Below is the full text of a letter I e-mailed this morning to my legislative officials, State Rep. James Fagan and Senator Marc Pacheco. I doubt they’ll respond and even more doubtful they’ll act as I hope, but hey, it made me feel better to vent. I recommend it.
I am writing, simply, to request that you both reject the proposal heading to the State House floor to amend the state’s US Senate succession law.
Senator Kennedy himself once said to Congress that you do not change the rules in the middle of the game, and ironically, that is precisely what the late senator in his July letter asked Governor Patrick, House Speaker DeLeo, and Senate President Murray to do: change the rules mid-game — this after, in 2004, Mr. Kennedy himself advocated for the law as it currently stands.
While I understand Senator Kennedy wanted to ensure the state’s full representation in the event a health care reform bill came up for a vote — a proposal I generally support, I add — I do not believe that the Legislature should change the law, essentially, to support a single initiative.
Nor do I believe it should support a change that seems to me to be as much about maintaining a Democratic super-majority as serving the public. I always believed the true motivation behind the 2004 changes was to keep Governor Romney — who I did not and still do not care for, to put it mildly — from naming a Republican successor in the event Senator Kerry won the Presidential election. That the Democrats are now embracing a concept the Republicans (unsuccessfully) pitched as an amendment to the 2004 law — giving the governor the authority to appoint an interim Senator — only reinforces this opinion in my mind. As does the latest news I’ve read: that the proposal you may be voting on as early as tomorrow would mandate that any appointees would be of the same party as his or her predecessor.
This is standard in other states, I realize, and is meant to de-politicize such appointments, but in this instance I believe it very much politicizes the process. Mr. Kennedy requested that any appointee offer a personal guarantee that he or she would not run in the special election, specifically to avoid giving that individual an edge in the election. I understand the Legislature does not plan to formally support that request (a good thing as it is, by my understanding, unconstitutional anyway). I wish I could say I could not imagine Governor Patrick appointing, for example, Martha Coakley, as the interim Senator and would instead choose someone with no interest in running for the post, but frankly, my faith in my elected officials’ capacity to conduct business in an above-board manner has been greatly diminished over the past few years.
The argument I’ve heard from proposal supporters is that Massachusetts needs continuous representation in Congress. I cannot support that theory in light of the numerous votes Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Kerry missed because of, respectively, their health issues and Presidential campaign. According to data posted on Govtrack.us, Mr. Kennedy made only nine out of the 270 votes held in 2009 up until his passing. Mr. Kerry missed all but 40 out of 285 votes taken in the 12 months before the election, and missed all 42 votes in the three months immediately preceding the election.
To summarize, I do not believe there is a crucial need to fill Mr. Kennedy’s seat by gubernatorial appointment, nor do I believe that the current effort is geared toward serving the voters. Rather, I see it as making, for the second time in five years, amendments to a law based on current circumstances and a desire to maintain single-party rule. I urge you to fight to keep the law as it is and perhaps revisit the issue when there are no extenuating circumstances that, in perception or in reality, contaminate the noble intentions so many are trying to claim apply to the situation at hand.
Michael Bailey – unenrolled