Health Care Reform Passes – Raises the Stakes for State Elections

The federal health care reform passed the House last night and Jay Fitzgerald has has an interesting article in this morning’s Herald on how this affects elections in Massachusetts:

An already intense and volatile Massachusetts political scene could be cranked up several notches by last night’s controversial votes for and against the Democratic health-care initiative – signaling a potentially long and brutal season ahead.

“We have people stepping up to the plate everywhere, with a lot of people wanting to run” against incumbents, said Linda Rapoza, a GOP state committeewoman and Fall River’s Tea Party president.

While passage of this bill is certainly going to make more people want to  get involved in state politics, I think there are already plenty of issues that have people worried. And it’s not just jobs and the economy either.

Looming cuts in local aid are going to affect every city and town in Massachusetts in a pretty drastic way. Regular citizens are going to have to make very painful choices balancing pubilc education against public safely. When people see that this is happening, while favored state programs are protected, it’s going to upset a large number of voters.

We have these cuts in education coming right after yet another unfunded mandate from the state on bullying.

People are also frustrated with the way the legislature blocks important but controversial issues from being debated by the entire membership – gay marriage, CORI reform, services for illegal immigrants, gun law reform, shared parenting, alimony reform. All of them have been in contention this year and been blocked in committee.

And this is part of a long standing pattern. It took years to get such popular laws as Melanie’s Law ( tougher penalties for DUI ), and Jessica’s Law ( mandatory minimum sentences for child murderers and rapists ) out of committee and debated by the entire legislature – where, after years of being blocked, they passed easily due to overwhelming popular and legislative support.

In that Herald article they quote:

“People have short memories,” said Bruce Schulman, a professor of political history at Boston University. “I’m not sure health care will be that important. By November, the issue is going to be the economy.”

He’s very wrong. Voters remember – because they are reminded daily how certain failures of government have affected them daily. We have had a certain amount of apathy in this state because of a perception that incumbents in Massachusetts were invulnerable.

That is changing – and voters are getting much more active.

2 Comments

  • Emmett
    March 22, 2010 - 2:00 pm | Permalink

    The problem of legislation being bottled up in committees by a handful of legislators is the most troubling aspect of the way political business is done in Massachusetts. If we can overcome that obstacle to democracy, people may regain their respect for government and politicians.

  • Emmett
    March 22, 2010 - 10:00 am | Permalink

    The problem of legislation being bottled up in committees by a handful of legislators is the most troubling aspect of the way political business is done in Massachusetts. If we can overcome that obstacle to democracy, people may regain their respect for government and politicians.

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