Room 473-B
State House
Boston, MA 02133
Telephone: (617) 722-2230
District Office
585A Main St.
Winchester, MA 01890
Telephone: (617) 721-7285 or (617) 438-7185

A View from the Hill

CONTACT: Tom Nolan (617) 722-2230 e-mail:

A Tale of Two Capitols

It has been said that a misty morning does not signify a cloudy day. These words could not be more appropriate as we begin a new session in the Massachusetts Legislature in the wake of last weekend's dreadful slushy deluge. On January 6, the halls of the State House took on some fresh faces during the inauguration ceremonies as twenty-one "freshmen" Representatives officially joined the ranks of the remaining 131 experienced law-makers to comprise the 181st Legislature for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The House team will be guided for a second term under the astute leadership of Thomas M. Finneran, who was resoundingly re-elected as Speaker of the House.

Last session, we in the House raised the bar of success in passing some very positive and influential laws, including the largest tax cut in the history of this state. While those achievements will surely create greater expectations for the new session, I am confident that the new legislature can and will build on its successes.

One major factor in the productivity of the state government has been the predominance of professional bipartisanship among the legislative and executive members. Not that the majority and minority leaders in the House and Senate agreed on everything. In fact, the prior session generated some of the most heated debates at the rostrum and in the halls. Our legislative system is, after all, predicated upon the free discussion of ideas. Yet, despite the ideological differences on substantive issues, there was never a lack of respect among colleagues. That type of mutual respect and the ability to negotiate when necessary, was instrumental in achieving landmark legislation in the areas of tax policy, education, state finances, environmental protection and public safety. In fact, as House Chairman of the Committee on Public Safety, I had the privilege of participating in spirited, yet collegial debate on a number of bills, involving some highly emotional issues such as gun control and teen driving.

The sense of hope and anticipation that swept the Massachusetts State House last week was in stark contrast to the heavy clouds that hung over our nation's Capitol, as the United States' Senate prepared for the first day of its trial proceedings following the House impeachment of the President. The bitter partisan rivalries that have resulted has crippled the federal government. Congress has seemingly become mired in personal vendettas and conspiracy theories, making it difficult to pass any constructive measures over the past year. Unfortunately, it appears that Congressional members have become so embittered by the recent proceedings, that productivity may be stalled for some time as federal legislators take firm allegiances to their party lines.

This type of suspicious rivalry that has been festering on Capitol Hill was nowhere to be seen on Beacon Hill last week. In his opening address to the new legislators Speaker Finneran set the tone by welcoming the new Minority Leader, Francis Marini (R-Hanson), and advising members to think of their colleagues as extended family members. Senate President Thomas Birmingham similarly called upon the new Senators to adhere to a civil code for their behavior and dealings with each other.

These were choice words of advice, particularly for the newcomers who are often full of energy and ready for battle. It is imperative that we continue to foster the good will that permeated the inauguration ceremonies as we debate the issues that our Commonwealth faces while the sun sets on the 20th Century. Of the several legislative priorities anticipated for this session, there are a few issues that are sure to take greater precedence as the new millennium dawns. Reforms in health care, education and insurance are sure to head a long list of initiatives, along with economic and community development and tackling the "Y2K" bug. History illustrates that issues such as these require level-headedness and sensible negotiation and debate to achieve workable solutions. History also proves that when such standards are maintained, constructive policies prevail.

On the Committee level, we are just beginning the process of summarizing and reviewing the hundreds of Public Safety oriented bills that will affect law enforcement, highway safety, fire departments, prison sentences, firearms safety, school buses and more. As Chairman, I intend to uphold the principles of civility and reasoned scrutiny as each bill is considered. It is my hope that through spirited debate, we can achieve landmark legislation in Public Safety on issues involving the civil commitment of sexual predators, the implementation of a Prison Industry Enhancement program, and the establishment of alternative sentencing for non-violent offenses, while enhancing programs currently in place such as Community Policing, DARE and SAFE.

The last decade has been extraordinary in the legislative history of the state of Massachusetts. Wise and disciplined leadership, coupled with professionalism and respect for each other, has transformed the reputation of the Commonwealth from being fiscally irresponsible, to a haven for growth and investment. In short, we have moved from national laughing stock to a national leader. We have fixed our finances, balanced our budgets, saved our schools, trimmed our taxes and invested in our children and in our futures.

In this tale of two capitols, we have seen one government rise to the occasion, while one appears to be subject to feuding parties entrenched in battle against each other. A major component to the success of the smaller, hidden though it may be, is the civility that has predominated over the legislative process during the past several years. I am honored to have been a part of the remarkable transformation of the Commonwealth, but I am also very aware of the many challenges, both known and unknown, that lie ahead. As we enter the new session, I look forward to working with my new and old colleagues in meeting these challenges in health care, education and the economy as we lead Massachusetts into the 21st Century. With civility, cooperation, and an understanding that one's colleagues are operating in good faith, I am confident that we in the House will continue to build on the progress we have made to ensure that Massachusetts remains a national leader. It is time that the "larger" capitol in Washington follow our lead.

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