Chaos in the Senate?
Hard to see
THE AWKWARD TRANSITION from Senate President Harriette Chandler to Senate president-elect Karen Spilka makes for great copy, but it doesn’t seem to be having a huge impact on the chamber’s legislative output.
Senators are still processing legislation. (Criminal justice reform emerged from a conference committee a little over a week ago.) Votes are being taken. (The Senate passed a civics education requirement and a housing bond bill last week.) The legislative output on Beacon Hill has never been that great, but it’s hard to see how the Senate is doing any worse than the House, which isn’t grappling with any leadership issues.
Yet to read some of the recent press coverage you’d think the Senate is paralyzed by a lack of leadership.
Boston Globe columnist Adrian Walker called the Senate “an institution on the edge.” A Globe news story last week said “chaos” has consumed the Senate. “The result, as senators lurch from one bombshell to the next, is that the time for official business is being sidelined by salacious disclosures and internal politics,” the Globe reported.
But the larger and perhaps more serious problem is the enormous turnover in the Senate. Despite the big pay raise at the start of 2017, five senators left for other jobs during this session. A sixth is running for Congress and a seventh is considering a run for Suffolk County district attorney. One senator announced her retirement and another died in office. Toss in Sen. Michael Barrett’s struggle with cancer and Brady’s struggle with alcohol and you get the picture — nearly a quarter of the state’s senators are either new to the job or distracted by personal matters. That’s the real chaos in the Senate.