MA Senate passes budget

A report from our friends at MassFiscal Alliance –

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Friend —

The Senate approved a budget last night, and the whole shebang heads to conference committee to iron out differences with the House version. I thought you might appreciate an update on this sunny Friday.

First, on the earmark front: Splash pool funding is headed to Lowell but not Springfield, and a check for new lawn furniture for Magazine beach and the Stoneham organ restoration I mentioned in earlier emails is in the mail. Senator Joyce got his $1,000,000 for urban forestry despite the lingering cloud over the nature of his senate work.

An amendment to the budget for funding a matching grant for bullet-proof vests for police officers had members tripping over themselves. Offered by a bi-partisan quartet (Tarr, Fattman, O’Connor, and Lovely), the bill had a special resonance, as also last night was the wake for Officer Ronald Tarentino, shot in the line of duty. The bill first failed by a sliver (17-20), but as senators realized the optics of funding splash pads and lawn furniture while passing up a 2-1 match for funding to protect our law enforcement community, the measure was re-worded and passed with just a single member (Wolf, bless his philosophical consistency) calling, “Nay.”

Senator Jamie Eldridge passed a shopping bag ban (all shopping bags offend him, apparently, not just the plastic ones we usually hear about), but his bid to add $110,000 to the Climate Change Adaptation and Preparedness line item failed. We are also glad to see Senator Eldridge came to his senses and withdrew his irresponsible amendment to over regulate campaign finance law, another well intentioned solution in search of a problem.

Richard Ross offered up a requirement that make salary and bonuses for the retirement fund’s CEO contingent upon unanimous consent of the fund’s board and performance. Only two Democrats (Timilty and Moore) crossed the line to vote in favor of stronger oversight for one of the highest-paid state employees. Let’s pair its failure with that of a Ryan Fattman amendment aimed at righting the wrongs of sick-leave buybacks and mourn their demise together. Both of these ideas would vastly improve fiscal accountability.

New Senator Patrick O’Connor, offered a good government and taxpayer protection amendment. His effort would have required a series of mandatory public hearings if a tax hike is on the table. Only a few years ago, the legislature passed a new tax as a short lived computer software sales tax, before they had to repeal their failed idea once word got out. O’Connor was right to offer it and the senate was wrong to reject it.

Republican Leader Bruce Tarr scored a win on an amendment requiring the state auditor to perform an annual audit of state credit cards, and another allowing the attorney general to investigate fraud in worker’s comp cases. His move to eliminate the State Climatologist was rejected in a bundle.

Since the State Climatologist position has been vacant for several years anyway, I’d say based on this sunny weather, we are doing just fine without one. I’m pretty sure the position doesn’t actually affect the weather (or much of anything), though.

Early next week, we will update our scorecard to include many of these votes and important roll call votes. Once updated, you’ll get an update.

–Paul

Paul D. Craney
Executive Director
Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance

 

Meet the Dirty Dozen

Dirty_Dozen

ACTION ALERT: The Dirty Dozen are led by Committee Chairs Jay Kaufman and Michael Rodrigues. The other ten members are Denise Provost, James Arciero, James Timilty, Thomas Stanley, Timothy Toomey, Benjamin Downing, Eric Lesser, Alan Silvia, Daniel Wolf and James Dwyer. On January 28th, these twelve lawmakers voted in the Joint Committee on Revenue for an 80 percent tax hike, and the entire Legislature is scheduled to vote on the measure on Wednesday at the Constitutional Convention.

The stakes are high. We need your help with advocating against the new tax. Let us give you some background.

Opposition to the proposed tax scheme grows daily. Some oppose it because it is poorly written. The measure writes into the state constitution specific language on income thresholds and earmarked revenue. Others oppose the new tax because it raises the rate for top earners to 9.1 percent. The effect of the increase will likely be disastrous. High-wage industries won’t see our state as a friendly place to build, and the best and brightest will be driven away.

Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance opposes the graduated income tax proposal. The current flat tax on income builds in protection from economic downturns and ensures fairness.

The Dirty Dozen call it a millionaire’s tax. We call it what it is: an 80 percent tax hike on the state’s economic leaders. The Dirty Dozen love to quietly pervert the tax code, and we won’t let that happen. Working in secret is their top strategy for kow-towing to special interests at the expense of a healthy Massachusetts economy, so Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance will scream their intentions from the rooftops.

As part of a grassroots strategy against the graduated income tax, constituents of State Representative Jay Kaufman and Senator Michael Rodrigues, leaders of the pro-tax hike effort, received educational mailers from us explaining how these two are working to pass the enormous tax increase. To view a copy of our mailer, visit our homepage at: www.MassFiscal.org.

To take part in the grassroots campaign against the 80 percent tax hike, contact your lawmakers and urge them to oppose the graduated income tax.

Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance · 18 Tremont St, Suite 707, Boston, MA 02108, United States
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Special Elections

Mailers target Hay as Democratic Party chair appeals for help

By Matt Murphy, State House News Service

Updated:   02/25/2016 01:58:28 PM EST
A mailer targeting state rep candidate Stephan Hay is being called misleading by state Democrats.

A mailer targeting state rep candidate Stephan Hay is being called misleading by state Democrats.

BOSTON — Massachusetts Democratic Party Chairman Thomas McGee has reached out to his legislative colleagues seeking manpower to help blunt an “all-out blitz” planned by a right-leaning independent group backing two Republicans running for House seats in special elections to be decided next Tuesday.

The Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, a conservative non-profit that has spent heavily in election cycles to target Democratic candidates for state office, started blanketing the Fitchburg-Lunenburg area targeting Democrat Stephan Hay, a Fitchburg city councilor, over transparency, internet sales taxes and illegal immigration.

A letter sent to supporters on Tuesday from Jordanne Anderson, of the MassFiscal Alliance, said she needed to raise $23,000 in seven days to “execute MassFiscal’s mission” ahead of the March 1 special elections in Fitchburg and Peabody.

“The plan is an all-out blitz,” Anderson wrote.

MassFiscal officials could not immediately be reached for comment on how much they planned to spend on the two races.

With Gov. Charlie Baker planning to campaign over the weekend in both Fitchburg and Peabody on behalf of Dean Tran in Fitchburg and Stephanie Peach in Peabody, McGee emailed legislators Thursday asking them and their staffs to help staff a phonebank at Democratic headquarters in Boston.

“We can’t match the Republicans and their allies with outside spending, but, with your help, we can beat them with grassroots support,” McGee said in the message, obtained by the News Service.

McGee, a Democratic senator from Lynn, attached a copy of a MassFiscal mailer being distributed in Fitchburg and Lunenburg “repeating the same ridiculous accusations they charged many of you with last election.”

The mailer stated that Tran supports making legislative committee votes available to the public and giving preference to veterans over illegal immigrants in public housing, and opposes taxing sales on the internet. Under Hay’s name and photo, the card states “declined” next to all three issues, suggesting the Democrat did not respond to MassFiscal’s campaign questionnaire.

The issue of veteran preference in public housing is a particularly sensitive one given that many House Democrats faced similar charges from MassFiscal in 2014 that they supported illegal immigrants over veterans.

The charge is grounded in a vote taken during debate on a veterans’ benefit bill to uphold the ruling of the House chair that a Republican amendment to give preference to veterans in public housing over undocumented immigrants was not germane to the bill and therefore out of order.

Rep. James Arciero, a Westford Democrat who was targeted with the same accusation by MassFiscal in 2014, called the claims “bush league” at the time. “It’s a smear campaign. To suggest the Massachusetts Legislature somehow supports illegal immigrants over veterans is absurd,” he said then.

MassFiscal Eecutive Director Paul Craney defended the 2014 mailers at the time as a “black-and-white” representation of the lawmaker’s voting record.

McGee told lawmakers in his Thursday letter that they did not have to even come to downtown headquarters to participate in the phonebank, but could do it from their districts with a computer. He also said shifts would be available on election day to help get out the vote for the two Democrats running.

Hay and Tran are running for the seat vacated by Stephen DiNatale, a Democrat who left the Legislature after being elected mayor of Fitchburg. Democrats are also trying to reclaim a seat in Peabody that the party held until the death of Joyce Spiliotis in 2014. Republican Leah Cole won that seat in a special and resigned last year mid-term to focus on her nursing career.

Peach is running against Democrat Thomas Walsh, a Peabody city councilor and former state representative who is trying to return to the Legislature.

ACTION ALERT: Call on Senator Joyce to Resign

 

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Call to Action 
Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance called on Senate President Stanley Rosenberg to initiate the expulsion of Milton State Senator Brian Joyce.

 

You may remember Joyce as the senator with the cleanest clothes in the Commonwealth. Several Boston Globe investigations alleged that he has been shaking down a local dry cleaner for more than a decade, insisting on free services for him, his family, and friends. Joyce is also the guy who used political donations for a family graduation party and his personal car expenses.

 

The FBI and the IRS raided Joyce’s Canton law office. To be fair, a raid doesn’t equal a conviction. The time to expel him from the Senate is now. With his stained character, Joyce can’t be an effective senator. The federal investigation will likely be prolonged, and the senate itself bears a stigma as long as Joyce has a seat in the chamber.

 

Contact your state senator today to urge Senate President Rosenberg to immediately call for Joyce’s resignation and begin the process of expelling him from the legislature.

Click the link below to log in and send your message:
https://www.votervoice.net/MASSFISCAL/Campaigns/44716/Respond

Study: Number of ‘significant’ votes declines in House

The Lowell Sun

UPDATED:   01/13/2016

By Michael Norton

State House News Service          images-6

BOSTON — Data released Wednesday attaches numeric evidence to a voting trend that many Beacon Hill insiders are already aware of.

The conservative non-profit Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance reported that 41 “significant” roll call votes were taken in 2015 in the Massachusetts House compared to 149 in 2013 and 115 in 2014. The 20-year average, according to the group, was 110 votes.

Analysts defined significant roll call votes as those that are not unanimous, procedurally mandated or veto overrides, which are often unanimous or break down on party lines.

Representatives and senators can force recorded votes by standing with their colleagues who ask for roll call votes.

In the 160-member House, 10 percent of members elected, or 16 members, must stand to force a recorded vote.

In the 40-member Senate, a roll call is ordered when one fifth of members stand to support one or if all Republicans stand in support. Sen. Robert Hedlund’s resignation this month to become the mayor of Weymouth brought the Senate GOP caucus down to five members.

To avoid roll calls, which can become election fodder and detail differences between and within the major parties, members can opt not to stand in support of holding them or pass bills on voice votes.

House leaders in recent years have also often dodged tough political votes by adopting further amendments calling for controversial proposals to be studied, or by dispensing with amendments behind closed doors in favor of passing large “consolidated” amendments.

Fiscal Alliance executive director Paul Craney said there was a drop in significant roll calls after his group launched a campaign that delivered 2 million pieces of literature pertaining to votes taken to homes in 21 legislative districts.

“Our advocacy was effective,” Craney said in a statement. “This is an unintended consequence of opening up the goings on of Beacon Hill to public scrutiny.” He added, “How the business of governing will change as the House loses its institutional memory of voting behavior is something we’re studying carefully. Watching a legislature that rarely votes is as odd as seeing a circus without animals.”

Read more: http://www.lowellsun.com/breakingnews/ci_29379709/study-number-significant-votes-declines-house#ixzz3xFp7e66q

Checking in with MassFiscal

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The House, in its very last legislative session before breaking for the holidays, voted today on Public Records Reform. True to form, Speaker DeLeo didn’t release the proposal until just hours before calling for a vote.

MassFiscal commends our friend Andover Representative Jim Lyons. Jim offered an amendment which would have made the legislature itself subject to the proposed public records law. Unsurprisingly, the chair ruled his amendment out of order. Lyons forced a vote on the ruling, which failed 34 to 122.

On Beacon Hill, it’s easier to spot Elvis than it is to see the inner workings of lawmaking. House leadership refused to make their public record proposals available to the public up until today. We’re not surprised 122 lawmakers then voted to exempt themselves from public scrutiny, are you?

See how your legislator voted on allowing debate on Representative Lyons’ amendment on our Legislative Scorecard, which you may view here.

CALL TO ACTION: Call your legislator and tell him or her what you think of their vote.

Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance · 18 Tremont St, Suite 707, Boston, MA 02108, United States
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Checking in with MassFiscal

Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance
We support Governor Charlie Baker’s vetoes to the 2015-2016 budget. Each veto was a difficult call. In most cases, the cuts were made to small pet projects, important to a particular legislator.

Ultimately, lawmakers voted to override all of the nearly 100 changes Governor Charlie Baker made.

Because of the volume of override votes compared to the few votes on other issues thus far, we’ve decided to treat them differently than usual on our scorecard. Were we to score each one on an individual basis, the overrides alone would essentially dictate a legislator’s score for the entire year. That doesn’t seem fair, so we’ve aggregated the override votes into a single position.

Methodology
Mass Fiscal supports voting no on all veto overrides. To determine whether a legislator should receive ayes or no vote on the scorecard, we split up the data in the following way:

  • First, we calculated the number of no votes each legislator took on the overrides
  • All legislators who voted no 0% of the time automatically received a yes vote on the scorecard
  • Next, we took the list of legislators who voted no some of the time
  • From that list we calculated the median number of no votes taken
  • Legislators with a number of no votes above the median received a no vote on the scorecard
  • Legislators with a number of no votes below the median received a yes vote on the scorecard
Scores
If you would like to see how your member of the legislature voted on all the veto override votes, please click here. To see our legislative scorecard, on this vote in the House, please click here. For the Senate,please click here.
Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance · 18 Tremont St, Suite 707, Boston, MA 02108, United States
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MassFiscal shares a new video on the “union loophole” in campaign contributions

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Today, we’re launching another new video!
 This one’s about the “union loophole,” which permits unions to give one candidate $15,000 in a calendar year while limiting individuals to $1,000 donations and banning all corporate contributions entirely.

In particular, we focus on Massachusetts AFL-CIO head Steven Tolman and several state representatives who held a press conference during the budget debate this past April to decry the influence of money in politics. We highlight the inconsistency between benefiting from laws designed to amplify one set of voices unfairly, while railing against the rights of other people to exercise their free speech on behalf of their concerns.

CLICK HERE to watch our video. The state representatives featured in the video include Ann-Margaret Ferrante of Gloucester, Paul Heroux of Attleboro, Brian Mannal of Barnstable, and Dennis Rosa of Leominster.

Please LIKE and SHARE the video on social media and if you want to help us produce more content like this in the future, please consider making a contribution here. Thank you!

Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance · 18 Tremont St, Suite 707, Boston, MA 02108, United States
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You can also keep up with Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance on Twitter or Facebook.

MassFiscal Challenges Unfair Campaign Finance Law

Lawsuit will seek equal protection for all those seeking to make their voices heard.

Boston, MA: The Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy group dedicated to promoting better government and right-of-center fiscal and economic policy solutions, today expressed support for the Goldwater Institute’s efforts to seek equal protection in state campaign finance law. “Current state campaign finance regulations don’t guarantee equal protection under the law,” said Paul Craney, the group’s executive director. “As many on both sides of the aisle have noted, something is wrong when unions can donate to one candidate up to $15,000 while individuals are limited to $1,000 and businesses are forbidden to donate anything at all. Under state law, businesses are even prohibited from organizing a PAC that contributes to candidates, which are permitted at the federal level.” In 2013, then-Rep. Marty Walsh’s mayoral campaign received more than $500,000 in campaign contributions from over 100 unions across the country, just in money donated in excess of the individual limit. Numerous statewide candidates running last fall, also took union donations beyond the individual limit. “While state campaign finance law creates an uneven playing field, the Citizens United decision allows individuals, corporations, and unions the same right to make independent expenditures. In short, Massachusetts law still privileges some people’s constitutional rights to free expression over those of others, and this lawsuit begins the process of righting that wrong,” Craney concluded. Both plaintiffs in the lawsuit have connections to the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance. 1A Auto Inc., a family-owned auto parts retailer in Pepperell, is run by Rick Green, who is also the chairman of MassFiscal’s board of directors. Mike Kane, whose Ashland business, 126 Self Storage Inc., is also part of the suit, serves on MassFiscal’s board as well. Legislative efforts to fix the loophole, despite garnering support from members of both parties, have thus far been stymied.

Background:

Currently, six states allow unlimited contributions from businesses and unions. 16 states and the federal government prohibits direct contributions from both but permit business and labor PACs, and 20 states allow equally limited contributions. Massachusetts, however, is one of seven states that prohibit businesses, but not unions, from making direct campaign donations to candidates, PACs, and parties. In 1988, special rules implemented by OCPF (not legislated) allowed unions to contribute as much as $15,000 to state candidates. As of 2015, the limit for individuals stands at $1,000, with corporate donations expressly forbidden. In addition, after unions have donated up to $15,000 to a campaign, their PACs can continue to contribute up to the ordinary limits. Business PACs are banned all together. Through this lawsuit, the Goldwater Institute is asking the Massachusetts courts to, at a minimum, apply the same campaign finance limitations to unions and businesses.

MassFiscal Calls for MBTA Receivership

Boston, MA: The Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy group dedicated to promoting better government and right-of-center fiscal and economic policy solutions, today announced its support for the Pioneer Institute’s recommendation that the MBTA be placed into temporary receivership and its board be eliminated in order to fix the massive financial and operational problems that currently plague the organization.

“The MBTA doesn’t need more cowbell or theatrical press conferences from their outgoing general manager. Rather, the MBTA needs to focus on gaining the public’s trust and performing basic services like ensuring the trains run on time, all while looking toward the future by implementing basic performance based metrics,” said Paul Craney, the group’s executive director. “A clear path toward these remedies would be through receivership. As has been done successfully with other Massachusetts entities before, receivership should be implemented so that necessary reforms can get underway as soon as possible.”

Receivership was one of many proposed solutions offered by the Pioneer Institute, which Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance supports. As noted in the group’s report, other crucial steps include a halt to expansion while maintenance backlogs are prioritized, reducing non-essential expenses such as conference travel, and limiting expansions in the number of employees and their salaries. On that last point, media reports have indicated that the MBTA has consistently increased the size of its workforce in recent years, and that the number of employees earning over $100,000 each year has soared.

“It has now become clear that the MBTA’s practices and priorities have long been badly misguided, all while derailing the public’s trust in the agency, and nothing short of drastic measures seems likely to change them. Receivership and eliminating the MBTA’s board should be part of the conversation, not just increasing the funding for the embattled agency,” Craney concluded.

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