Archive for March, 2012

Making Ballot Initiatives Saner

Rep. Denise Provost (27th Somerville) strikes the right and essential note with me. She is in for the long fight, if necessary, to make the ballot initiative process more reasonable and better for us all.

She joined us to speak to her bill H1830 and complementing legislation such as S12. These would bring us in line with other states as well as the original aims of plebiscites to amend our MA constitution or repeal and add laws.

Her 1830 would up the requirement to get an initiative in the works from 3% of votes cast in the last gubernatorial election to 7%. She is quick to note that not only is our current requirement the lowest among the 24 states and D.C. that have a form of the process, but that with fewer and fewer citizens actually casting ballots, the 7% roughly equals our original requirements. In our current system, about 1% of eligible voters can drive a petition to ballot. She explained the history of MA’s process from 1917.

Rep. Provost discussed how overly easy initiatives are “an end run about the legislative process,” without the public process and very little transparency. Particularly in the new post-Citizens United era, she noted that such ballots are “less and less about people and more and more about money.”

She delves into the criticisms of H1830 and S12 that would limit the subject matter for initiatives. For example, some groups chant, “Let the people vote!” and call increasing the signature requirements an “onerous” way of limiting grassroots democracy. In addition, she spoke to how interest groups have used paid signature gatherers to skew the process under the pretext of citizen movements.

Listen in as she decries “how our democratic process can be highjacked.” She also forecasts the current bills, which if they do not advance, will appear in the next legislative session.

I join her in a call to let people know, folk you influence and your legislators, that you support reforms here.


icon for podpress  Denise Provost [32:23m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download


Provost on Turning Down the Referendum Heat

A subject close to my heart, ballot initiatives, is the subject of next week’s show. MA Rep. Denise Provost joins us to talk about her effort to bring some sanity to plebiscites to amend the commonwealth constitution or repeal laws.

Her tack is pretty simple. Her bill H1830 would more than double the signatures required to advance an initiative toward the ballot — from 3% of the votes cast for governor in the last biennial election to 7%. For something as important as changing the constitution or repealing a law, that seems reasonable enough.

Special interests though, particularly some who would happily take away rights from other citizens are incensed. The quick and easy rousing of passions seems to suit them.

In one of my blogs, I’ve referred to such plebiscites as the flamethrower of populism. I look forward to hearing Rep. Provost describe her take on the process and how and why she would refine it.

If you can listen live, catch her Tuesday, March 27th at 2:30 PM Eastern here. Afterward, you can listen on demand at that URL, back here at Left Ahead or on our iTunes page.

If you want to prepare, you can browse the MA Constitution’s Article XLVIII. It sets out the current rules and process.



King Who Would Be Senator Podcast

Dropping note: OK, boys and girls, word at MassLive is that King decided to drop out of the race the day after our show with him. I hope it wasn’t something we said. Enjoy the commentary in that context.

Jim King does not accept being an afterthought candidate in the race for the Dem nomination to challenge US Sen. Scott Brown this fall. He figures his platform is the best, he’ll have enough money to compete, and he’ll get the 10,000 signatures and 15% of party delegates for the June convention. He intends to get on the September ballot, at the very least.

He takes strong positions, which he tends to back up with detailed historical and economic reasoning. Some, like energy independence and employment, he has particular passions for as well.

He told us plainly why he was in the race. “Number one is to beat Scott Brown,” he said. He believes the incumbent’s victory in the special election following Sen. Ted Kennedy’s death was an anomaly. He feels Kennedy “gave us a tremendous legacy,” one Brown has not done well by. He added that this position may not be Kennedy’s seat, “but he showed us how to use it.”

Click below to listen to King’s positions including:

  • Jobs — we need WPA/TVA-style public works projects as well as developing and expanding high-tech here
  • Casinos — no economic panacea
  • Corporate taxes — eliminate outdated subsidies like petroleum depletion and exploration credits, and make U.S. companies pay taxes on foreign holdings
  • Immigration — For non-violent/non-drug crime illegal immigrants, have them pay fines, make them follow the path to citizenship, and forget expensive, counterproductive long jail terms or deportation
  • Regressive politics — Brown among other GOP legislators are too often atavistic in promoting states-rights positions on health-care and more

King also believes that there is enough money to fund important development, like tidal power plants and wind turbines, without tapping the military budget. He acknowledges that self-interested Congress members might prefer to send money to pet projects, but he says, “Then let’s have a fight about it.”

His website has a clear, detailed section for each of his position.

icon for podpress  Jim King [32:04m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download


Jim King on Senate Race

Do not insert a king-of-the-hill joke here. We’re sure Boston lawyer and candidate for US Senate from MA Jim King has heard them.

He joins us Tuesday, March 20th at 2:30 PM to talk about his race. If you can listen live, click here then. Afterward, you can hear him on demand there, back here at Left Ahead and on our iTunes page.

Going for the Dem nomination to run against incumbent Scott Brown, King is undeterred by the high profile and sacks of cash co-candidate Elizabeth Warren has been getting. He and Marisa DeFranco joke in appearances that they are their own road show, at every forum and debate they can find. From one, background on his positions are in this forum coverage.

Listen in as we talk platform, campaign, party convention and strategy.


Hungry Brain Podcast: Dolan

Toward the end of today’s show, Mara Dolan aptly described herself as having a hungry brain. She just noted that a voter she was canvassing in her MA Senate run for 3rd Middlesex told her she didn’t have to know everything off the bat. She concurred and knows she loves adding to knowledge and skills.

Dolan has a background as state Democratic Party activist, attorney, and host of her Right Here, Right Now cable show. She recently completed the Emerge Massachusetts training to inspire and enable women to run for public office. When Sen. Susan Fargo decided not to run for re-election, Dolan was one of four Dems in the hunt. There are also two announced Republicans.

We’re early to her campaign, which officially kicks off on March 29th in Concord. Before then, her campaign website, which is just the splash/donate opening at the moment will detail her platform.

Listen in as she describes her district and her beginning emphasis on veterans, seniors, women, and health care. Many of these are Fargo’s issues too, but Dolan would like to expand and alter them. For example, she talks to increasing access to health care for minority women.

Another wrinkle is that she thinks “we need as Democrats to become the best party for supporting businesses.” A new emphasis here would include legislation to permit B Corporations, which have public-good components, which some states already allow. Click below to hear her speak of the benefits.

Our far-ranging session with her included her background, such as supporting herself from age 18. She firmly opposes MBTA fare increases and service cuts, as well as wanting sensible funding revision.

Despite her district’s spanning from gritty Chelmsford to tony Lexington, she said she firmly believes “we have much more in common” than differences. She claims to love the retail campaigning, which she says reinforces that, particularly in people’s stated issues.

The first scheduled candidate forum will be June 16th. She’s hoping and working for a lot of such gatherings. The primary will be on an unusual Thursday, September 6th, this year.

icon for podpress  Mara Dolan [30:07m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download


Buehrens on Equality Outlook Podcast

Long-term marriage equality warrior Rev. John Buehrens does not see smooth seas for that struggle, but to torture the nautical image, he is sure the ship will arrive…and sooner that many think. He’s served nine years on the board of Freedom to Marry and joined us today.

Listen in as he talks about the five states in play this year, with legislative votes or referenda in the works. Two are defensive actions.

He speaks of the trends favoring per-state and nationwide equality. That will of course include removing the Defense of Marriage Act. He also foresees the 14th Amendment (equal protection) coming into play as more courts base decisions using it.

He paints a picture of 10 states with equal marriage and 10 more with all-but-marriage legalization. He figures that will be the tipping point. Coupled with the slight and growing national support for equality, he sees that math as undeniable.

He discusses the big parties as well. He would be very surprised if the Dems did not include an equality plank in this year’s platform, even it it phrased in mild terms. For the Republicans, despite the current POTUS candidate rhetoric, he finds many GOP pols and legislators far from monolithic in opposing marriage equality.

Listen in as he touches on state-by-state and national trends and expectations.

icon for podpress  Buehrens [41:28m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download


Double Up Week with SSM and MA Sen. Hopeful

Compassion and ambition, humanity and candidacy up this week.

Monday, Rev. John Buehrens joins us at 2:00 to reflect and project on same-sex marriage by state and the nation. He has been on the board of Freedom to Marry for 9 years.

Tuesday, Mara Dolan, almost certainly with joy and eagerness about her announced candidacy for the MA Senate comes on the show. Dem activist, cable show host, and attorney, she was on recently to praise the Emerge Massachusetts program to train and encourage women to run for office. And now…

Obviously, these are two very different shows, but each guest as a progressive activist. Both shows will stream live and then be available on demand at their streaming URLs, back here at Left Ahead or on our iTunes page.

Monday, March 12th, catch Rev. Buehrens live at 2:00 PM Eastern here if you can.

Tuesday, March 13th, you can listen live to Dolan at 2:30 PM Eastern here.


State of SSM, Redo

We’re on for Rev. John Buehrens on national and state-by-state prospects for marriage equality. The show will be Monday, March 12th at 2 PM Eastern.

If you can listen live, click in then to this URL. It will be available on-demand afterward, here on Left Ahead, at the show URL, or on our iTunes page. John Buehrens

While many of us have been supporting same-sex marriage, Rev. Buehrens has been in the van of the struggle. Through his work on the board of Freedom to Marry, he’s fought and lost and won, coming to the show with powerful insights from 9 years at it.

He offers some encouragement after seeing much faster advances than he had expected. He carries no delusions this battle is over. He’ll tell us what to expect.