Judicial Court. When the Justices can ignore a blatant violation of the constitution, allow a rogue Secretary of State to unilaterally decide which petitions will be printed and which won't, and look away -- something bigtime stinks.

And there isn't a damn thing more we can do about it here in what was once the "Cradle of Liberty." At least not immediately, for the pols are fully in control. Stay tuned, more will follow as soon as I catch my breath and ratchet up my already high cynicism-level. I just wanted to let you know the unbelievable travesty that has taken place as soon as possible.

CHIP FORD, Chairman

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The Boston Herald
Wednesday, December 12, 2001

'Animal House' still lags in implementing reforms
by Elisabeth J. Beardsley

House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran has failed for nearly a year to implement most of a series of major reform proposals aimed at cleaning up the "Animal House" atmosphere on Beacon Hill.

Released with fanfare on Dec. 29, 2000, the recommendations attempted to streamline the chaotic House budget process, which most agree is now even more secretive and inefficient than ever before.

"They have finally caught on to what I've always been afraid they would recognize -- they can get away with anything," said Citizens for Limited Taxation chief Barbara Anderson.

Some progress has been made -- the House hasn't held an all-nighter since the infamous session two years ago when members boozed it up and napped during budget debate, freely casting "phantom" votes for absent colleagues.

Bowing to a public uproar, Finneran (D-Mattapan) named a distinguished panel of reformers, who blasted the "lack of decorum on the House floor" and urged "special emphasis be placed on the rules regulating voting."

Despite that admonition, old habits resurfaced last week as some House members were caught casting phantom votes -- a move that drew harsh criticism from members of the reform commission.

"The very physical presence of that member in the chamber casting that vote exemplifies that he or she understands and accepts the duty and responsibility to stand in the place of the voters who elected him or her," said Rep. Frank Hynes (D-Marshfield), a commission member.

Finneran refused interview requests made on Friday, Monday and Tuesday. On Monday, he admonished a Herald reporter to demonstrate "good behavior" if she hoped to be granted an interview later this week.

The bulk of the reforms offered by the MacQueen Commission -- named for former House clerk Robert MacQueen -- have languished, been partially implemented, or fallen victim to House-Senate bickering.

Even before budget negotiations devolved into a five-month debacle, the reforms were falling by the wayside. The House last spring made a go at adhering to the commission's recommendation that budget amendments be taken up sequentially and according to subject matter.

But by the second day of the weeklong debate, amendments were being taken up in the very "random" pattern that the MacQueen Commission criticized as a source of unnecessary confusion.

"I absolutely think there's still some work to do," said Assistant House Minority Leader Brad Jones (R-Reading), a commission member. "Time and distance create a certain cloudiness of memory."

Legislative leaders have, at least, embarked on the commission's advice to crack down on the proliferation of "outside sections" -- policy items that are attached to the budget despite having nothing to do with state finances.

In a companion recommendation, the commission suggested lengthening the narrow window committees now have to report on bills.

But the leadership, while agreeing to crack down on outside sections, ignored the bill-reporting deadline reform.

The result is that rank-and-file lawmakers this year had even fewer chances to push their priorities. "We continue to have sluggish movement of bills to the floor," said Rep. Anne Paulsen (D-Belmont).

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State House News Service
Weekly Roundup -- Week of Dec. 3, 2001

By Craig Sandler

Ballot questions on taxes,
bilingual education get signatures

Groups trying to ban gay marriage, wipe out bilingual education and ban the slaughter of horses for commercial products all collected and filed enough signatures to move their questions forward; an initiative to wipe out the income tax also

But the powerful Massachusetts chapter of the AFL-CIO, to the surprise of many, failed to collect enough signatures to advance a question raising and indexing the minimum wage on the ballot. The union's 2002 ballot plans, announced earlier this year with fanfare, have imploded - the AFL-CIO recently announced it was ending a quest to have voters approve mandatory family leave benefits.

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The Boston Herald
Sunday, December 9, 2001
The Buzz

All bark, no bite

Lost in the shuffle this week was the truly pathetic display of muscle by the state's AFL-CIO.

Just after finally dropping its weak paid family leave ballot proposal, the state's largest union announced the automatic annual minimum wage hike was DOA.

The union said it collected more than the 57,100 signatures needed to get the wage hike on the ballot but that too many were knocked off to get the question certified.

Union Treasurer Kathy Casavant called it "a learning experience" and doesn't diminish the union's desire to raise the minimum wage.

But it sure had the State House talking about the diminished power of the AFL.

"This," one Republican groused, "is the mighty unions? Even the Libertarians can get the signatures."

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The Boston Globe
Sunday, December 9, 2001
Political Capital

Ballot initiative campaign proves
a painful lesson for labor union

For a labor union that touts its organizing power, it was nothing short of embarrassing. The Massachusetts AFL-CIO last week failed to gather enough signatures to put a proposal to tie the minimum wage to inflation on next year's ballot. The union had already abandoned its plans to place a paid family leave proposal before the voters. Meanwhile, an obscure effort to ban the killing of horses for human consumption appears likely to make it to the voters next fall. AFL-CIO organizers said they cobbled together enough signatures for the minimum wage initiative, but fewer than the requisite 57,100 proved certifiable. "This was our first experience with ballot initiatives, and it was a real learning experience for us," said Kathleen A. Casavant, treasurer of the state AFL-CIO.

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State House News Service
Advances -- (Week of Dec. 10, 2001)

WHAT'S NEXT ON THE LEGAL FRONT? Legal wrangling over the Clean Elections Law is just one of several thorny issues being mulled this week by the state's Supreme Judicial Court. It's unclear when a decision will come on the public campaign financing case. The decision will be the latest chapter in the long debate over funding for a law designed to bring newcomers into legislative and statewide races. The plaintiffs say the court is their last resort, but are fearful that even a favorable decision may not force the Legislature to appropriate funds the law requires....

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The Boston Herald
Monday, December 10, 2001

A Boston Herald editorial 
Phantom voting returns

This year's House debate on the governor's line-item vetoes was again marked by flagrant dishonesty in voting. Since the members have shown they will not live by their own rules, it's time for technological means of enforcement.

Even after Speaker Thomas Finneran warned members not to do it, Herald reporters spotted members of both parties voting for others Wednesday evening.

Some defended this cheating as "customary." Rep. J.P. Loscocco (R-Holliston) said if colleagues in the chamber waved to him to push the voting button on their desks, he viewed compliance as simply being "an extension of their arm."

The rules permit only one exception: A court officer may cast a member's vote if the member is in the building but disabled, and the proxy is announced in advance.

After an outbreak of phantom voting in last year's "Animal House" session, a special committee was asked by the speaker (who at first defended the practice) to look into rules changes. It reported "no consensus" and nothing was done.

Rep. Francis Marini of Hanson, the Republican leader (who has admitted some phantom voting himself), has proposed use of electronic voting cards unique to each member, the system used in the U.S. Congress. These have the advantage that a member may vote from any desk in the chamber (and would have no need to wave at Loscocco).

The House is reluctant to admit it, but few things short of bribery do more to destroy public confidence in the integrity of the Legislature than this sham voting. A system like Marini's should top the agenda for next year's session. It may take a system that recognizes a member's fingerprint before recording a vote, but the public deserves assurance that at least this basic democratic function will be performed honestly.

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The Telegram & Gazette
Sunday, December 9, 2001

The money trail

The millennium year on Beacon Hill is sputtering fitfully to an end, leaving a record that is apt to intensify residents' feelings of alienation from state government.

From the adoption last week of a congressional district map essentially unchanged from the gerrymandered map drawn a decade ago to the nullification of the Clean Elections referendum, the dominant theme of this Legislature has been incumbent protection.

A new report on legislative campaign financing offers insight into why the leadership has grown so disdainful of the will of the people. The report by the Massachusetts Money and Politics Project focused on 10 members who hold top leadership positions or key committee chairmanships.

Analysis of campaign data from 1997-2000 revealed 90 percent of the leaders' donors were from five groups: lobbyists, political action committees, lawyers, government employees and industries such as health care and construction that are heavily affected by state lawmaking.

As telling as the source of the donations was their timing. The 10 leaders raised as much or more money in off-election years as in election years -- and 75 percent came in the first half of the year, the peak time for committee hearings and budget debate.

Moreover, none of the leaders had more than token opposition. That means they could use the bulk of expenditures to further solidify their political positions via more fund raising, gifts and gratuities to constituents and other lawmakers, meals and hospitality. Their average war chest was $95,417, enough to scare off most prospective challengers.

Not surprisingly, top lawmakers and special interests are very comfortable with this cozy symbiosis. But the leaders' overwhelming advantages of incumbency come with a price: the interests and confidence of the people they are supposed to serve.

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