Legislative Leaders “Duped”by Registry Fee

Murray, Baddour, Wagner  Surprised By Fee – Which Had A Public Hearing Months Ago

After two days of outrage and political posturing, Governor Deval Patrick has acquiesced and rescinded the unpopular $5 registry fee which went into effect on Monday, March 1.  While I do not shy away from criticizing this administration, he has at least stood up and admitted that he made a mistake.  The Legislative leadership has taken a different tact – and it is misleading at best.

Representative Joseph Wagner, Chair of the House Transportation Committee said he was “angry” about this, and people were caught by “surprise”.   Senate Transportation Chair Stephen Baddour said the state should not be nickel and diming people and said if the Governor did not revoke the fee – the Senate would.  Senate President Therese Murray indicated she “didn’t even know it happened until (she) read it” in the newspaper.  

The law requires that Registry fees can only be raised after a public hearing, and if you listen to these prominent leaders, you would assume those hearings never happened.  How could they have held hearings if the Transportation Chairs were surprised and angry, and the Senate President did not know it had happened?  They lashed out at the Governor and made themselves seem, rather convincingly, like the rest of us – duped.  These three leaders for example, have more than 45 years in the Legislature combined – and they ought to know better.

What they fail to say – and attempt to hide – is that these hearings were held and they simply did not pay attention.   Where is the transparency in our state government?  Why do we consistently rely on the media and individuals to shine the spotlight on the dark hallways of the State House?  Are fees and taxes raised so frequently that no one notices up there?

Corruption has never been worse on Beacon Hill, and while your State Representative or Senator may not be the one caught in scandal, so many of these career legislators have contributed to the distrust we have of Beacon Hill.  When they cannot make a simple admission of a mistake – and aim to correct it, then they have not only become part of the problem, they have become the problem.

The Governor has admitted his error and corrected it.  I give kudos to him for eventually getting it right, publicly and without mincing words.  Our experienced and wily legislative leaders should be ashamed.  Either they simply were not paying attention when the Governor raised fees, or worse, they knew full well and tried to mislead us.  Either way, we deserve better.  Maybe greater transparency on Beacon Hill is just as important as ending the corruption that clouds our State House.  

Tom Keyes

Tom is a management, ethics and compliance consultant running for the Plymouth and Barnstable Senate seat.   A former selectman and current member of the Barnstable County Assembly of Delegates, Keyes lives in Sandwich with his wife and two children.

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