To our new state legislators: What can we expect from you?

  • Ferd Wulkan

For Franklin County Continuingthe Political Revolution
Published: 12/29/2018 8:50:31 AM

We have an unusually large number of new state representatives and state senators from our area taking the oath of office on Jan. 2.  Senator-elect Jo Comerford, Representatives-elect Lindsay Sabadosa, Natalie Blais, Mindy Domb and Dan Carey join Rep. Paul Mark, Rep. Susannah Whipps and Sen. Adam Hinds in representing our area.  What should we expect from them?

Franklin County Continuing the Political Revolution believes there are a number of critical issues, all popular with their constituents, that our legislators must tackle.  

First of all, single-payer health care.  In Franklin County this past November, over 78 percent of voters said our legislators should fight for a single-payer system – one that eliminates insurance companies’ profits, provides universal coverage, simplifies the health care bureaucracy, and improves health outcomes.  While we ultimately need a national single payer system, it can start with individual states.  This is how Canada developed its system, for example.  Sen-elect Comerford has already talked about forming a single-payer caucus in the Legislature, and our hope is that all local legislators will join it.

Thousands of area residents signed petitions to get the Fair Share amendment (or “millionaire’s tax”) on the ballot in order to raise $2 billion per year for education and transportation.  While the State Supreme Judicial Court struck this down on a technicality, these are still critical priorities.  The nonpartisan Foundation Budget Review Commission  in 2015 that the state is underfunding our schools by more than $1 billion a year, leading to insufficient staff, enrichment programs, books, technology, and supplies. In higher education, the state would have to spend $574 million more a year to bring per-pupil funding back to where it was in 2001. That’s roughly the same amount of additional funding recommended in 2014 by the Higher Education Finance Commission. Because of underfunding, student debt has skyrocketed; class sizes have ballooned; too many full-time faculty have been replaced by poorly paid adjuncts; and, services are being outsourced.  The Massachusetts Teachers Association has launched a campaign, endorsed by FCCPR, to “Fund our Future” – to raise the revenues needed to close these gaps.  We urge all our local legislators to join Comerford, Anne Gobi and Whipps at the regional campaign kickoff on Jan. 7, 6 to 8 p.m. at the Mahar Regional High School library, and to support the campaign by co-sponsoring legislation when it is introduced in the Legislature.

And most important, we need our Legislature to take bold steps in fighting climate change.  While the Trump administration dithers and rolls back important mandates, it’s up to the states to take the lead.  Ten years ago, Massachusetts passed the Global Warming Solutions Act that set out important goals.  Last year, the state Senate passed a major comprehensive climate bill that included a variety of strong measures to help reach those goals.  The House, however, did not follow suit, and what emerged out of conference committee was very weak. We need dramatically increased solar and wind capacity.  We need a ban on new fossil fuel infrastructure.  We need funding for cutting edge research. We need the giant state pension fund to divest its billions in fossil fuel stocks.  We need a Green Bank to help fund new initiatives.  Our new legislators can play an important role in insisting that the House stop fiddling while the planet burns, and pass big and bold legislation.

FCCPR has also endorsed the campaign to change the state seal and flag.  Massachusetts and Mississippi are the only remaining states with overtly racist images on their flags.  A sword modeled on Myles Standish’s broadsword used to kill Native Americans hangs over the head of a Native American person; the motto says “By the sword we seek peace”.  In 2018, Orange, Gill, New Salem and Wendell  town meetings voted to support a bill to create a commission to recommend changes – as the Mass. Commission on Indian Affairs has been urging for 35 years.  We hope all our legislators will sign on as co-sponsors to the bill so that these racist images and reminders of the massacres of Native people are eliminated before the 2020 celebration of the landing of the Pilgrims.

How will the state pay for the needed measures above as well as others such as improved rural transportation?  The Legislature must re-introduce and support a bigger and bolder version of the Fair Share amendment to go on the ballot in 2020. In the meantime, tax loopholes that benefit corporations and the wealthiest residents need to be closed, and other creative approaches to raising revenues in ways that don’t hurt working people must be designed. 

Finally, we hope our legislators will band together with colleagues from around the state to make our government more transparent and more democratic.  In addition to acting on the voters’ mandate to get dark money out of elections, our state could encourage more people to vote by making Election Day a state holiday, making voter registration automatic, implementing ranked choice voting wherever possible, and having all Massachusetts delegates to national party conventions be elected (i.e. no superdelegates). But first, let’s democratize the Legislature itself by decreasing the power of the speaker of the House and Senate president – let’s give each legislator an equal voice.

FCCPR looks forward to working closely with this exciting new group of legislators, and supporting them as they work on these key issues. 

Ferd Wulkan has worked as a union organizer for much of his career.  He is on the Coordinating Committee and Climate Crisis Task Force of Franklin County Continuing the Political Revolution. He has lived in Franklin County for 30 years.


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