Salem: For Want of a Nail

For want of a horseshoe nail... all was lost

THE best hopes of pushing back against the Trump agenda is to pass solid, good policy at the State Level. 

On the Administration's xenophobic anti-immigration policies, our hopes are in the courts -- where we are winning-- and in the states, with good 'Safe' and 'Trust' communities legislation as has been so recently passed by Illinois (!!) and California. 

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Teen Workers Need the Full Minimum Wage

I grabbed a great seat for Tuesday's State House hearing on the minimum wage. I wanted a seat with a good view of the folks testifying. Rachael Collins and her colleagues from the Restaurant Opportunities Center United slid into seats next to me. By noon, Gardner Auditorium was filled to capacity . 

The SEIU 1199 organizer sitting to my left shared good information with me. His personal story itself was a testimony to the value of a strong bedrock minimum wage. His parents were teens when he was born, which judging by his salt and pepper hair might have been in the late seventies. In his childhood, they supported themselves through minimum wage work.

He also told me about a conversation he had with a hardware store owner. The owner said that at a $15/hr minimum wage, he would hire only adults, no teens. Presumably, in his view, teens are not mature enough take the responsibility of work. If that's the sentiment of most employers, it could be bad news for teens. On the other hand, employers should take to heart their responsibility to hold a teen employee accountable as they would an older one.

I remember a good friend telling me that her teenage son, who wouldn't pick up a wet towel in the bathroom let alone keep his room neat or remember to take out the trash, was a completely different person at his job at a CVS store. He was consistently on time and on task at the store. She gave the store manager and the paycheck credit for the new man she saw in her son.

Teens, especially in lower income levels, have financial obligations to themselves and their families that they might not have had years ago. They need and deserve the full minimum wage to start off their work career.

Regrettably, I had to leave the hearing early. The panels of speakers in support of the badly needed wage increase were extraordinary. It's clear to me and to just about all the people in the auditorium that the time to raise the wage to $15/hr for workers has come---regardless of their age.

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Time for Bold Criminal Justice Reform

When I talk to allies on Beacon Hill, they say that criminal justice reform is going to be one of the top issues the Legislature takes up this fall. But whether it will be real reform, or just tinkering around the edges, remains to be seen. Massachusetts needs to turn the tide on a failed “tough on crime” paradigm that has wreaked havoc on communities and fueled mass incarceration without making us any safer.

And that’s where you come in.

Representative Claire Cronin, co-chair of the Judiciary Committee, is planning to meet with every state rep about the bills in her committee. She needs to hear from her constituents and her fellow representatives that Massachusetts wants real reform.

Call your state representative today and ask them to tell Chairwoman Cronin that Massachusetts wants bold criminal justice reform this fall.

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Why are Democrats Pushing Voter Fraud Myths in Massachusetts?

Yesterday was the 52nd anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. And it was an important reminder that we still have work to do.

Two weeks ago, in a major win for democracy, the Suffolk Superior Court ruled that Massachusetts’s 20-day voter registration deadline is unconstitutional, noting that it arbitrarily and unnecessarily excludes thousands from the democratic process.

Unfortunately, not everyone is cheering the decision. Secretary of State Bill Galvin is planning to appeal the ruling, suggesting that it would create “chaos” for town and city clerks if people could register closer to an election, despite the fact that we are in the 21st century. 

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It's Not Just Trump: ICE, Deportation, Xenophobia in MA

Click thru for a review of the historic SJC Lunn decision, Gov. Baker's proposal to overturn it, Safe Communities Act and the foot dragging of Massachusetts Democrats. 

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Time to Reinvest in Public Higher Education

The following is testimony submitted to the Joint Committee on Higher Education for its hearing on July 13, 2017.

Chairman Moore, Chairman Scibak, and members of the Joint Committee on Higher Education, I, Jonathan Cohn, Co-Chair of the Issues Committee of Progressive Massachusetts, am pleased to offer this testimony on behalf of Progressive Massachusetts. Progressive Massachusetts is a multi-issue, grassroots, member-based advocacy organization committed to an agenda of shared prosperity, racial and social justice, good governance and strong democracy, and sustainable infrastructure and environmental protection.  

Progressive Massachusetts would like to go on the record IN SUPPORT of bills H.633 and S.681.

Public higher education in the United States and especially in Massachusetts has played a critical role in expanding opportunity. A commitment to public higher education rests on an understanding that such institutions are anchors for the community, drivers of prosperity, producers of socially beneficial knowledge, and cultivators of forward-thinking individuals with skills and abilities that help them to succeed and us all to benefit. It’s quite simple: when public education in our Commonwealth is strong, we are all strong.

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The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same....Unless

Taking Beacon Hill by surprise, House Ways and Means Chairman Brian Dempsey (D-Haverhill) announced his resignation from the House of Representatives last Wednesday, to take a position at the corporate lobbying firm ML Strategies in September.

Dempsey, a conservative Democrat who has overseen the drafting of several austerity budgets, was widely viewed as next in line for Speaker of the House. He also played a leading role last session in weakening the solar incentive bill and the omnibus energy bill, and sided with the big business group AIM on the Equal Pay bill, Noncompetes, and the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.

One of ML Strategies’ clients is Wynn Casinos--perhaps a reason for a last minute addition to the FY18 budget allowing casinos to serve drinks until 4 a.m. Needless to say, Progressives in Massachusetts will not be missing him.

A New Way on Ways & Means?

Ways & Means is by far the most powerful committee. Any legislation that involves public money must go through both the W&M in both the House and Senate. In that space, W&M can—and sometimes does—change legislation, with zero transparency or democracy. Any policies that require funding can be rendered ineffective by W&M’s level of funding for it, too.

These Ways and Means Committees are not required under the Legislature's rules to report out any bill that is referred there. Therefore the Committees are frequently graveyards.

And, yeah, Ways and Means Committees write the budget. As they say, whoever holds the purse strings holds the power.

Over the weekend, Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez (D-Mission Hill) was named the next chair of the committee. Sanchez represents one of the most progressive districts in the state. What does this mean for the committee? 

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Stop Trump's Ally in the Corner Office from Slashing Mass. Health Care

While Republicans in DC have been attempting to repeal the Affordable Care Act, many progressives have been wondering what work can be done here in Massachusetts. We have stalwart progressive senators like Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, and a fully Democratic House delegation. And many of you have stepped up to the plate, calling people in other states to urge them to take action.

For now, activists have stalled the ACA repeal bill. But here in Massachusetts, our Republican governor Charlie Baker is pushing the Republicans’ anti-health care agenda.

Late last month, Baker submitted a list of health care proposals he wanted to see rolled into the budget without any public hearing or debate. That budget is being unveiled later this morning and voted on only hours later. Legislators need to hear from us NOW so they know what to look out for.

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Beacon Hill Rewrites Question 4 -- For Better or For Worse?

Over the past week, a group of largely affluent, old white men gathered behind closed doors to craft a bill that they plan to ram through with as little debate as possible.

No, I'm not talking about Senate Republicans in DC. I'm talking about Democrats here in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

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Carbon Pricing: Keeping MA a Leader on Climate Action

The following was testimony submitted to the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy on behalf of Progressive Massachusetts on June 20, 2017.

Chairman Barrett, Chairman Golden, and members of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy, I, Jonathan Cohn, Co-Chair of the Issues Committee of Progressive Massachusetts, am pleased to offer this testimony on behalf of Progressive Massachusetts. Progressive Massachusetts is a multi-issue, grassroots, member-based advocacy organization committed to an agenda of shared prosperity, racial and social justice, good governance and strong democracy, and sustainable infrastructure and environmental protection.  

Progressive Massachusetts would like to go on the record IN SUPPORT of bills H.1726 and S.1821.

As a coastal state, Massachusetts is especially vulnerable to climate change. To put it bluntly, we cannot achieve shared prosperity under water.

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