Two ucharlie-baker-2

^ ” #LiftTheCap ” is a fight that Governor Baker — and the voters — will win. So why did the Democratic State Committee vote to oppose it ?

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Two unfortunate recent events, one political, the other legal, have made civic governance unnecessarily difficult. First was the vote by the Democratic Party’s State Committee to oppose Ballot Question 2; second was yesterday’s decision by the state’s Supreme Judicial Court negating Governor Baker’s legislation to assess electric utility ratepayers part of the costs of building new natural gas capacity for our state.

First, the Supreme Court case, in which Justice Cordy finds that in Massachusetts an electric company cannot purchase gas nor a gas company purchase electricity, nor can the ratepayers of one be assessed for the purchase of the other,m because the legislative history, in our state, of gas and electric utility regulation, going back to 1926, requires that gas and electric be altogether separate. You may read Justice Cordy’s full opinion here :

Activists who want the state to cease its use of natural gas — it being a fossil fuel, whose use they oppose — applaud this decision. That it prevents the state’s utilities from accessing more natural gas, and thus lancing the boil of high gas costs to consumers, doies not seem to trouble these activists.

Justice Cordy is saying, in essenece, that if the Department of Energy wants to approve electric company purchases of additional gas, it needs the legislature to change the law (c. 94A) that Cordy interprets. Is this likely to happen ? I doubt it. The activists who oppose the state using natural gas will raise the hue and cry, and as special interests control most elections to our legislature, which are decided in low-turnout primaries, activist opposition will likely determine.

I applaud the Governor for trying hard to find a solution to our state’s natural gas shortage and resulting high costs to ratepayers. It was worth the effort.

Second, the Democratic State Committee’s vote to oppose Ballot Question 2, by which proponents seek to change the state’s charter school cap law so as to lift the cap by allowing twelve new charter schools in each calendar year, said schools to be allowed only in School Districts designated by the State Department of Education as performing in the bottom 25 percent of all districts.

It is appalling, I suppose, that those who preside over the state’s Democratic party should oppose a measure which will give every parent who desires school choice the choice that they seek. One presumes that schools answer to parents first and always. One hopes that no political body would support having school;s answerable to any other interest. But evidently one would  be mistaken so to hope.

Any such hope was given the bum’s rush by a vote taken — evidently by intimidation, according to what I have read on social media — on behalf not of parents but of teachers’ unions. Supporters of ” #liftTheCap ” are right to blast the Democratic State Committee for its vested interest subservience — adopting a position opposed by a clear majority of the state’s voters. Teachers’ unions have demonstrated an irresponsible stubbornness about any kind of schools reform. Their resistance to budget reform, longer school days, performance evaluation, curriculum innovation, overcapacity reform, and other common sense reforms should not have legs with any political party. Especially not the party that claims three times as many Massachusetts adherents as the party opposite.

Nonetheless : before Republicans and others condemn the Democrats too hotly, they should remember that not two years ago, the Republican State Committee adopted issues positions — on social issues — equally enslaved to vested interests unpopular with a majority of the voters. It took an enormous effort, by a sitting GOP Governor, to pry leadership of the Republican State Committee away from these folks.

Fortunately for governance reforms in Massachusetts, our political party state committees speak only for themselves. The voters still determine our state’s course of reform and progress, and that is how hopefully it will always be.


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