With just 10% of the seats in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, the Republicans don't usually rock the boat. In fact, aside from the yawning deficit, mounting unemployment, and soaring healthcare costs, the Massachusetts ship of state is on even keel, so up on deck it's smiles all around. Speaker DeLeo looks satisfied with his tame opposition, and Minority Leader Brad Jones's Ten Percenters show no signs of unseemly ambition (e.g. the desire to win more seats).
But in a startling turn of events on Beacon Hill last week the Republicans filed a bill (news enough, you might say) requiring public-school students to learn "the proper etiquette, correct use, and display of the [U.S.] flag." Not necessarily a bad idea but probably redundant: By the time they reach high school I think most students have worked out that in politics the correct use of the flag is to drape yourself in it.
So that was the big Republican legislative achievement last week. You will recall that last week culminated in the International Day of Climate Action, and thousands of Bay Staters marked the event by demanding political action to bring atmospheric CO2 down to the reasonably safe level of 350 parts per million. What kind of bills would a real opposition party have filed last week?
Here's one suggestion: a bill adopting California's Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) immediately. The LCFS limits CO2 emissions from energy plants to 500 grams per kilowatt hour, deterring the power companies from burning fossil fuels and enouraging them to switch to genuine renewables. The European Union adopted California's LCFS in 2008 but here in Massachusetts the Democrats are still only thinking about following suit with the process not scheduled to even get under way until early 2010.
A responsible opposition -- a real opposition -- would push the Democratic-controlled Legislature to adopt the Low Carbon Fuel Standard today, with an emergency preamble so that it could take effect immediately. Instead, we get a bill about flag education.
It doesn't have to be this way, but for so long as the only other political party in the Legislature is the Republican party, Massachusetts politics will continue to suffer from an opposition-shaped gap. We can fill that gap with Green legislators, and to get Green legislators we need brave Green candidates who will run grassroots, shoestring campaigns against well-known incumbents with bulging warchests. Any volunteers?