The House Rules Committee reviewed on March 12 a bill introduced by Rep. Birmingham to expand the state detective force by 10 personnel.
Birmingham said that the additional personnel must come from the Civil Service lists and not from other branches of the Department of Public Safety. He argued that the efficiency of the detective bureau would be improved by this process.
Rep. Frank J. McFarland of Dorchester supported Birmingham’s bill and opposed transferring personnel from the uniformed State Police force to the detective branch.
Rep. Birmingham was hospitalized for an undisclosed ailment at the Cardinal O’Connell House in St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, the Boston Globe reported Oct. 29, 1934, p. 3.
Birmingham had been sick for several weeks. He was admitted to the hospital Oct. 27 and was expected to be hospitalized for at least two weeks.
The paper said that Birmingham had been a member of the House from Ward 22 for 10 years and the House Democratic floor leader for the past four years. He was a funeral director with an office on Market St., Brighton.
The following January, the caucus of the House Democratic members sent a message of cheer to Birmingham, who was at home sick (Boston Globe, Jan. 2, 1935, p. 34).
Birmingham subsequently died of lung cancer in January 1936.
Sharles E. Wardwell, counsel for the Massachusetts Gas and Electric Association, told the Legislative Committee on Power and Light April 23 that Rep. Birmingham’s minority report on power rates drew an inaccurate picture of comparative costs of operating municipal and private power plants (Boston Globe, April 23, 1930, p. 11).
Wardwell said that if the Boston Edison Company did business on the same basis as the Belmont municipal power plant, which charges a rate of five cents per kilowatt hour, the rate the Boston company would charge would be around 3½ cents instead of the 8 ½ cent maximum rate that is now imposed.
Birmingham produced the minority report of a special commission set up by the House to look into the power rate situation.
Wardwell said it was virtually impossible to compare the rates in one community with a private plant with the rates in another community with a municipal plant. Not only are the conductions in the two communities differences, but methods of doing business, such as taxation, lamp service, and average costs, differ materially, he argued.
Wardwell also denied challenged Birmingham’s assertion that not only the costs devolving on communities for legal expenses in fighting lighting company rate increases are borne by them, but as well the costs of the companies in this respect. Such an assertion may be true in the event that the company is making a profit, but it is not true if it is not making a profit. In the latter case, the cost is borne by the stockholders, he said.
Rep. Birmingham spoke in favor of a bill to extend the Boylston St. subway under Governor Square (now Kenmore Square) to a place on Beacon St. east of the railroad bridge and to a place on Commonwealth Ave. opposite Temple Israel (Boston Globe, March 20, 1930, pp. 1, 25).
The House Committee on Metropolitan Affairs held a March 19 hearing on the bill. The bill was opposed by several municipalities, whose representatives testified that the subway extension would establish a dangerous precedent by requiring outlying cities and towns to contribute to maintenance of a measure intended to solve traffic problems in Boston, not to improve the regional transit system.
The bill, they argued, would also compel the municipalities to be responsible for any deficits in the operations of the subway, the paper reported.
In support of the bill, Birmingham said that the proposed subway extension was necessary. Corporation Council Samuel Silverman, representing Mayor Curley, testified in favor of the bill, noting that it came out of conference committee composed of Silverman, Boston Elevated representative Frederick E. Snow, and counsel for the public trustees of the road, H. Ware Barnum.
Silverman said that the extension would cost $3 million and would be paid for by bonds of the city of Boston, which would contract with the company for annual rental of not less than 4½ percent. Any deficit would be met by the cities and towns in the Metropolitan Transit District; the cities and town would not be reimbursed, he admitted.
Rep. Luke D. Mullen of Boston asked Silverman why the bill had not been referred to the Metropolitan Council, which had been established to rule on extensions of the transit system. Silverman said that the committee was concerned that referring the bill to the council would only cause delay.
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.