In September 1928, Rep. Birmingham faced a tough renomination fight for his Ward 22 seat from Paul R. Rowen (Boston Globe, Sept. 19, 1928, p. 4).
Birmingham won 2,963 votes to Rowen’s 2,301 and Thomas H. McVey's 293 votes.
The Boston Globe described the contest as “one of the bitterest fights the district has ever known,” but provided no additional details.
The contest for the other Brighton district, Ward 21, was won by incumbent Martin Hayes. He won the nomination by only 150 votes. His opposition, Harold J. Oppenheim, was backed by Governor Fuller.
The paper explained that the nomination in each district was equivalent to the election.
Birmingham put on a “great victory parade” soon after he was declared the winner.
Rep. Birmingham sent a letter US Sen. David I. Walsh asking Walsh to speak with the U.S postal authorities to restore the ability to collect and sort mail to the Brighton and Allston post offices (Boston Globe, July 20, 1928, p. 5).
Previously, the postal authorities took these duties away from the stations and moved the work to the Brookline post office.
Since the change, there had been delay in the mail reaching its destination, and the residents have complained about the delays.
Sen. Walsh responded to Birmingham’s letter in which he proposed to take up the issue with the federal postal authorities and tell Birmingham when he receives a response, the Globe reported (Aug. 7, 1928, p. 10).
Rep. Birmingham spoke in favor of abolishing the death penalty on the House floor, the Boston Globe reported (March 10, 1927, p. 19).
Birmingham said repealing the death penalty was a matter of paramount importance. It was not a question of condoning crime; in fact, he favored swift and severe punishment for those found guilty.
He opposed any sentence that could not be revoked. He also questioned whether the death penalty had a deterrent effect on criminals.
Birmingham accused the state of being responsible for three murders in the car barn murder case. In that case, John J. Devereaux, John J. McLaughlin, and Edward J. Heinlein were convicted in the murder of James H. Ferneau, a watchman on duty at the Boston and Middlesex Street Railway office in Waltham, during a 1925 robbery, and put to death.
Birmingham opined that if they had been granted a new trial, they would have been found guilty of second degree murder only and likely would have received a life sentence.
Rep. William H. Hearn of Boston moved to substitute a bill that would put the question of whether capital punishment should be abolished on the ballot at the next annual election. He said that voters should be able to express their opinion on the issue. He stressed that he would not vote for a bill abolishing the death penalty without the referendum.
Rep. Thomas R. Bateman of Winchester raised a point of order that the Hearn amendment was beyond the scope of the petition. Rep. Louis L. Green of Cambridge moved postponement of further consideration to the end of the calendar year. The newspaper said the issue would probably be debated on March 10.
Rep. Birmingham was appointed as a member of the State Shellfish Commission, the Boston Globe reported Aug. 2, 1928 (p. 5).
The commission’s task was to study shellfish conditions along the Massachusetts coast from Newburyport to Cape Cod.
The commission was appointed by the House Speaker and had a budget of $10,000 to carry out the study.
Rep. Birmingham served on a special committee that was set up to investigate car schedules, car stops, crowded conditions, and other issues with the Elevated Railway Company ('L'), the Boston Globe reported Jan. 4, 1928, p. 19.
Other members included City Councillor Edward M. Gallagher, Association President Thomas E. Kiley, Lewis L. Martinson, and Louis Sigismund.
The special committee was appointed by the Faneuil Improvement Association to investigate transit in the Brighton district. The associate held its regular meeting on Jan. 3 at the Faneuil Branch Public Library. There were 115 members present at the meeting.
At a previous association meeting, members of the public had complained about poor service, crowd conditions, and lack of car stops on the Elevated Railway transit system.
In response, the company acted to improve car stop facilities in the district and it assured the association that it planned other improvements suggested by the association.
The committee reported that it had studied conditions on various street corners and had made general observations, checking the crowds and counting the cars. The committee concluded that the situation was not as bad as it had been painted, the paper said.
Rep. Birmingham’s bill to apply Sunday observation to Armistice Day was passed by the House by a vote 104 to 100 on Feb. 6, 1929, the Boston Globe reported (Feb. 7, 1929, p. 7).
The bill was a substitute for an adverse committee report, which had recommended against applying Sunday observation to Armistice Day.
Before the vote, Birmingham spoke in favor of the bill, along with Rep. Charles Page of Boston, Rep. John Derham of Uxbridge, and Rep. Alfred Ingalls of Lynn.
Speaking against the bill, Rep. Maynard E. S. Clemons of Wakefield, Rep. Elmer Spear of Everett, Rep. Martha Brooks of Gloucester, Rep. Joseph Finnegan of Boston, and Rep. Clarence Luitwieler.
The bill was set to go to the Senate for further action.
Democratic House members held a caucus June 2 at the request of Gov. Joseph Ely to consider the Ways and Means Committee’s tax program, the Boston Globe reported (June 3, 1932, pp. 1, 17).
Rep. Birmingham read a communication from Ely to the House Democratic caucus urging it to support the committee’s tax program. However, the caucus voted not to accept the program in its entirety.
The committee’s tax program included an additional $2 poll tax, salary reductions for state and county employees, and a 10 percent supplement on income taxes.
Eli also said in the communication that if the caucus could not support the plan, it should formulate its own tax program.
The caucus then took up individual items in the committee's plan. The caucus voted down the provision for a state and county employee pay reduction, but it approved a 10 percent increase on personal income, corporation, and public utility taxes.
The caucus voted in favor of a more sweeping proposal to increase by 10 percent all taxes and license fees imposed by the state, which would automatically take in the 10 percent tax increase on the personal income, corporate, and public utility taxes.
In his communication, Ely expressed opposition to a proposal by Rep. Pratt to put a tax on stocks and bonds and other forms of intangibles. Rep. Pratt had proposed a bill that would have provided for a $20 million state bond issue to assist cities and towns in public welfare relief as a substitute for the committee’s tax plan.
The caucus appointed a committee of seven to make a report to Gov Ely about its recommendations. Committee members included Reps. Birmingham, Charles H. Slowey of Lowell, Patrick Moore of Pittsfield, John V. Mahoney of Boston, Timothy J. Cronin of Cambridge, Joseph P. White of Boston, Paul A. Dever of Cambridge, and Frank E. Rafter of Salem.
The alternative tax program proposed by the Democratic caucus included taking $2 million from the gasoline tax receipts or highway fund to provide public welfare relief to the cities and towns, imposing a 10 percent tax on the total amount of all income taxes paid, a 10 percent tax on all fees collected by the state, and an excise tax of 1 cent on every 10 cigarettes.
Rep. Birmingham opposed taking power away from the Boston City Council to grant permits, during a Jan. 22 hearing of the Legislative Committee on Legal Affairs (Boston Globe, Jan 23, 1929, p. 1, 8).
The committee was considering two bills that would take the power to grant permits for Sunday professional sports away from the City Council.
One bill, sponsored by Rep. A. B. Casson, would give the power for issuing permits to the mayor, Boston Police Commissioner, and the Chief Justice of the Municipal Court. The other bill, sponsored by Rep. George Gilman, would give the power to Boston Licensing Board with approval of the Police Commissioner.
Sen. Robert E. Bigney of South Boston spoke in opposition to the bills and commented on the so-called Sunday baseball scandal. “The chairman of the Boston Finance Commission deserves a vote of public censure for announcing the names of 12 men without any evidence to back up the charges. Such announcement branded them in the eyes of the public,” said Bigney.
Birmingham testified that he was opposed in principle to taking power from elected officials.
City Councilor Israel Ruby said: “The people, when they voted in favor of the measure, showed they desired to have the City Council make rules and regulations governing Sunday sports. It is not fair for the legislature to take away what they did not see fit to give the people at the last session. Why should Boston be discriminated against in this manner? There was no hue and cry when other communities failed to accept the act. We accepted the act,” he said.
Councilor John F. Dowd of Roxbury added that the people who voted for the referendum knew the council would issue the permits. “But now the legislature wants to step in and take away what little power is left.”
Rep. Birmingham charged that the taxicab situation could have been straightened out years ago by the police commissioner if he had wanted to, reported the Boston Herald (April 26, 1929, p. 7).
Birmingham asserted that the independent taxicab operators are insulted when they appeal to the commissioner and the only place they can go for relief is to the legislature. He said that a taxicab monopoly exists, and there is now an opportunity to end it.
The Democratic minority leader was commenting on a bill proposed by Rep. Joseph Finnegan that would abolish special or exclusive taxicab stands and make public stands free and open for all vehicles whose owners were licensed.
Finnegan’s bill was reported adversely by the House committee on cities, but Finnegan continued to fight for the bill. The House voted 158 to 46 April 25 to substitute Finnegan’s bill for the adverse committee report.
Finnegan argued that the Checker taxicab company had an unfair competitive position in having exclusive stands set aside for their taxis.
“This measure is not designed as an attack on the police commissioner. It merely says then when a taxi stand is set aside by the city it shall be opened to all licensed taxicabs, which would include special or exclusive stands in a policy of equal treatment for all. Provision is made for reasonable rules and regulations by the police commissioner,” he said during debate on the bill.
Finnegan charged that Charles Innes, a director of the Checker Taxi Company, was behind the opposition to his bill and the reason that the committee on cities issued an adverse report.
Rep. James Twohig of South Boston charged that police officials own Checker company stock and want to put the independent operators out of business.
Rep. Rupert Thompson of Newton, speaking for the committee on cities, said that a bill was passed setting up a Boston traffic commission, and the committee thought that the question of exclusive taxicab stands should be left to the commission to handle.
Rep. Richard Crockwell of Medford, chairman of the committee on cities, objected to Finnegan’s suggestion that Innes was the reason the committee reported adversely on his bill. “Mr. Innes had absolutely nothing to do with the report on this bill,” he said.
On petition of Samuel H. Borofsky and others, Rep. Birmingham filed a bill Dec. 23 that would regulate chain stores, the Springfield Republican reported (Dec. 24, 1930, p. 17).
Under the bill, individuals or corporations with more than one place of retail business would be required to serve notice of establishment of additional stores to the secretary of state and obtain licenses to do business.
The bill provided a scale of fees for licenses depending on the size of the city. A license for a town of fewer than 5,000 people would cost $750, while a license for a city of more than 500,000 people would cost $2,700.
Violators of the license provisions would be fined $100 or serve 60 days in jail, or both, for each violation. The penalties would be imposed on owners and operators.
Three-quarters of the fines collected would be given to municipalities, while one-quarter would go to the state.