Today is a big day - the last day of the current Massachusetts Legislative session. Bet you didn't know that, did you? Hardly anyone does.
Consistent with a long tradition of faithful procrastination in our legislature, a lot has been going on these last few days. Yesterday the Senate debated and passed an education "reform" bill full of meaningless half-measures - which is a good thing, since Governor Patrick's original "Readiness Project" proposal would have un-done many of the reforms that have made our public schools some of the best-performing in the nation. A non-bill is better than a bad bill, that's what I always say! The House is unlikely to act on the Senate bill today. There is a "criminal justice policy" bill kicking around. Lots going on, not much being done - again, in many ways a good thing. I'm not complaining!
Here's one thing that was done, though - the House again saved what Howie Carr likes to call the "High Hack Holidays" from the budget knife. You might remember that a few weeks back, in yet another too-late stab at getting the budget under control, Governor Patrick proposed a number of cuts, including elimination of the "Hack Holidays." You know about them, right? Bunker Hill Day and Evacuation Day: holidays "celebrated" only in Suffolk County (where Beacon Hill sits), with a blissful day off from work for government employees, who get to sit at home, presumably in solemn reflection on the historical import of the days, while the private sector and the rest of the state and the nation toil on. Every year the "Hack Holidays" are fodder for mild to moderate public outrage. Every year someone proposes their elimination. And every year, the Legislature brushes back those proposals. They already did that this year. How irritating it must have been for them to have to deal with it again!
With the state budget running on fumes and an election approaching that holds, for the first time in a long time, the distinct possibility of an anti-incumbent wave, some observers thought Patrick's latest proposal might be the end of the High Hack Holidays. But no. According to the State House News, the House simply ignored the proposal, declining to include it in the mini-budget bill the House budget panel considered last night. The elimination proposal (along with a much more substantive and controversial proposal to zero out funding for the Quinn Bill) went "unheeded" in the House, says the State House News.
In this economy, everyone is suffering. People are angry at the waste, profligate spending and corruption they see in their government. Beacon Hill understands that, and they are sharing the pain. Just ask your State Reps. They'll tell you.
But there are some traditions too important to cede to the Zeitgeist. Allowing Massachusetts State employees two days a year when they can stay home and munch Doritos in front of Oprah while the rest of us head off to work is apparently one of those traditions.
The next election is in less than a year. I'm just saying.