Tax the Rich. Fund Community Needs.

Board member Mohammed Missouri was featured in the Boston Globe's "The Argument" section, making the YES case for the question "Should Massachusetts tax unearned income at a higher rate than earned income?" Read it on the Globe website or below.

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Charlie Baker Shows His True Colors by Vetoing Climate Legislation, Tenant Protections

Over the past month, Governor Charlie Baker, who often gets an undeserved reputation as a moderate, has shown his conservative side on issue after issue.

Last month, he vetoed legislation to expand equitable access to abortion care (thankfully, the Legislature had the votes to override him). And he got the Legislature to weaken a facial surveillance ban and use of force standards in their police accountability bill with a veto threat.

Baker continued this pattern last week.

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Tell Baker to Sign These Bills

Last week was quite the week--to put it mildly.

Lost amidst the euphoria around exciting election wins in Georgia and the terrifying display of white supremacist violence in the attempted coup in the US Capitol was the news of the end of the legislative session here in Massachusetts -- and the start of the new one.

Back in July, the Legislature voted to extend the legislative session. That didn't mean votes that were more spread out over time--just another end-of-session crunch, but later.

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A Chaotic Final Day of the Session, with Some Notable Victories

The formal legislative session in Massachusetts typically ends on July 31 every even-numbered year. Beyond that, the Legislature remains in "informal" session, with only a handful of legislators actually present and only non-controversial policies advanced (if anything at all).

Back in July, with no budget in the near future, the Legislature voted to extend the formal session, enabling it to go as long as it possibly could -- until 11:59 pm on Tuesday, January 5.

That didn't stop them, however, from pushing off so much of their work until the very last minutes (and extending the final day of the session into 4:30 the next morning). Like college students pushing off all assignments until the hours before they're due.

Despite the embarrassment of a process --- with legislators lacking time to read what they were about to vote on -- there were still some important victories.

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The Next Generation Roadmap Bill Is An Important Next Step

Last night -- with barely any time left in the session -- the MA House and Senate released the conference committee report (i.e., consensus version) of the climate bills both chambers passed last year.

The bill (S.2995: An Act creating a next-generation roadmap for Massachusetts climate policy) was praised by environmental advocates as a significant step forward, although more work is still needed in accelerating the state's transition to 100% renewable energy and tackling the emissions from the transportation sector. (For one, recent cuts to the MBTA take us in the exact opposite direction we need to if we are going to decarbonize our transportation sector.)

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Two PM Letters to the Editor in the Globe

Two PM board members recently had letters to the editor published in the Boston Globe.

 

Jonathan Cohn, "Mass. should move on Safe Communities Act before session ends," 12/28/20:

The Globe editorial board is spot-on with its call for ending Bristol County’s 287(g) contract with the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in light of Sheriff Thomas Hodgson’s latest abuses of power (“Time’s up, Sheriff Hodgson,” Dec. 21). Massachusetts is the only state in New England where such contracts exist. Fortunately, we don’t have to wait until the new presidential administration to end them.

A bill called the Safe Communities Act, filed in the Legislature by Representatives Ruth Balser and Liz Miranda and Senator Jamie Eldridge, would end such contracts with ICE and take additional steps to make sure that the rights of our immigrant communities are respected. It was reported out of committee in July, and it deserves a vote before the session runs out.

If we don’t take action soon, Massachusetts will have gone the four years of the Trump administration without passing any new legislation to strengthen the rights of immigrants in our Commonwealth, a sorry reflection of the politics in our so-called deep blue state.

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In the News: PM on the Speaker Change

Issues Committee Chair Jonathan Cohn recently penned an op-ed in CommonWealth about the ascension of Majority Leader Ron Mariano as Speaker of the House. Entitled "Don't Expect Change for the Better under Mariano, it begins:

All signs point to House Majority Leader Ron Mariano being elected the next speaker of the Massachusetts House.

What does a Mariano speakership mean for a progressive policy agenda in Massachusetts? As Reps. Denise Provost and Jonathan Hecht remind us, he shares the same top-down leadership style as Speaker Bob DeLeo, with an even more conservative ideology.

If we want to get a sense of what a Mariano speakership will be like, it’s useful to look at the process and output of the working groups and task forces he has led. And that doesn’t inspire confidence.

You can read the full piece here.

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Victory! House and Senate Override Baker on ROE Act Language

Last week -- on Christmas Eve to be exact -- Governor Charlie Baker vetoed a bill from the Legislature to expand equitable access to abortion in Massachusetts.

Fortunately, the House and Senate had veto-proof majorities in support of the bill to override Baker this week. 

The bill, which contains many of the provisions of the ROE Act, was a milestone in advancing reproductive freedom in the commonwealth. Patients seeking an abortion later in pregnancy will no longer be forced to leave the state, far from their families and support systems, in order to access care, and 16 and 17 year olds will no longer be forced to obtain a parent’s permission or endure a shame-inducing court process to receive abortion care. It's simple: abortion is health care, and health care is a human right (two things our governor doesn't understand). 

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Let's Talk about the House

With the retirement of Speaker Bob DeLeo imminent, news reports have asserted that House Majority Leader Ron Mariano (D-Quincy) already has the votes lined up to be Speaker--something that has been an open secret for years.

If you've been worried about the conservative and authoritarian drift of the MA House under Speaker Bob DeLeo, you should be even more worried about what's to come under a Speaker Ron Mariano, who is more conservative than DeLeo and no less top-down in his approach to legislating.

Legislators who have not yet pledged their support should be asking hard questions about whether Ron Mariano plans to ensure a vote on the Fair Share Amendment next year (given his past opposition to it), whether he plans to diversify the all-white and almost-all-male House Leadership team, and whether he will ensure that important climate and housing legislation gets passed before this year's session runs out.

With the economic depression we're facing as a Commonwealth, progressive legislators need to work together to make concrete demands on Leadership for both bold policy and open process, or we'll just end up seeing more of the same.

 

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Seeking Baker's Approval, The Legislature Narrows Police Reform Bill

This weekend saw renewed attention to the lawlessness far too common among law enforcement, with the release of video footage of cops bragging about brutalizing protesters earlier this summer and a Globe story about how police officers are able to commit crimes off duty with impunity.

Unfortunately, while the news was underscoring why we need to be going further in imposing public accountability of policing and shifting our definition of (and resources for) public safety away from policing, the MA Legislature was narrowing the ambition of its police reform bill.

Rather than signing the MA House and Senate's consensus police reform bill, Republican Governor Charlie Baker showed his true colors again by threatening to veto it unless the Legislature watered it down.

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