Turnover creates opportunity for House members

Photo Courtesy: MGNonline

BOSTON (SHNS) – Recently granted the ability to hold his office indefinitely, House Speaker Robert DeLeo has 10 empty chairmanships to fill, along with a leadership position and the assistant vice-chairmanship of the powerful House Committee on Ways and Means.

Departures from the House during the 2013-2014 session have given DeLeo an opportunity to promote rank-and-file members into positions leading committees or helping leadership direct its agenda. In doing so, DeLeo could help further solidify his own standing among members relatively new to the House.

In total, there are 13 leadership, chairmanship or vice-chairmanship positions that were held by individuals who are no longer members of the House. While the wave of departures leave the House without some of its more experienced members, lawmakers who joined the House in recent years have an opportunity to move up the leadership ladder and potentially influence legislation with fresh ideas.

Technically, none of the chairmanships have yet been filled.

Last Thursday House Democrats overwhelmingly voted to remove term limits on the speakership, giving the Winthrop Democrat the chance to be re-elected to the post in 2017 and in years after should he choose to try retaining the position.

Of those Democrats who joined an unsuccessful vote to reinstate an eight-year term limit in the House rules, only Rep. Jonathan Hecht held any position above rank and file. Hecht last session was vice chairman of the Committee on Elder Affairs, a committee with a limited purview.

All of the freshmen Democrats voted with DeLeo to defeat the term-limit amendment 45 to 110 while the entire 34-member Republican caucus supported the measure to limit the length of the speaker’s reign. Rep. Dan Ryan voted late, bringing the total up from the initial 45 to 109 tally.

Rep. Garrett Bradley, a Hingham Democrat and a floor division chairman, argued in favor of removing the term limits and defeating the amendment, and Hecht was the lone Democrat to speak on the floor in favor of reinstating term limits.

Assignments are expected to be made this month, though DeLeo has not said exactly when. Senate President Stanley Rosenberg named senators to leadership and committee chairmanships on Jan. 21.

“I’m not sure when we’ll be making them, but I’ll tell you that it’s something that I am working on,” DeLeo told the News Service on Monday on his way into his office after a press conference. Asked whether he would consider giving chairmanships to representatives who supported term limits, DeLeo continued into his office without answering.

DeLeo spokesman Seth Gitell said the vote on term limits will not be considered when making assignments, telling the News Service, “That’s not part of Speaker DeLeo’s equation.”

House Minority Leader Brad Jones has yet to assign an assistant minority leader to replace George Peterson, who is now the Department of Fish and Game commissioner, and will need to assign a ranking Republican to the House Committee on Ways and Means. Last session, Sen. Vinny deMacedo was the ranking Republican on House Ways and Means.

Committee chairmanships and vice chairmanships carry pay bumps in addition to lawmakers’ base salaries of $60,032 per year. Open committee chairmanships would allow members of the House to help set the agenda for potential changes in criminal law, energy policy and health care financing, among other areas.

With departures from the House for a variety of reasons, the open chairmanships and other positions are:

– Second assistant majority leader, which was held by Kathi-Anne Reinstein.

– House Rules chairman, which was held by the late John Binienda.

– Assistant vice-chairman of House Ways and Means, which was held by Cheryl Coakley-Rivera.

– House Ethics chairman, which was held by Boston Mayor Martin Walsh.

– Community Development & Small Businesses chairman, which was held by Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry.

– Environment, Natural Resources & Agriculture chairman, which was held by Sen. Anne Gobi.

– Financial Services chairman, which was held by Michael Costello.

– Health Care Financing chairman, which was held by Steven Walsh.

– The Judiciary chairman, which was held by Eugene O’Flaherty.

– Labor & Workforce Development chairman, which was held by Tom Conroy.

– Telecommunications, Utilities & Energy chairman, which was held by John Keenan.

– Veterans & Federal Affairs chairman, which was held by Gov. Baker’s Chief Secretary Carlo Basile.

– Public Health vice chairman, which was held by Sen. Jason Lewis.

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