Every two years the Legislature rushes to the end of its session like procrastinating high school students cramming for finals. Good bills get lost and voters are failed.
Two years should provide plenty of time for full-time legislators to conduct their business, but last weekend's rush meant bleary-eyed lawmakers acted hastily on some bills that needed more attention and never got to some worthy bills at all. The problem is largely the game of chicken Democratic House and Senate leaders play right to the brink to attempt to get their favored versions of legislation through.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo said Tuesday that he regretted not getting a bill on charter school caps through the Legislature, leaving the complex decision to the blunt force of a November referendum question (Eagle, August 3). The speaker-for-life should regret it, but that failure and the failure of other bills to come to votes is his doing more than that of Senate President Stanley Rosenberg. Referring to the House's dawdling in the Boston Globe, state Senator Benjamin Downing of Pittsfield said "A convenient and unnoticed byproduct of that [strategy] is that doing as little as possible happens to line up with the priorities of government and some of the special interests, business groups in particular."
A bill addressing the noncompete clauses that hamper technology entrepreneurs came tantalizing close to passage but stalled. So did a bill that would have freed small craft breweries from unfair and outdated laws favoring distributors. Raising the minimum legal sales age for tobacco sales from 18 to 21 should have passed easily but the clock ran out. Beacon Hill was certainly not without accomplishments (see editorial below) but gamesmanship and procrastination prevented lawmakers from doing so much more.