Pro-pot Jehlen to head marijuana panel

Lewis, who opposed legalization, falls to vice chair spot

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

A PRO-LEGALIZATION SENATOR will lead the Senate’s effort to make changes to the marijuana ballot law after Senate President Stanley tapped Somerville Sen. Patricia Jehlen to lead the new Committee on Marijuana Policy.

Jehlen, who supported the legalization campaign last fall, will take the lead for the Senate as the branch looks to work with the House over the next several months to revamp the new law and review everything from taxes on retail sales of marijuana to local control over the location of pot shops and the potency of edible marijuana products. The House chair of the committee is expected to be announced on Thursday.

Jehlen, Patricia

Sen. Jason Lewis, a legal marijuana opponent, will serve as vice chairman of the new committee. Lewis spearheaded the Senate’s marijuana policy research last session and emerged as a vocal opponent of the ballot law, prompting advocates to urge against his appointment to lead the committee. Until recently it looked as if Lewis would land the chairmanship, but Rosenberg went in a different direction.

Jim Borghesani, who helped lead the campaign for the marijuana ballot question, hailed the selection of Jehlen. “We’re very pleased with the balance of the appointees that the Senate president has put on the panel. We hope the House speaker follows the same approach,” he said. “We hope the will of the voters is respected.”

Six weeks into the new session, Senate Democrats caucused in private on Wednesday to ratify the leadership and committee assignments proposed by Rosenberg. Some of shuffling at the top of the leadership ranks was spurred by the departure of three Democratic senators who did not seek re-election in November.

Lewis will take over as chairman of the Committee on Labor and Workforce Development at a time when unions and other groups are threatening to go to the ballot in 2018 if the Legislature does not approve a $15-an-hour minimum wage. He takes over the committee from former Sen. Dan Wolf.

Sen. Michael Barrett, a major proponent of carbon pricing, will succeed Benjamin Downing as chair of the Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, a panel expected to weigh major policy changes as lawmakers continue to examine energy sources, pricing, and reliability.

Sen. Eileen Donoghue takes over this session from Wolf as chair of the Committee on Steering Policy and Scheduling. Donoghue will also co-chair the new Committee on Export Development.

The other senator to leave after last session was Milton senator Brian Joyce. His position as chairman of State Administration and Regulatory Oversight will be filled by his replacement, Sen. Walter Timilty of Milton.

Sen Kenneth Donnelly, an Arlington Democrat who has returned to work after battling cancer late last year, will take Joyce’s post in the leadership ranks as one of three assistant majority leaders alongside Sen. Cynthia Creem and Sen. Mark Montigny.

Sen. Michael Rodrigues, a Westport Democrat, moves up one slot to fill Donnelly’s previous position as majority whip, and Sens. Linda Forry and Joan Lovely will serve as assistant majority whips. The Senate this week created an extra assistant majority whip position in its rules to accommodate the appointments, which carry with it a new $35,000 stipend authorized under the pay raises approved this month.

Apart from those changes, the upper ranks of Rosenberg’s leadership team remain unchanged as he begins his second term at the helm of the Senate.

Sen. Harriette Chandler returns as majority leader and will also chair the Redistricting Committee that Downing vacated.

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Sen. Marc Pacheco will continue as Senate president pro tempore and Sen. Karen Spilka will also stay on for her second cycle as chairwoman of Ways and Means.