Five sensible bills
BY KRISTEN LOMBARDI
House Speaker Tom Finneran and his minions hold such a tight reign over the state’s House of Representatives that the body has become anti-democratic, say activists who are hosting a rally at the State House next Monday. Indeed. Five sensible bills, on issues ranging from domestic-partnership benefits to the environment, soared through the Senate months ago. But the House has yet to vote on them. Why? Because the Finneran brigade refuses to schedule them for debate on the House floor.
Advocates hoping to push the bills through before the 2001-’02 legislative session ends on July 31 will hold the rally July 22 at noon on the State House steps. They’re calling it the Rally for Democracy because " some in the [House] leadership have not wanted to see passage of progressive legislation, " explains Jeremy Pittman, chair of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Political Alliance of Massachusetts, which is co-sponsoring the event in conjunction with women’s-rights, environmental, and progressive groups. " They have used their positions to stop these bills, regardless of how widely supported they are and how good a cause they [promote]. "
Take, if you will, the domestic-partnership bill. For three sessions in a row, the Senate has passed legislation that would make it legal for municipalities to extend health-care benefits to the domestic partners of their gay employees. The House, under Finneran’s leadership, hasn't acted on the measure, even though a majority of House members support it. This, as Pittman diplomatically puts it, " seems somewhat illogical. We feel it’s time for this bill to pass. "
There are four other bills at issue for rally organizers: the first would extend the statute of limitations for filing sexual-harassment complaints; the second, a gender-neutral insurance bill, would require insurers to offer the same coverage to women as they do to men; the third would force the Swift administration to enforce those state environmental laws already on the books; and the fourth would provide legal protections to victims of sexual assault. All these initiatives have passed in the Senate at least once, if not two or three times — only to languish in the House.
Rally organizers hope their last-minute effort will succeed, and there’s reason to hope. Two years ago, at a similar rally, activists highlighted a bill to create demonstration-free buffer zones around abortion clinics, and the legislation ended up moving in the final days of the 1999-’00 session. " All of which is to say that last-minute organizing can have impact, " says Eric Weltman, of the Citizens for Participation in Political Action (CPPAX), another rally sponsor. " It’s not too late for these bills. "
He then adds, " This is an opportunity for people to come out and demand that honest bills get a House vote and that the State House get democratic reform. "
Those eager to voice this message should show up at the State House steps on Monday, July 22, at noon — or urge their state reps to push for getting these bills to the House floor. For more information, call CPPAX at (617) 426-3040.
Issue Date: July 18 - 25, 2002
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