Reporter's Notebook: State Senate campaign foes differ on House tax bill vote

The two House lawmakers vying for former state Sen. Jack Hart’s seat ended up on opposite sides of a tax bill debate on Monday.

The $500 million tax bill passed the House by a 97-55 vote, short of the veto-proof majority that House Speaker Robert DeLeo was hoping for. Gov. Deval Patrick, who is pushing his own $1.9 billion tax hike proposal, has vowed to veto the measure. His plan includes investments in both transportation and education, while the House plan, also supported by Senate leaders, focuses on transportation financing.

State Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry, a Dorchester Democrat, voted for the House bill, while state Rep. Nick Collins, a South Boston Democrat, voted against it.

Patrick has been unsparing in his criticism, calling the House-Senate plan a “pretend fix.” The legislative plan seeks to “raise the state’s gas tax by three cents, increase the per-pack cigarette tax by $1, and impose new taxes on utility companies, software services, and out-of-state corporations doing business in Massachusetts,” according to the State House News Service. Patrick’s package, on the other hand, seeks to raise the income tax while lowering the sales tax, creating new business taxes and eliminating some tax deductions.

Progressive Massachusetts, a group opposed to the House and Senate tax bill, endorsed Dorcena Forry last week. But its campaign director, Ben Wright, expressed disappointment on Tuesday after the House vote. “The good news? We got the votes we will need to sustain Governor Patrick’s ultimate veto,” he said in an e-mail to the group’s supporters. “The bad news? Too many of our progressives allies voted the wrong way.”

Dorcena Forry defended her vote, saying most of the House’s progressives supported the bill. She supports the governor’s $1.9 billion plan, but that was not the proposal in front of House lawmakers on Monday night, she said.

The House bill prevents fare hikes and moves transportation employees onto the state’s operating budget, she argued. “It’s not enough,” added Dorcena Forry, who is married to Reporter editor Bill Forry. “This is the first step.” The bill is now in the Senate, she noted. “It’s not the last bite at the apple.”

Collins said the House bill “didn’t cover the needs of the district,” like cleaning up the Shaffer Paper site in Port Norfolk. “When we’re voting on revenue, you want to see a return on investment,” he said.

He pointed to a few amendments he unsuccessfully tried to attach to the House bill: One would have required universities to buy MBTA passes for their students, generating $125 million in revenue.
Another would have generated $40 million by closing a loophole used by developers who form a limited liability company (LLC) to avoid paying excise taxes on home sales, he said.

“I’m looking to improve the quality of life, not the cost of living,” Collins said.

Maureen Dahill, a South Boston Democrat who is also running for the open state Senate seat, said that she supported “reform before revenue.” "It's about advocating for services and jobs in the district before voting on a tax increase," she said.

Joseph Ureneck, a Dorchester Republican, has said he opposes tax increases until government waste is cleared away.

Endorsement Corner: Candidates get report card; Collins picks up more unions

The NAACP’s New England Area Conference issued a report card in the First Suffolk Senate race, doling out an “A-plus” for Rep. Dorcena Forry and slamming Rep. Collins with an “F.” Part of the grade was based on a vote on a three-strikes bill, which eliminated parole eligibility for some repeat violent offenders. Several hundred non-violent drug offenders were made eligible for parole under the bill, a final version of which Gov. Deval Patrick signed into law. Collins voted for the bill, Dorcena Forry voted against it. Opponents of the bill said it would disproportionately impact minorities.

NEAC said Collins did not respond to a letter from the organization, so the group has “no way to evaluate his understanding of issues important to communities of color.” The report card did not include the other two candidates in the race: Dahill and Ureneck.

The Collins campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the NEAC issue Wednesday morning. The Collins camp said earlier this week that they’ve picked up the endorsements of the Greater Boston Labor Council, the Massachusetts Nurses Association and AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) Local 93.

Dot activist eyeing an at-large seat

A Dorchester community activist is expected to run for one of the four City Council At-Large slots. Gene Gorman, a New Jersey native who grew up in North Carolina and moved to Savin Hill in 2005, said on Tuesday that he will pull nomination papers for an at-large run. “It is an opportunity for people with new perspectives,” Gorman said.

City Councillor At-Large John Connolly announced for mayor in February, before Thomas Menino said he would not be seeking a sixth term. Another city councillor at-large, Felix Arroyo, said this week he will also run for mayor.

Gorman, who lives with his wife and two children in Melville Park, has been involved with Savin Hill baseball, Dorchester Youth Soccer, the Mary Brett Food Pantry, the Dorchester Historical Society, and the Roger Clap Innovation School. He noted that candidates for public office often talk about how to get people to stay in the city. He has faced that choice himself, he said, eventually deciding to stay and moving from Savin Hill to Melville Park in 2010. “I know the things that went into that decision,” he said.

Gorman is a registered Democrat who recently earned his PhD in English and previously worked as a reporter, high school teacher.


Candidates can run for both City Council and the mayor’s seat

Attention possible mayoral candidates who don’t want to give up their City Council seat: You can pull papers, obtain signatures, and qualify for both, then appear on the ballot for both. You just can’t serve both jobs.

The Jamaica Plain Gazette’s Peter Shanley explained in last week’s edition: “According to the Mayor’s Office, a city councilor can run for both positions, but must take out two sets of nomination papers and garner two sets of signatures. If elected as both a city councilor and a mayor, the official would have to decide which position to serve.”

Aside from the amount of work that would have to go into signature-gathering for both offices – 3,000 for mayor, plus the number needed for the current office, since it varies – the optics of running for both offices seem terrible. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Check out updates to Boston’s political scene at The Lit Drop, located at dotnews.com/litdrop. Material from State House News Service was used in this report. Email us at newseditor@dotnews.com and follow us on Twitter: @LitDrop and @gintautasd.