Guest columnist Michael Seward: The failures of our Democrat-controlled Legislature

  • Massachusetts State House.

Published: 11/29/2021 9:04:13 AM
Modified: 11/29/2021 9:03:41 AM

The Gazette recently reported about state Sen. Adam Hinds’ boasts about endorsements from regional Democrats as he runs for lieutenant governor from the steps of Northampton’s City Hall, while proclaiming, “far too often many don’t feel heard by the government.”

He made this claim as the state Legislature failed to pass a spending plan for American Rescue Plan funds, which would benefit those adversely affected by the pandemic. Standing among the endorsers were area legislators Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa and Sen. Jo Comerford, both of whom are also columnists for the Gazette.

The Boston Globe reported that the Legislature will continue to meet on the spending bill in “closed-door talks.” This will happen because the Legislature is controlled by Democrats, who get to exercise such hubris without accountability as local newspapers continue to struggle financially and to inform voters. They will continue to meet behind closed doors because they failed to reach a compromise during their formal session. The Globe also noted the Legislature may reach a deal in an informal session that is typically sparsely attended.

We can only hope our region’s representatives aren’t too busy doing other things at the time of those informal sessions, if they occur.

Democratic Party failure to reach a deal for pandemic relief isn’t the first time the state Legislature controlled by Democrats has failed to act for the benefit of those who, “don’t feel heard by the government.” It likely won’t be the last.

Year after year, the state Legislature controlled by Democrats fails to meet its annual obligation to pass the commonwealth’s budget on time, a basic function of their job.

There was a housing shortage for years before the pandemic, yet for years the state Legislature controlled by Democrats waited before passing Gov. Charlie Baker’s Housing Choice bill, a measure to increase housing, as those who “don’t feel heard from government” continued not to be heard. So when the pandemic struck, the state Legislature controlled by the Democrats helped make things that much worse for those seeking housing.

But during the time of their inaction, another regional Democratic Party legislator almost made it even more dire for his own constituents. Sen. Eric Lesser proposed incentivizing those in the Boston area with up to $10,000 to move to western Massachusetts.

As the state Legislature controlled by Democrats continues to fail to act on much-needed American Rescue Plan funds, which was passed way back in March, President Biden just signed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill into law. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will reportedly provide Massachusetts with $9 billion to $12 billion to fund much needed repairs of our roads and bridges. Of course, the cost of those repairs are more expensive than they needed to be due the state Legislature, controlled by Democrats, failure to adequately fund infrastructure maintenance.

And that brings me to East-West rail, championed in the state Legislature controlled by Democrats by Lesser, who was ushered into the Senate thanks to an over 3-1 fundraising advantage over other elected officials with more experience serving their respective communities, thanks to out-of-state donors solicited with the help of friends of the Obama administration, for which he worked.

It was Mr. Obama who proposed a high-speed rail plan for the Northeast corridor, which is undoubtedly why Lesser is a champion of the project and was able to command so many donations to buy his state senate seat.

Estimates to build East-West rail currently range from $2 billion to $5 billion, but if history has taught us anything, it will likely cost even more. We should also consider the fact that rail would need to be maintained, which neither Congress nor the state Legislature controlled by Democrats has demonstrated the wherewithal to do. And Biden’s infrastructure package isn’t going to pay for East-West high-speed rail, which was estimated to be $25 billion.

Most people don’t participate in local elections, so those who are elected at the municipal and regional level do so with the support of a meager proportion of the local electorate. Maybe our state Legislature’s failures are our own fault, because we don’t demand that they do better. Instead, they continue to get reelected to public office by a meager proportion of the electorate. We far too often make it easy not to be heard by the government.

Michael Seward lives in Shelburne.


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