Three Upper Cape state legislators discussed priorities and policy with a nearly full house at the Falmouth Public Library Tuesday evening, May 1.
The League of Women Voters of Falmouth hosted the “Meet Your Legislators” event that included state representatives Dylan A. Fernandes (D-Falmouth) and David T. Vieira (R-Falmouth) and State Senator Viriato M. (Vinny) deMacedo (R-Plymouth).
Among the topics the legislators discussed were housing affordability, the short-term rental tax to help address water quality issues and net metering of surplus power in the public-utility power grid.
Regarding his support of the recently passed criminal justice reform bill, Rep. Fernandes said “it was maybe my proudest vote” and called it “nation-leading legislation.”
Rep. Vieira, who also supported the bill, likened it to recent criminal justice reform efforts by the Texas state government.
“They went from ‘tough on crime’ to ‘smart on crime,’ ” he said.
Sen. deMacedo said that he supported the bill but had concerns about “provisions that did not survive committee.”
He said the bill was an excellent example of the state Legislature finding consensus and balance.
When discussing S.2302, an act to promote a clean energy future, which the Senate Committee on Ways and Means is still debating, Sen. deMacedo said the bill is so broad at present that there is still a lot of pushback against it in the Legislature.
“My concern is, if it’s not more narrow in scope, [the bill] is going to run into a logjam and won’t pass by July 31 [when the current Legislative session ends],” he said.
The bill’s restriction of natural gas piping in Massachusetts is of particular concern to many legislators, he said.
Rep. Vieira said that there is no consensus on the bill in the Legislature at this time and urged attendees to look beyond the July 31 deadline.
“We need time to work out compromises to move the mark for the next session,” he said.
Rep. Fernandes said he supported the bill, which he said might be combined with an environmental bill he sponsored last year in the House to allow Massachusetts to join the Paris Climate Agreement as a non-party stakeholder.
During the question-and-answer period, Sen. deMacedo clarified his stance on the clean energy bill and natural gas.
While natural gas might not be an ideal transitional fuel to move the state from coal and oil to 100 percent renewable energy, he said “we have to get there” and that current renewable sources are not enough to meet demand.
One of the last questions of the evening was about whether Governor Charles D. Baker Jr. should be reelected in the November election.
Sen. deMacedo said that Gov. Baker’s widespread popularity stems from his ability to “listen to everyone.”
“We all have a seat at the table [under the governor],” he said. “Rather than moving to the extremes, we must get to the middle to work together.”
Compromise, he said, is “not a dirty word” but “makes government work.”
Rep. Vieira said he admired the governor’s ability to “manage the commonwealth” and to “make the trains run on time” by “reaching across the aisle” when needed.
“The executive and legislative branches have a working relationship now,” he said, contrasting the current situation with what he said was a rift between the branches under former Democratic Governor Deval L. Patrick’s administration.
Rep. Fernandes was more critical of the governor’s successes, saying that he would like to see “more leadership and a compelling vision” and not simply management.
“I’m a progressive guy,” he said, “and I’d like to see Massachusetts leading in passing transformational, nation-leading legislation.”
He included moving to 100 percent renewable energy and adopting single-payer health care as examples of such legislation.
“We might not ever get there with Charlie Baker,” he said.
The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan political organization encouraging informed and active participation in government. It influences public policy through education and advocacy.