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Mass. lawmakers have two bosses, heed one (hint: it’s not the voters)

A clock hangs in the State House.Carlin Stiehl for The Boston Globe

The article “Lawmakers show little concern over sleepy start” (Page A1, May 30) astutely captured the problem of worsening inertia on Beacon Hill, with few bills, few votes, and almost no debate in the session so far. As the article points out, the over-centralization of power on Beacon Hill is a key culprit.

I often underscore that the State House suffers from a “two bosses” problem. In most jobs, the person who can hire and fire you is the same as the person who controls your pay. But for legislators, we — the public — are the ones who can choose, through our votes, to hire and fire elected officials, and legislative leadership, through committee chairs and other perks, are the ones who control the pay, with a scale that has become even more hierarchical in recent years.


With Massachusetts having the least competitive elections in the country, it’s no surprise which “boss” speaks loudest to legislators, but we all lose out from the lack of urgency around the many crises our state faces, from the growing costs of child care to the affordable housing crisis to a transit system in desperate need of care.

Jonathan Cohn


The writer is policy director of Progressive Massachusetts.