What’s Next?

(Cross-posted on BlueMassGroup)

In the wake of Senator-elect Scott Brown’s unexpected victory last week, I know that many of us have been asking the question and discussing amongst ourselves, “What does this mean, and where do we go from here?”

There have been many theories and explanations for his win, from debates about campaign strategies to discussions of the effect larger national issues may have had on the race.

Whatever the explanation, what is clear is that voters are upset, and frustrated with the status quo. They’re angry about a lack of visible progress, deals made behind closed doors, and giveaways to corporate special interests.  In my opinion, the election results were partly a result of federal inaction on concerns important to Massachusetts families , and a gut-level belief that in this tough economy, not enough is being done by Democrats to help working families, while too much is being done to help the wealthy and privileged.

They’re frustrated with the status quo, and so am I – and so, I suspect, are you. The status quo is unacceptable, and we need to do everything we can to change it.

The answer, I believe, is to do more to help working families get and stay on their feet. Here in Massachusetts, we need to pass more legislation that has a direct impact on people’s lives, and that shows what we stand for as Democrats.

We need to pass meaningful Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) reform quickly, to help reduce recidivism rates among ex-offenders while lowering criminal justice costs. This is a problem that hurts tens of thousands of people across the Commonwealth every single day. Advocates and legislators have been working on it for years – it’s time to get it done.

Although Massachusetts is a national leader in expanding access to health insurance, health care costs continue to spiral out of control, particularly for small businesses. There are a number of proposals before the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing.  Passing meaningful health care cost control legislation could have a real effect on struggling local families and businesses.

The growing foreclosure crisis is an affordable housing issue that has had a serious effect on the Commonwealth. The Legislature should quickly pass legislation that would increase neighborhood stability by creating protections for tenants in foreclosed properties and requiring banks and financial institutions to ensure proper upkeep and maintenance of foreclosed properties.

There are a number of important bills dealing with environmental safety that should be enacted this year, from the “E-Waste” bill to promote recycling of electronics like TVs and computers (which I’ve filed with Representative Smizik) or the Safer Alternatives bill, which would reduce exposure to toxic, cancer-causing chemicals currently found in any number of commonly used products. Passing these bills will ultimately save lives, and the sooner we do it, the better.

In the wake of another tragic story about the deadly consequences out-of-control bullying can have, it’s well past time we pass bullying prevention legislation. Ensuring that every school has a bullying prevention and intervention plan, one that includes a focus on cyberbullying, would be a first step towards stopping this sort of behavior when it starts and before it spirals out of control. I’ve proposed a bill that would do this, as have many of my colleagues. The leaders of the Joint Committee on Education have indicated they are working on a bill; I hope the best parts of all the proposals can be combined and a strong bill reported out and voted on soon.

And we need to do all of these things, and more, with a focus on transparency and accountability, so that voters can be confident that we are always acting in the best interests of the people, and not for special interests.  A good start would be to include provisions in the state budget to promote tax credit transparency so that the Massachusetts Legislature and the public has a better sense of where our tax credit dollars are going, and what we’re getting, in terms of job creation, in exchange.

These are just a few of the many issues affecting working class families that the Legislature ought to tackle in the upcoming months. Right now, I am spending  some of my time at the State House making calls to House and Senate committee chairs, asking that the legislation mentioned above is reported out of committee and brought to a vote as soon as possible — and I hope you’ll join me in that effort.

In times like these, it can be a natural reaction for legislators to want to run away from being bold, to avoid doing anything that might be seen as politically risky.  I couldn’t disagree more, and that’s where you can help make a difference. We face huge problems, and the people need their representatives to be problem solvers.

So let your legislators know that you’re paying attention, and that you want to see action on these and other important matters before the end of the session.  We need to hear from you, now.

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