May 23 was an exciting day for MACDC as the Massachusetts House of Representatives voted 150-0 to pass a new "Jobs Bill" that included the Community Development Partnership Act. This was a major milestone in our campaign to pass this ground breaking and game changing bill that will bring the community development field to new levels of scale and impact. And it was a strong testament to the power of a well organized, grass roots advocacy campaign.
At the same time, while I sat in the Gallery watching the House of Representatives debate the "jobs bill" legislation, I recalled sitting in the same place with Judy Kelliher in 2001 as we watched the House approve a budget amendment appropriating $2.9 million for the CEED program - a program that provided flexible funding for CDCs. We sat there giggling like school children as the House voted 153-0 on an amendment sponsored by Rep. Kevin Fitzgerald. It was the culmination of a terrific grassroots campaign by our members to win legislative support for their work. Two months later, the Senate approved the same level of funding.
Sadly, the House-Senate Budget conference committee was unable to resolve their disputes for months and when the state budget imploded following the terrorist attacks of September 11, the final state budget was approved with just $1 million for CEED. And then Governor Swift vetoed it down to $500,000. A year later, CEED was completely eliminated from the state budget.
Sadly, Kevin and Judy are no longer with us, but I can hear their voices now telling me not to get too happy with the House vote. Reminding me that passing the House achieves nothing if we don't also get the bill through the Senate and signed by the Governor.
I'm confident that this year will be different. For one thing, we were able to win in the House this year because we had strong support from Speaker DeLeo whereas in 2001 we won the vote despite Speaker Thomas Finneran, who was then able to remove the funding in the Conference Committee. Moreover, we now have support from Governor Patrick so we don't have to worry about a veto like the one issued by Governor Swift. Still, we need to work even harder to win passage in the Senate and to see this bill reach the Governor's desk before the legislature adjourns on July 31.
May 23 was indeed a good day.
It will be a great day when Governor Patrick signs the Community Development Partnership Act into law.