THE REFUSAL of the Massachusetts State Senate's Ways and Means Committee to free Chapter 842, the state-wide rent-control enabling act, for a vote by the Senate is a disgraceful abuse of power in high places. Thousands of tenants depend on the law to maintain stable rents and to prevent unfair evictions by landlords. Without it rents would almost certainly undergo an immediate hike. Keeping the bill in committee at a time when its expiration date is drawing near will kill it, and so silence the voices of tenants and their supporters in the Senate on an issue that affects many lives profoundly.
The committee's refusal not only defies the interests of this particular bill's supporters; it establishes a dangerous precedent for stifling debate on any subject. For although the state's House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the extension of 842, and although observers predict the same outcome if the bill could ever reach the Senate for a vote, state-wide rent control will die next week because this committee is opposed to simply airing the issue. There is no reason to believe that the committee is acting on a mere whim. And there is no reason to believe that the progressive interests of the people of Massachusetts will not be similarly thwarted in future cases. The committee has shown its willingness to stop debate, even where it should be most encouraged.