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2013 Law & Public Policy

This category contains 9 posts

Redistricting Boston: The need for a better approach

Glissman_smBy Daniel Glissman.  Download as PDF.  The object of electoral redistricting is to create a plan for districts that provides fair representation for all Boston residents.  The process of redistricting should also be open and inclusive. The City of Boston fell short on the latter score in its most recent redistricting plan, completed in October 2012.  The process was unnecessarily slow, complicated, and contentious. There is a better way to approach this task. Other major cities, such as San Diego, have an approach that is significantly more inclusive and more efficient. Continue reading

The online sales tax problem: Congress must act

PahujaPortrait.jpgBy Monisha Pahuja. Download as PDF.  Under current law, states cannot collect sales taxes from out-of-state retailers and the rapid growth in e-commerce is diverting an increasing share of sales taxes revenues from strained state budgets. Although state residents are required to self-report untaxed Internet purchases on their annual returns, states lack the ability to enforce compliance. Only federal legislation can resolve the online sales tax problem. If adopted, the Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013 would finally authorize states to recoup these revenue losses.

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Massachusetts must restore the safety net to protect homeless families

Zakim_smBy Deena ZakimDownload as PDF.  The State of Massachusetts recently finalized changes tightening eligibility for Emergency Assistance (EA). The Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) is shifting its focus towards providing permanent housing for homeless families, rather than emergency shelter. The department’s changes are well intentioned but hurt families in need. They must be fixed to protect families before they hit the streets. Continue reading

Closing Massachusetts’ skills gap

Farrell_smBy David H. Farrell. Download as PDF.  In late 2012, roughly 240,000 people were looking for work across Massachusetts, yet over 120,000 job openings remained unfilled. Too many of the Commonwealth’s workers lack the skills that are needed to fill the jobs that are available. The Patrick administration has recognized the need to fix this skills gap. More importantly, it has realized that community colleges are the way to close the gap and get people back to work. Recent reforms are a big step towards making this a reality. Continue reading

A change for the better: Retooling the New England ground fishery

Clinton_smBy Neil ClintonDownload as PDF.  After decades of overfishing, mismanagement, and decreasing stock sizes, fishermen, scientists, and regulators have found a way to work together in order to bring about significant change in the management of the country’s first and oldest fishery.  Better science, tempered with a more flexible management style, is ending an era of overfishing, and helping to rebuild ground fish populations in New England. Continue reading

Charting the MBTA’s path to financial viability

Crocombe_smBy Nigel CrocombeDownload as PDF.  This year, the MBTA faces the most daunting financial crisis in its history.  It must resolve immediate fiscal challenges including a $130 million budget deficit, $5.2 billion of structural debt, and a $4 billion maintenance backlog.  The MBTA is also experiencing surging ridership that threatens to overwhelm its aging infrastructure, and must complete several costly expansion projects.  Three steps are essential to secure the future of the MBTA: finding new dedicated revenue, reducing its debt burden, and emphasizing its proven ability to drive economic growth in Massachusetts. Continue reading

An early start to negotiating community agreements will aid host communities

Chorney_smBy David ChorneyDownload as PDF.  Municipal leaders and the Gaming Commission have disagreed about the pace of the process for licensing new casinos in the state, and at what point community agreements should be negotiated. The Commission has taken a cautious approach.  But timely negotiation of community agreements could foster a more competitive bidding process and mitigate delays in licensing. In February 2013, Springfield’s Mayor announced that the city will begin negotiating community agreements with two of the region’s casino applicants. Springfield’s decision is the right one. It will reduce the chance of delays in the licensing process and provide a more competitive bidding process. Continue reading

VMT: The real solution to Massachusetts’ transportation funding crisis?

Schmid_smBy Paul A. Schmid.  Download as PDF.  In January, Governor Deval Patrick unveiled an ambitious budget for fiscal year 2014.  The media has focused primarily on one of the budget’s cornerstones: the Governor’s plan to spend $1 billion more per year on transportation.  However, there is an innovative proposal buried deep within the transportation plan that deserves more attention.  The Governor’s proposal to launch a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) pilot program in Massachusetts is essential to long-term sustainability of state transportation funding. Continue reading

Massachusetts must prepare now for flooding

Mattison_smBy Erica H. Mattison. Download as PDF.  Hurricane Sandy was a wake-up call for Northeast U.S. cities.  Climate change is expected to increase the risk of severe storms and flooding in the coming years.  To safeguard its population and resources, Massachusetts needs to do more to prepare.  State officials and a number of other public and private players will need to take action.  The state can play an essential role in setting the agenda and bringing together key stakeholders.

Damage from Hurricane Sandy is estimated at $50 billion.  The disaster has contributed to a growing realization that the predicted impacts of climate change are upon us.  As greenhouse gases warm the planet, scientists say we can expect impacts such as sea level rise, increased storm surge, and increased rainfall, which are projected to make for more substantial and frequent flooding.  Over the next several decades, global mean sea level rise is expected to increase between eight inches and six feet. Continue reading

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