Forward Thinking

Rabbi Jonah Pesner Mulls Massachusetts Senate Run

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Jonah Pesner

A rabbi passed over last year for the leadership of the Reform movement thinks he might have better luck running for the U.S. Senate.

Rabbi Jonah Pesner, a senior vice president at the Union for Reform Judaism, told the Boston Phoenix on January 7 that he is considering entering the special election to replace Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), whom President Obama has nominated to be secretary of state.

Pesner could not immediately be reached for comment by the Forward.

A Reform rabbi, Pesner is a longtime social justice organizer in Massachusetts. The former head of Just Congregations, the Reform movement’s organizing arm, he’s also worked as a leader of the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, an organizing group.

The Forward reported in 2011 that Pesner was one of two finalists in the URJ’s search for a new president. The organization went with the other finalist, Rabbi Richard Jacobs.

“Our work has just begun,” Pesner wrote in a March 2011 email to friends congratulating Jacobs when he was picked.

If he does run, Pesner will face a packed field. Potential opponents include Democrat Ed Markey, a longtime Massachusetts congressman, and Republican Scott Brown, the state’s former Senator.

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Can States Nullify Fed Law on Health? How 'bout Pot?

By J.J. Goldberg

getty images
Gov. Rick Scott (R-Fla.)

Florida’s Tea Party-backed Gov. Rick Scott announced that he will refuse to implement the Affordable Healthcare Act, despite President Barack Obama’s reelection. Refusing to set up a state exchange doesn’t necessarily matter that much, since the law empowers the federal government to set up an exchange for states that fail to do so on their own. But more than half the expanded coverage in the law is supposed to come from a federally-subsidized expansion of Medicaid. So if Scott refuses to permit his state’s Medicaid to be expanded despite the federal subsidy (the feds cover 100% of the cost of expansion through 2016, dropping to 90% by 2020 – not a big burden on the states), then the impact of the law is crippled.

Conservative groups are urging other governors to refuse.

This raises an interesting question. State nullification of federal law was supposed to have been settled by the Civil War, but it’s suddenly become a big issue again. And not just on the right. The legalization of marijuana in a growing (get it?) number of states is setting up a serious confrontation with Washington, which still classifies weed as a Class I illegal narcotic, right alongside heroin, and is still raiding growers even in states where they’re acting legally.

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