Last week, Massachusetts had the honor of placing #1 in the U.S. News & World Report state rankings. The 50-state analysis included more than 60 metrics, and on many of them, Massachusetts shines. We ranked #1 in education, #2 in health care, and #5 in economy. When it comes to education, Massachusetts is the birthplace of US public schools, and when it comes to health care, our 2006 health care reform law created a model for the nation.
But don't crack open the champagne yet. Although, overall, we outperformed other states, Massachusetts fared abysmally on a number of key metrics.
A Congress that is set on gutting environmental protections. An administration filled with climate change denialists and close friends of the fossil fuel industry. It looks like the environment will have a tough time over the next few years if we don’t step up big league at the local level to protect it.
A new legislative session in the Legislature typically kicks off with a string of votes setting the rules for the following two years.
But this year, before taking up the rules (or even finalizing offices and committee assignments), the House and Senate voted to raise the salaries and stipends for ranking legislative officers (such as Senate President Stan Rosenberg and House Speaker Robert DeLeo, among others), state constitutional officers (Governor Charlie Baker, AG Maura Healey, etc.), and judges.
And then the Thursday before last, both chambers easily overrode Governor Baker's veto, with dissent coming from Republicans, a handful of conservative Democrats, and a trio of progressive Democrats (Jon Hecht of Watertown, Denise Provost of Somerville, and Mike Connolly of Cambridge).
Let's be clear: paying public servants well is important to good governance.
If such offices are not well-compensated, then only those who are already well-off will be interested in running or serving.
And sufficient compensation can also reduce the need for legislators to have jobs on the side, a Pandora’s box of ethics conflicts.
Nonetheless, given the details and the context of the pay raise, it should be no surprise that it has rubbed many progressive voters the wrong way.
Unstoppable! That’s what we are.
230 of us crammed into the library community room on Monday night, representing critical movements up and down the Valley. The energy was amazing, and we accomplished three big things:
1- In 17 breakouts, we dove deep into climate justice; LGBTQ rights, race and anti-hate; economic justice and the foreclosure crisis; immigration, and voting rights and democratic engagement.
2- We clarified how Progressive Massachusetts’s concrete legislative and electoral resources can augment the region’s heroic grassroots movements.
3- We triumphantly announced the first Progressive Mass chapter in western Mass: Progressive Pioneer Valley!
Scorecards from 189th Legislative Session, House and Senate are finalized. Compare legislators’ last session records with your values and the district’s. See where there’s room for improvement or need for a thank you!
Engaged democracy doesn’t end at the doorknock!
To win on our big issues--such as single-payer health care, a living wage, a stable climate, a robust public infrastructure, a healthy democracy, among many others--we know we must elect politicians who align with our values.
To get progressive champions elected, we’ve learned the mechanics of grassroots campaigning -- to knock on doors, host house parties, make phone calls, enter data from sign in sheets, cut lists, recruit volunteers, GOTV.
It feels like victory when our progressive candidates win -- but our work must not end there.
We also have to hold them accountable to the principles and goals we share.
And if they aren’t fighting for our progressive goals, we need to organize and mobilize again. As presidents like FDR and Obama have said, we need to make our elected officials do the things that are difficult.
Words and Actions
Legislators’ votes are an obvious means to assess how hard they are working for our big, urgent long-term goals. But “How did my State Legislator vote on these issues I care about?” is, in Massachusetts, not easy to find out. If we don’t know, how can we hold them accountable?
The new Trump administration is rolling back progressive achievements and pushing a reactionary, racist agenda at a breakneck pace. The moral urgency of our goals has never been more acute.
Progressive Massachusetts proudly announces our 2017-2018 Legislative Agenda for the 190th session of the Mass General Court.
The Moral Urgency of Now: Massachusetts Must Lead.
We are watching the federal government under President Donald Trump, with little braking from the Republican Congress, move us rapidly in a fascist direction that deeply contradicts Massachusetts values and liberties. Resistance is imperative.
What are the ways we can resist? Where can we effect the most dramatic changes, shape a progressive alternative and protect the most people vulnerable under this regime?
Our efforts on the national scene are important--but our impact, as liberals served by Democrats in a majority Republican Congress, is unfortunately, realistically, quite limited.
But, we can make Massachusetts a blue, progressive fortress against Trumpism. There is no excuse for not passing a vigorous progressive agenda in one of the bluest states in the country.
Progressive Worcester endorses tonight's rally in support of the immigrant and refugee community.
Please show up in solidarity and reject the toxic policies of Trumpism from creeping into Worcester. After the Rally, see it through, stay for the City Council meeting. City Council must hear from you.
We can take action as a state. But the Legislature must act.
The Legislature can pass the Safe Communities act, to establish 'sanctuary' in Massachusetts, and protect vulnerable communities under Trump's coming policies. Right now, Legislators are choosing which bills they will choose to highlight with their co-sponsorship.
During his State of the State speech last Tuesday, Governor Charlie Baker congratulated himself on his commitment to addressing the opioid epidemic. He also congratulated himself on curtailing public spending in order to reduce the deficit without raising taxes. These priorities, however, are in fundamental conflict.
In December, in an act largely buried by the news around the presidential transition, Governor Baker unilaterally cut $98 million from the state budget, taking the axe to a wide range of programs. Among the agencies hit was the state Bureau of Substance Abuse Assistance (BSAA), which faced cuts of nearly $2 million. This money is neither an abstraction nor a rounding error: this is money that would be used to hire treatment and prevention coordinators, as well as to fund various treatment and community programs that directly combat addiction in local communities.
Do you know what North Korea and the United States have in common? They have similar per capita rates of incarceration, among the highest in the world. But lately some states have used an approach called justice reinvestment to dramatically cut the number of people in prison while continuing to lower crime rates, saving money in the process. In Massachusetts, a few bills are up for a vote this legislative session that take this approach to justice reform.