^ Governor baker, with Lieutenant Governor Polito, at signing ceremony for Comprehensive Energy Legisaltion

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While the follies and disgraces of Trump occupy our taste for scandal, quietly and with humble fanfare, Governor Baker has been signing into law significant reforms of state administration. This month alone, he has signed the following legislation:

1.Pay Equity Legislation : http://www.mass.gov/governor/press-office/press-releases/fy2017/governor-baker-signs-bipartisan-pay-equity-legislation.html

2.Regulations governing Uber and Lyft (ride-hailing): http://www.masslive.com/politics/index.ssf/2016/08/gov_charlie_baker_signs_law_regulating_uber_and_lyft_in_massachusetts.html

3.Renewable Energy – Comprehensive Energy Diversity : http://www.mass.gov/governor/press-office/press-releases/fy2017/governor-baker-signs-comprehensive-energy-diversity-law.html

4.Municipal Modernization legislation : http://wamc.org/post/gov-charlie-baker-signs-municipal-modernization-bill#stream/0

5.Job Creation and Economic Development legislation, including allocation of $ 1 billion to make it happen : https://malegislature.gov/Bills/189/House/H4569

6.And of course, on July 8th, Baker signed the transgender people’s civil rights bill commonly known as the “TransBillMA” : http://boston.cbslocal.com/2016/07/08/massachusetts-signs-transgender-bathroom-bill-law/

It would be difficult to find a 30-day period, in any state or city, much less the Federal government, in which as much reform has been accomplished, across so many fields of action. Many of these six enactments were voted unanimously in the legislature. It would be difficult, maybe impossible, to find any legislative activity comparable.

All six new laws faced much debate in the legislature and Senate; many underwent significant modification — the Uber/Lyft and #TransBillMA in particular — especially in the Senate, where a majority seeks reforms well beyond present consensus, especially respecting taxes and fees; but ultimately reform voices were able to find common ground with more cautious minds, and the result is a remake of Massachusetts state administration as transformative as anything done since the 1970s, an period equally reformist. Bipartisan reform was that decade’s priority, and the same is true of reform now. We are lucky to have it.

Perhaps the Economic Development bill, an appropriation act, is the most surprising in which to find bipartisanship. Its first allocation is a big one : 

“7002-8006 For the MassWorks infrastructure program established by section 63 of chapter 23A of the General Laws …………………..…………………………. $500,000,000”
Hillary Clinton has proposed almost the exact same program for the nation, albeit much larger:$ 550 billion, not million. Yet here we are.
Also featured is item 7002-8080, appropriating $ 23,622,000 for a long list of separate infrastructure works in a multitude of the state’s towns and cities. Environmentalists  ill certainly be pleased to see this allocation :

“7002-8021 For the Brownfields Redevelopment Fund established by section 29A of chapter 23G of the General Laws ……………………..……………..…………… $45,000,000”
MassDOT gets $ 109,500,000 to build the Paul Conley “megaships” port terminal; and $ 45,900,000 goes to upgrading schools in Chicopee and the Blackstone Valley — thereby helping keep a promise that Baker made in his 2014 campaign to boost t.he state’s “gateway cities” ability to participate in the new economy that has Boston booming.
The Uber/Lyft and Comprehensive Energy bills are compromise affairs in which no interest received all that it wanted but all were accommodated sufficiently to support improvement of the economy, not obstacles to it. The Uber/Lyft bill includes a fee for service that baker agreed to, and it includes the following regulations (as re\ported in the Boston Globe) but not fingerprinting of drivers :
“drivers for Uber, Lyft, and other on-demand transportation companies will undergo a two-part background check — one conducted by the companies, one by the state. Drivers will also undergo a second vehicle inspections in addition to the annual personal motor vehicle check, and their cars will be outfitted with decals. The companies will be required to carry commercial insurance while trips are in progress. In some respects, the rules solidify into law the practices Uber and Lyft already employ, while other aspects are not currently undertaken by the companies.”
As for the Comprehensive Energy Bill, it enables many competing initiatives and advances the state’s obligations to the world-wide Global Warming situation; at the same time, it leaves some hard questions unanswered : can there be  a carbon tax system that is not regressive ? can we move forward from dependence on natural gas fuel ? Senator Marc Pacheco, for example, noted that while he supports the bill, “we have a long way to go.” Still, the bill jump starts two new alt-energy industries and provides rate payer relief as well as acquiring hydro power from Quebec. As Governor baker’s press release put it :


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“Consistent with the Baker-Polito Administration’s previously filed legislation authorizing the procurement of hydropower generation, An Act Relative to Energy Diversity (H. 4568) requires utilities to competitively solicit and contract for approximately 1,200 megawatts (MW)  of clean energy generation – base load hydropower, onshore wind and solar supported by hydropower, standalone onshore wind, solar, or other Class I renewable resources. In addition to recognizing the necessity of hydropower generation to provide reliable generation to meet Massachusetts’ energy demand and achieve the greenhouse gas emissions goals of the Global Warming Solutions Act, the legislation signed by Governor Baker allows for the procurement of approximately 1,600MW of offshore wind. The bill spurs the development of an emerging offshore wind industry to create jobs and represent the largest commitment by any state in the nation to offshore wind.”
 So there you have it: progress on civil rights, energy, infrastructure, regulation of ride-sharing, municipal reform, and pay equity for women in the workplace. And all of it enacted on a bipartisan, mostly unanimous basis. This is the difference between focused, careful leadership and scatter-shot, petulamt, irresponsible kvetch. And if, in all of what has been accomplished one step at a time, you see a large likeness to the M/O of one Hillary Clinton, you are not hallucinating. Baker and Clinton have very similar philosophies of governing. The Boston Globe’s Yvonne Abraham, two years ago, noted shrewdly  that Baker was running for Governor “as essentially a Clinton Democrat.” That this particular “Clinton Democrat” happens to be a Republican, and a classic Massachusetts Republican at that, only shows that good reform is not the possession of one party only but is the heritage of us all.
—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



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