New Year Brings Same Old Political Nonsense

By: Brian Genest

Brian Genest

It’s a Happy New Year at the Massachusetts State House. State legislators are kicking off 2021 with another pay hike.

Talk about a kick in the teeth for taxpayers!

Apparently, our state representatives and senators have done such an incredible job, they’re getting a 6.46% raise during the worldwide pandemic. Meanwhile, the state’s unemployment rate was in the double digits for five months last year and businesses continue to be closed and restricted. But we’re all in this together, right?

Governor-turned-Emperor Charlie Baker, who has shut down just about everything except Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito’s lake party, says the increase for lawmakers is warranted. With holidays and everything else now cancelled and thousands of jobs across Massachusetts evaporating, a pay raise for politicians is, naturally, right on the money.

Starting this month, the annual base pay for legislators goes up to $70,536, an increase of $4,280. Nice work, if you can get it.

You may remember: Lawmakers got a 5.93% increase at the start of the 2019-2020 session. Before that, they got a 4.2% increase at the start of the 2017-2018 session, when they voted to raise their own pay and stipends for committee chairs and legislative leaders. They also voted to pay themselves to drive to work, giving every lawmaker an annual travel expense budget ranging from $15,000 to $20,000 per year. Finally, the law they passed in 2017 also included “adjusting” their pay every two years. Of course, they’d probably like you to forget.

According to the State House News Service: “Though Massachusetts differs from many other states with its full-time Legislature, many lawmakers also hold outside jobs to supplement their incomes.”

Translation: It’s a part time job, but we’re paying them a full-time salary, while they earn a second salary on our dime. They’re laughing all the way to the bank, even while so many in Massachusetts face uncertain financial futures. But we’re all in this together, right?

Here’s another question: will Dracut’s elected state officials—Rep. Colleen Garry and Sen. Barry Finegold—take the money or refuse the pay raise, given the current circumstances?

Speaking of which, here’s what state legislators have been doing lately to “earn” this salary increase: tying the hands of our police officers and making policing political. On the last day of 2020, the governor signed a controversial police reform bill. Baker called the legislation one of the best laws in the nation; considering he’s overseen a state police force with the types of scandals you’d expect in Tijuana, you should probably take that categorization lightly.
Among other provisions, the law prohibits officers from using chokeholds on out-of-control, drug-crazed maniacs trying to kill them and limits the use of rubber bullets, tear gas and dogs to defend themselves and us. Do you feel safer yet?

The law also establishes the Massachusetts Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission. An independent state agency with the power to establish policing standards, certify law enforcement officers and investigate allegations of misconduct, the commission will be controlled by a majority of politically-appointed civilians.

And wait until you see just how political they are!

The governor will appoint a police chief, a retired superior court judge and a social worker. The attorney general will appoint a law enforcement officer below the rank of sergeant, a law enforcement officer picked from five nominations by the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers, and an attorney chosen from five nominations from the Civil Rights and Social Justice Council of the Massachusetts Bar Association. Together, the governor and attorney general will appoint three other members; one must be chosen from five nominations by the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.

In other words, civilians with no policing experience will now be policing our police, courtesy of the feel-good Massachusetts legislature, the go-along-to-get-along governor and the oh-so-progressively-righteous attorney general. But we’re all in this together, right?

—Brian Genest is chairman of the Dracut Republican Town Committee.