If you're like us, your inbox has been swamped over the past few months with rallies and action alerts about how to fight the reactionary Trump-McConnell-Ryan agenda coming out of Washington.
Massachusetts is in position to be a leader in the resistance against Trump's agenda--and a beacon of progressive policy for the rest of the country.
Although our Republican governor, Charlie Baker, is not going to stand up to Trump as much as he should, Attorney General Maura Healey has been at the forefront of fighting for civil rights and environmental protection, among other issues, in the Age of Trump.
And Massachusetts has the third largest Democratic supermajorities in the country, with 34 out of 40 senators and 126 out of 160 representatives. In theory, then, whether or not Baker is willing to fight Trump, the Legislature has the votes to do so.
Trump has created a sense of urgency among progressive voters. Based on statements on policy and priorities, we have yet to see that same urgency from the State House.
In late March, Speaker Bob DeLeo appointed nine House Democrats to a working group to guide responses to "unprecedented actions" of the Trump administration. The group consists of House Majority Leader Ron Mariano (D-Quincy); Speaker Pro Tem Patricia Haddad (D-Somerset); Assistant Majority Leader Byron Rushing (D-South End); House Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets Chair Antonio Cabral (D-New Bedford); House Steering, Policy and Scheduling Chair James Murphy (D-Weymouth); Public Health Chair Kate Hogan (D-Stow); Health Care Financing Chair Jeffrey Sanchez (D-Jamaica Plain); Rules vice chair Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge), and Export Development vice chair James Arciero (D-Westford).
The working group is tasked with coming up with legislative solutions that are both "necessary and feasible." The devil, of course, will be in the details--whose definitions of "necessary" and "feasible"? Will this group aggressively push a progressive agenda, or will they settle for the lethargic status quo?
We plan to follow the working group to the best of our abilities as it moves forward. But what do we know so far?
According to State House News Service, the group will focus on "economic stability, health care, higher education, and the state's most vulnerable residents."
Strong, progressive policies on all of these issues have been proposed this session. (We center our Legislative Agenda on many of them!)
Where do the working group members stand on them?
Trump, along with Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, wants to make an economy that works just for the top 1%. How do we promote shared prosperity by contrast? We could do so by passing a $15 minimum wage and paid family and medical leave, for starters.
Four out of the nine--Cabral, Decker, Hogan, and Rushing--have co-sponsored the Fight for $15 bill. Six--Cabral, Decker, Haddad, Hogan, Murphy, Rushing--have signed on to paid family and medical leave.
Trump wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, denying health care to millions. The task facing progressives is to improve and expand upon the Affordable Care Act with a single payer/Medicare for All system that truly enshrines health care as a human right.
So far, only two out of the nine--Decker and Rushing--have signed on to such legislation.
Trump and the Republican Congress also have their sights set on taking away women’s rights over their own bodies. Congress has already passed legislation enabling states to defund Planned Parenthood. Progressives shouldn’t stand for that. One of the members of the working group, Rep. Haddad, is a leader sponsor of the ACCESS bill, which would require insurance carriers to provide all contraceptive methods without a copay. Decker, Hogan, Rushing, and Sanchez have joined her in support of this bill.
Massachusetts has been under-investing in higher education for years, leading to higher tuition costs and spiraling student debt. Trump could make matters worse by reducing funding for higher education institutions and federal student aid, as well as by encouraging the expansion of predatory for-profit institutions.
Only one of the nine--Rep. Decker--has come out in support of making public colleges and universities tuition-free for Massachusetts residents. Rep. Arciero joins her in a strong, but less ambitious, goal of debt-free higher education.
Protecting the State’s Most Vulnerable:
Massachusetts has the opportunity to stand up to the federal deportation machine by passing the Safe Communities Act, which would prohibit the use of state resources for deportation raids and limit local and state police collaboration with federal immigration agents. The TRUST Act, its predecessor, stalled in committee year after year. But the necessity of the bill grows stronger each day.
Four out of the nine working group members are supporters of the Safe Communities Act--Cabral, Decker, Rushing, and Sanchez.
We can look back to last session for insights into the working group. Four out of the nine members of the committee matched the Speaker vote-by-vote on our scorecard of the last session (Arciero, Cabral, Haddad, Hogan). Two of them were more conservative than the Speaker (Mariano, Murphy), and three were more progressive (Decker, Rushing, Sanchez).
The House doesn’t take many roll call votes, but some can be illustrative. Last July, for example, the House voted to make state-issued IDs compliant with the federal REAL ID law per request of Governor Baker (H.4488). Real ID’s strict documentation requirements make getting a state-issued ID more difficult for the young, the elderly, trans individuals, people of color, the poor, and many legal immigrants. H.4488 also forestalled efforts to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, something which--unlike REAL ID--would increase public safety.
Decker, Rushing, and Sanchez sided with Massachusetts’s vulnerable populations. The other six sided with the Governor.
Massachusetts Democrats often talk a good game about opposing Trump.
But will they put their priorities and votes where their mouths are this session?