Rep. Birmingham’s participation in debate over a bill to restrict the practice of law in the state caused a rift among Democratic lawmakers, the Boston Herald reported (April 30, 1931, p. 13).
The bill, which would have placed restrictions on the authorized practice of law, was ordered to a third reading on a vote of 87 to 52 during the April 29 House session.
On April 29, the bill was amended on the House floor to exclude from its provisions representatives of labor unions or employers appearing before the industrial accident board.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. John S. Derham of Uxbridge, was intended to prevent banks from acting as fiduciaries, drawing up wills, and making trusts.
Debate on the bill caused a rift between Birmingham and other Democratic lawmakers, who resented his participation in the discussion as an opponent of the bill, according to the newspaper. Protests came from Derham and Reps. John Patrick Connolly and Paul A. Dever.
Representative Birmingham accused power interests of planning to buy and operate a chain of newspapers in New England in addition to the two Boston dailies—the Boston Herald and Boston Traveler—they already owned, the Detroit Evening Times reported (April 16, 1929, p. 14).
“It has been brought to my attention that at least six publishers of important papers in this state, Maine and Connecticut, recently have been approached by brokers’ agents sent out of New York, and that in each case a price far in excess of real value of the paper was offered for its acquisition,” said Birmingham.
“There is no doubt, because of the source of this information, that the offers were made by gigantic financial interests battling among themselves for a New England light and power monopoly. These offers, the men behind them and the purpose behind them, we hope to reach through the investigation called for in resolves filed yesterday in the House,” he added.
The author of one of the resolves, Rep. Daniel P. Leahy of Cambridge, warned that a single great power combine could swallow up smaller companies and establish a monopoly of light and power distribution in New England, the paper reported.
“I have observed the rapid and menacing developments of mergers of Massachusetts electric companies. The movement has so far progressed that today the great majority of the 62 private electric companies in this state are under the domination or control of great power combines,” Leahy said.
“This condition is a menace, not only to the people served by the private companies, but also in the 40 or more cities and towns where municipal lighting systems are in existence, because many of those municipal systems, like many of the private companies, no longer have generating stations of their own, but obtain their current from the wholesale power companies,” Leahy said.
“I have evidence that one of these great power groups is actively bidding for municipal plants. I believe that this situation demands a thorough investigation and action by the Legislature to protect our people and our industries, as well, against the danger of economic slavery to the power trust,” he concluded.