Progressives in the Massachusetts Legislature are all for making the institution more transparent, except, of course, when it comes to pay raises.
Discussion of what legislators are paid is off the table. It is simply not a subject for debate, nor are issues of reforming and making transparent some of the archaic rules under which the House and Senate operate and have operated for years.
An example — their silence on the creation of three new and costly politically correct joint House and Senate committees to do the work that some of the existing joint committees already do.
There are 29 joint House and Senate committees ranging from the Committee on Cannabis Policy to the Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs, and everything in between.
In addition to the 29 joint committees, the 40-member Senate has 11 more committees of its own, along with three temporary committees. The 160-member House also has 11 of its own House committees and two temporary committees.
There are 37 Democrats in the Senate, which means that everybody is a chairman of one committee or another, and sometimes chairman of two.
The three new joint committees announced in joint press release by Senate President Karen Spilka and House Speaker Ron Mariano are the COVID-19 and Emergency Preparedness and Management Committee, the Racial Equity, Civil Rights and Inclusion Committee, and the Advanced Information Technology, Internet and Cybersecurity Committee.
While three new committees are created, no existing committee has been eliminated.
Asking why none of the existing committees can not do the work of the three new committees is to miss the point.
The goal of the new committees is not only to appease progressive dissenters by giving them appointments, but to also tamper charges of “systemic racism.”
If there is anything systemic about state government it is systemic incompetence, as witnessed by the disarray and mismanagement in the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The creation of the three new committees means that Spilka and Mariano will be able to provide slots for their critics by giving them something to do to bring about changes.
It also means a fat pay raise for those lucky enough to be named chairs of the new committees.
The new committees will be run by six new chairs and six new vice chairs, all appointed by Spilka and Mariano and all will be receiving extra pay.
While the basic salary of a legislator is now $70,000, plus another $15,000 to $20,000 in office expenses, the $70,000 figure is misleading.
Committee chairs and vice chairs get additional pay in the form of a stipend, as do members of Spilka’s and Mariano’s leadership team.
Committee chairs, for instance, get an additional stipend of $15,000 to $30,000, which brings the salary of many members up to $100,000, not including health and retirement benefits. Lucky chairmen of two committees make close to $150,000.
And unlike many people who were forced out of work during the coronavirus pandemic and shutdown, legislators continued to get paid even though most of them worked from home.
It is good work if you can get elected.
The nature of the legislator’s job has changed. Most new people coming into the Legislature now are not traditional politicians. They are committed progressives looking to advance liberal ideology and get paid well for doing it. The era of the back-slapping pol who would do a favor is gone.
The patronage hiring scandal at the Probation Department — even though not criminal — largely ended political patronage on Beacon Hill. It ended compassion, too.
So, the onetime honored practice of a legislator doing a favor, like getting a state job for a needy constituent, or helping a kid into a community college, or working out an immigration problem, is over.
Progressives don’t do favors; they do climate change.
As one battle-hardened Beacon Hill lobbyist put it. “These progressives won’t do you a favor, can’t do you a favor, and don’t know how to do you a favor.”
So don’t ask.