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In unconstitutional "informal sessions" three State Reps and two Senators meet and pass $443 million spending bill!
Outrage at unconstitutional and arrogant action
POSTED: October 6, 2010 UPDATED October 13, 2010
While the Tea Party movement has been distracted by the corrupt spending habits of Obama and Congress, the Massachusetts Legislature used a blatantly unconstitutional tactic to push through a mammoth spending bill which diverts federal money for apparent unintended purposes.
Last week in so-called "informal sessions" the Massachusetts House of Representatives met with just THREE members and the Senate met with just TWO members and passed a huge controversial $443 million spending bill. This week both house houses met again in informal sessions -- also each with only a tiny group of members -- and passed a final consolidated version of the bill.
The bill, H5028, uses federal Medicaid money intended as "matching funds for State expenditures for assistance payments for certain social services, and State medical and medical insurance expenditures" -- to also pay for pay raises for state employees, plus nearly half of it goes into the state's general slush fund.
(The bill also includes a provision to divert $11.5 million from the state's new sales tax on alcoholic beverages for a fund that the Commission on Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender Youth could draw from for their homosexual / transgender programs in public schools!)
This was done with the collaboration of both the Democrat and Republican leadership. And as with the Obama bills in Washington, the Boston media is willfully ignoring the unconstitutional nature of the move and is applauding the Legislature for "moving forward."
One legislator tried to block it, but got rolled over
In that entire building only one legislator, Rep. Karyn Polito (R-Shrewsbury, who is also the Republican candidate for State Treasurer), attempted to stop it.
But as Polito told the press:
"A bill of this magnitude should be debated, discussed, and amendable," she said. "Instead, they are pushing this through in a manner that is typical of Beacon Hill culture here. And I am not going to be a rubberstamp for it."
All last week Polito literally camped out in the House chambers to stop their efforts. On Friday she spent 10 hours in the House chambers. For her efforts, she was chided by the Boston newspapers for being "obstructionist."
But Thursday morning, the House passed the bill in a 3-member "informal session" gaveling it at 10 a.m. and before Polito arrived for the session. At 10:02 am Polito (delayed by traffic) sprinted into the chamber, but was too late.
As State House News reported:
The bill cleared the House with three members present. Rep. Paul Donato (D-Medford) was presiding and Reps. Bradford Hill (R-Ipswich) and Vincent Pedone (D-Worcester) were present. . . . After voting to engross the bill, House leaders moved reconsideration and called that in the negative, effectively preventing any bid for Polito to ask that the vote be reconsidered.
Polito's reaction to the sleazy move:
"It shows the deep dysfunction on Beacon Hill," Polito told State House News after the vote. "I have stood up for the taxpayers for a week objecting to this high level of spending in an informal session. The bill contains numerous outside sections, pay raises that are clearly beyond the scope of an informal matter. I asked for debate, I asked for an amendment process, I asked for a roll call, I asked for compromise, and clearly Beacon Hill leadership is not as interested as watching out for taxpayers as I am."
This week Polito again tried to intervene during the final passage, but she was again rebuffed.
Arrogance by elected officials
Even in an election year just weeks before the election, their arrogance is hard to believe.
One of the big the problems with H5028 which Polito particularly objected to, is that it would spend parts of recently allocated Federal Medical Assistance Percentages (FMAP) money on pay raises for college professors and sheriff's office employees, and for State Police, and dump $195 million into the state's so-called "rainy day" slush fund for future general use.
Is this the way that Congress intends FMAP money to be used?
Massachusetts is known for having a corrupt political process. Even the "good" politicians often become part of the problem. This use of unconstitutional "informal sessions" of the Legislature to push through controversial bills is an insult to every citizen in Massachusetts, and has been going on for many years.
The local press supportive the process
The Boston Globe and Boston Herald were supportive of pushing H5028 through as fast as possible, ignoring the legality of the process. There was a cry that if this money isn't spent, then "State Police gang and drug units are at risk and disabled children are not receiving needed services."
But if these expenditures are so critical, why weren't they included the main state budget -- instead of depending on this this FMAP money, which was not guaranteed? (Note: Some news reports refer to it as simply "stimulus money" rather than Medicaid funding, which is more accurate.)