Friday, August 28, 2009

Massachusetts Legislature -- Huh?

When Republican Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts, and it appeared that John Kerry, our junior senator, might become president, the Legislature didn't want the Mittster naming a temporary replacement. So, it changed the law and prevented him from doing so by forcing an election for the office. I didn't see anything wrong with that: it's called using your power to prevent the opposition from gaining an advantage. There is no doubt that Romney would have chosen a Republican to fill the seat, replacing a Democrat in a state that is heavily Democratic. Thwarting the Republicans this way seems natural as both a matter of expediency and a matter of principle.

Now that Senator Kennedy has died, the issue has cropped up again. This time, there is a Democratic governor, and the state is still heavily Democratic. Furthermore, it is very important that the Democrats have as many votes as possible to back up President Obama's policies, which have the overwhelming support of Massachusetts voters. So why is the legislature having difficulty in restoring the governor's power to appoint a temporary successor? It seems like a no-brainer. However, I suspect that in a state so heavily Democratic, the usual two-party rivalry has been replaced by intraparty jealousies and bitterness. Governor Patrick has not gotten along with important factions within the legislature, who are consequently reluctant to give him any more power or prestige. This is yet another example of Democrats being self-destructive, undisciplined and clueless.

Of course, this is the same supposedly progressive legislature which finds it impossible to forbid text messaging while driving. What could be more of a no-brainer? Would any sane person like to be on the same roadway with a jerk who was trying to read or type a message on a tiny phone while driving? This is totally beyond my comprehension. I could understand the legislature's previous reluctance to pass drunk-driving laws with teeth, and for police and judges to fail to back up the laws already there. After all, lots of legislators in the Bay State, as well as judges and police officers, like their little nip(s) and probably couldn't see what all the fuss was about. When I served on the Middlesex Grand Jury, we had cases of drivers with a dozen DUI and similar convictions who were still on the road -- or at least until they finally killed or maimed someone. But texting? How many of our reps and senators are texters? No one can do it safely while driving, but I doubt that very many of them can do it even in the confines of their living room. So why don't they forbid this crazy practice? Sure beats the hell out of me (as we say in New England). Somebody explain this ... please.

(I have written to some of my reps but haven't gotten a reply yet.)

Here's what Utah has been doing: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/29/technology/29distracted.html?hp .

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