1 Speaker Deleo wins

^ Speaker Robert DeLeo (D) has won his right to be re-elected as Speaker for as long as the members like. This is a good decision for all concerned.

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By a vote of 110 no to 45 yes, the Massachusetts House voted not to reinstate the House erule that had limited the number of terms a member could serve as Speaker.  Robert DeLeo has been Speaker since 2009 and will now be able to continue as such beyond the next state election. it was he who proposed the change.

Much editorial opinion was published opposing DeLeo’s motion. We disagree with it. We think DeLeo was wise to ask his members to eliminate a rule that he himself proposed, successfully. Here is why we think so :

1.The Speaker is the most important legislator of all. Because he appoints all members of all House committees, he controls all legislation. Even Governors can’t get bills passed that the Speaker opposes. Speaker after Speaker has shown this power to one Governor after another.

2.Newly elected Governor Charlie Baker campaigned, in part, on his ability to work with the Speaker on legislation, saying, with plenty of political evidence at hand, that he, as a Republican governor, is better positioned to work on an equal basis with the Speaker than a Democratic Governor. Since his election, Baker has worked tirelessly to forge a working partnership with Speaker DeLeo, and Deleo appears to have responded in kind.

3.It would be no benefit at all to Baker to see, in 2017, a different person chosen Speaker. Who knows if that person would embrace the partnership that DeLeo and Baker have forged ? The last thing that Baker needs, heading into his 2018 re-election, would have been a Speaker more interested in going his or her own way than in co-operating with Baker. The House’s vote forestalls that prospect.

4.It is also good policy for the House. Co-operation with a popular Governor who attends rigorously to details and who knows his limitations benefits the state. Better to get many reforms done, even while leaving other, larger reforms for later, than to raise up conflict and gridlock. We’ve had about enough of that in Washington.

Sure, it would be an ideal thing for the Massachusetts House to not have a limitlessly electable Speaker. But getting from here to there isn’t as simple to do as to say. Massachusetts’s state government is a delicate mechanism that works only if all its parts are fitted seamlessly; and there is scant tolerance built into the engine. Before we redesign the engine, no matter how civically optimal the redesign may seem, let’s be sure that it will work better than what our politicians have worked out already. Heck : it might not even work at all.

Some editorialists opposing the DeLeo motion said that a new Speaker would bring “fresh ideas.” Frankly, we’d like to see the ideas already in process enacted and working, or not, before we start debating “fresh” ones. The state Budget seems intractable; same for the transportation system, and schools reform. I think there’s quite enough on the plate to satisfy hunger for ideas.

Sometimes we get lucky in spite of ourselves. That Speaker DeLeo presented his motion, knowing he would face the criticism he in fact got, was a very lucky break for effective Massachusetts government.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

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