Thursday, March 11, 2010

Representative George Peterson: "The Larger Problem in the House"

Last week as I drank my morning cup of coffee and flipped through my Wednesday edition of the Worcester Telegram and Gazette I couldn’t help but do a double-take at the day’s As I See It column titled “Time for State to Clean House.” I checked the date to see if it was April 1st, but nope…it was March 3rd. I make the April Fool’s Day reference because the two authors of this particular column are two Democrats in the House, one of whom voted to re-elect Sal DiMasi to his speakership last year and the other who has had no problem with Democratic Leadership until recently. So naturally, I thought the two representatives must have been joking!

The January election of Scott Brown to the U.S. Senate has had an interesting effect on Massachusetts politics. For one, suddenly being a reformer is the cool and hip thing. Take Representatives Tom Stanley and Matt Patrick for example, the two authors of the piece I reference above. In the past, they’ve had no problem going along with the status quo. Often times, they vote with Democratic Leadership. Not necessarily because they agree, but because that’s what they’re told to do. Checking the calendar again, one would notice it’s an election year and because the wave of change is poised to take out quite a few Democrats this year, a handful of them including Stanley and Patrick have jumped on the reform train.

With all due respect, these members are a little late to the party. While proposing a few rules changes looks good on a press release or in a guest column, there is an even larger problem in the House of Representatives and in Massachusetts government in general and that is the overwhelming Democratic control. Lord John Acton once said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” If Massachusetts doesn’t confirm this theory, I don’t know what does.

The Democratic Majority, including Representatives Stanley and Patrick have no one to blame but themselves for the corruption and abuse of power we have seen in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. They have allowed this to happen by relinquishing their power and control to the office of the speaker. If this contingent of Democrats is so worried about transparency and good government, they should have supported similar ideas the Republican Caucus has offered numerous times over the years which have been traditionally and almost exclusively defeated on party line votes. Representatives Stanley and Patrick have had no problem in the past defeating good government policy proposals and while they continue to fudge their records it’s important to note that roll calls don’t lie. Interestingly enough, these two members have voted in favor of the rules offered to govern the House under former Speaker Sal DiMasi and current Speaker Bob DeLeo.

These votes would indicate that “The Larger Problem in the Massachusetts House” is the one-party control in the legislature - the cure for which lies at the ballot box.