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Are Democrats the Problem, or Just State House Democrats?

We’re nearing the end of Governor Deval Patrick’s first legislative year. The General Court’s long vacation begins on November 21, and most of the decisions have already been made. Let’s check the score.

During the election last fall, I doubted that Patrick could corral the legislature. The early returns certainly seemed to confirm my fears. The picture hasn’t improved. Very few of Patrick’s proposals have moved forward. This article quotes Patrick’s frustrations, and outlines several of his proposals that haven’t moved forward. Biotech, closing corporate loopholes, and his education plan are all immobile. The barest minimums of pension and health plan changes made it through. Casinos are up next and not moving quickly.

Truth be told, I’m glad some of those proposals have stalled. I’m not a fan of government investment in private industry. But still, we’re about to finish our first year of one-party rule. The Democrats control every statewide office and 88% of the legislature. What do they have to show for it? A budget? Anything else?

The budget is worth a paragraph all by itself. Did you know that the legislature overrode several of Patrick’s line item vetoes, spending tens of millions? Under Romney, veto overrides were routine with the lopsided Democrat majority. This year, Patrick’s vetoes got the same treatment, sometimes with Patrick getting only Republican support for his veto. I didn’t see this reported in any mainstream press stories, but you can read about it in the Beacon Hill Roll call. Check your September 27th Advocate, or any other paper that carries the Roll Call. Line items for Adult Day Care Health, Fire Services (Boston), and Workforce Development Program were all overridden this summer.

Next year is a presidential election, so the state issues are likely to be overshadowed. But three years from now, during the next state office cycle, what are we going to be talking about? Will Patrick and the legislature make peace? Will they run against each other? Will it have been three more years of no progress, painted over with smiles and party unity? Or will there actually be a list of accomplishments?

Here’s my answer. Patrick is thinking of modifying the police detail rules that cost tax payers and rate payers, but pay police officers. It’s not a big money issue, but it’s a big political issue. If he makes this change it’s a sign that the rules have changed. If the policy stays untouched, it will be a clear sign of business as usual.