Sacred Cods and Holy Mackerals

Legislative priorities
February 18, 2009, 2:11 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

As I promised way back, here’s a story that you won’t find anywhere else: some of the Legislature’s top priorities this year, according to lobbying groups organized well-enough to arrange for Email blasts from their members.

Transgender rights – This bill is likely THE top priority for MassEquality and Mass Transgender Political Coalition. Essentially, it would specifically prohibit discrimination based on gender, or the change thereof. Its lead sponsors are Reps. Carl Sciortino of Medford and Byron Rushing of Boston, and Sen. Ben Downing of Pittsfield. Needless to say, they are all Dems. More than half the Legislature has signed on to the bill – 83 House members and 21 senators, which would seem to guarantee its passage. Right? I mean, legislators would never publicly support a bill, but secretly tell House or Senate leadership to kill it. Would they?

I certainly do not support discrimination based on any characteristic. Except maybe for ignorance. Those people suck.

My concern with this is that, well, frankly, I just don’t trust people. Unlike with other forms of discrimination, being transgender isn’t necessarily something that’s easily visible or proven, like, say, race, or ethnicity. It would be like trying to guarantee rights for conservatives or liberals. How do you prove that someone who claims to be liberal isn’t actually a liberal? The fear that some have is that it would prevent businesses, for example, from preventing pre-op transgender men from using the women’s changing rooms. How easily would it be for a perv to enter a woman’s dressing room, claiming he’s just transgender? Would he have to have a note from his doctor? At what point does the right of the transgender not outweigh the rights of private individuals?

Driscoll bill – This bill, filed by Rep. Joseph Driscoll, would require police details at all roadway utility work sites. Obviously the police unions love it. And it’s easy to defend against “waste of taxdollars” claims since the details are paid for by private companies, with towns receiving a 10% bonus for “scheduling and administering” the details. Sure, we all end up paying for it in the end through higher cable, gas, and electricity bills, but its virtually unnoticeable when writing out the monthly check.

Animal rights bills – The pro-dog lobby has been very active this winter. They have pushing for sponsorship of the Devocalization Bill filed by Rep. Harkins, which would ban ripping the vocal cords out of yappy dogs. Yowch. And why no ban on carrying around Chihuahuas in purses? That seems much more cruel to me. They also have been pushing for a ban on “puppy mills” as sponsored by Sen. Hedlund. And yes, Sen. Hedlund has once again filed his elephant protection bill. Ringling Brothers says if it passes they will stop coming to Boston, and Bay Staters will be left with only the Cirque de Soleil and the dudes who flip over rows of people down at Faneuil Hall.

“Negotiate, don’t legislate” version 1 – The MBTA employee union is a-scared that the Legislature might start listening to the voting populace and move to reduce some of their contract perks as part of a major transportation reform plan. Ya know, perks like retiring at 45 with a full pension. They do have a point – they negotiated these perks fairly and squarely. It’s the MBTA management and board of directors who are to blame. On the other hand, I don’t like this idea of having 48-year-old MBTA retirees taking home $45k a year for life, while I’m stuck in a Red Line car in a tunnel because yet another rail switch is broken.

“Negotiate, don’t legislate” version 2 – The municipal unions (teachers, firefighters, clerks) are opposed to a possible attempt to mandate that all cities and towns join the GIC. But as a local teachers union official explained to me over the longest cup of coffee in my life, the issue has less to do with money, as the percentage breakdown would still be subject to collective bargaining. It has more to do with the actual GIC policies themselves. HMOs don’t work very well 25 miles outside of Boston. Try getting a primary care doctor or an approved specialist in Halifax, or Franklin, or Littleton.

Charter schools – Turns out, parents who send their children to charter schools really like charter schools. They aren’t too thrilled with Gov. Patrick’s plan to increase the cap on charter schools based on a formula that involves Fibonacci number sequences, or something like that. But they definitely don’t want the cap lowered or frozen. Here’s my theory on charter schools. Any student who has parents who will take the time out to fill out the paperwork to send their kid to charter school, and then drive them to school every day, is going to succeed regardless of what school they attend. The real test would be how charter schools do with students with absentee or uninvolved parents. There are those other bills you’ve heard about — pension  reform, transportation reform, sales tax hikes — but only average voters are calling in about those.

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Small request, can you bump up the font size? I don’t need glasses – font on the site is smaller than any other I read. Keep up the great posts.

Comment by Spinach Pie

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