Mariano elected speaker again; Spilka, too
Uyterhoeven votes present, slams House progressives
REP. RONALD MARIANO of Quincy was sworn in as House speaker on Wednesday promising honesty and straight talk, a leadership team that reflects the chamber’s diversity, and strong oversight of the state’s vaccine plan and COVID-19 recovery.
The latter pledge was notable only because Mariano earlier in the week was asked how he thought the state’s vaccine rollout was going. “I have no idea,” he said, adding that he had just assumed the speaker’s position.
Mariano was elected speaker with 127 votes. House Minority Leader Bradley Jones Jr. received 30 votes from his fellow Republicans and two Democrats – Reps. Tami Gouveia of Acton and Erika Uyterhoeven of Somerville – voted present. Mariano won the speaker’s job by a similar margin last week – 126 votes in support, 31 for Jones (there is one less Republican this session), and three Democrats (Gouveia and two retiring lawmakers) who didn’t vote or voted present.
Uyterhoeven, a newcomer to Beacon Hill who describes herself as a socialist, issued a statement criticizing the way Mariano assumed power and criticizing progressive lawmakers for going along with it. She noted Mariano in his TV interview said he gained the support of progressive lawmakers by promising only to listen to them.
Uyterhoeven said the transfer of power from former House speaker Robert DeLeo to Mariano was an example of “institutional oppression.” She said power structures are so ingrained in the Beacon Hill system that they have become the system. “In taking this stand, I hope to name the forces of institutional oppression at play, and continue to fight the ideological oppression which makes us believe that doing anything different than the typical is impossible or self-defeatist,” she said. “Speaker Mariano’s election wasn’t inevitable and we need to fight for the world we believe in rather than conceding for crumbs.”
In his speeches to the Democratic caucus and the full House, the 74-year-old Mariano talked about growing up at Quincy Point, which he described as a community of immigrants and an environmental justice community. “My district speaks more languages than I knew even existed,” he said.
Mariano said he is the right speaker for the times. “We are about to begin the long recovery from an unprecedented time of public health and economic turmoil. The next speaker must be up to the task, and able to work at full speed on Day 1. I am that person. But this will be a group effort. I need a strong leadership team, and I’m committed to ensuring that my team reflects the diversity of the entire House and the Commonwealth,” he said.
Mariano said nothing about his legislative priorities. By contrast, Senate President Karen Spilka, who was easily reelected to her position by her colleagues, pledged to support emergency paid sick leave.
While Massachusetts already has mandated paid sick leave, Raise Up Massachusetts, a coalition of labor, clergy, and liberal organizing groups, has been lobbying for passage of an emergency leave bill during the COVID-19 pandemic that would be more generous and have fewer exemptions than existing programs. The idea would be to give workers 15 extra days of state-paid sick leave during the pandemic, at up to $850 a week. The leave would be available if the worker is sick or quarantined or to care for someone who is sick or quarantined or a child who is home from school.
“It is clear that the time is now for emergency paid leave, and so the Senate will begin working on solutions with our partners in government, business, and labor as soon as this session is underway,” Spilka said.
Spilka stressed the importance of supporting the health care system during the pandemic. “We must commit ourselves to expanding COVID testing, tracing, and vaccination, particularly for our most vulnerable, and ensuring those on the front lines have what they need to fight this virus,” she said.
Spilka was nominated by Sen. Joan Lovely, a Salem Democrat, who spoke remotely from her home, and Sen. Joe Boncore, a Winthrop Democrat, who was in the chamber.During the House Democrat caucus, Mariano was nominated by Rep. Carlos Gonzalez of Springfield, the head of the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus, and Rep. Kate Hogan of Stow, who Mariano described as someone whom “I’ve come to trust and rely on.”
Mariano gaveled the House session to a close on Wednesday about 10 hours after the final meeting of the 2019-2020 legislative session came to a close at around 4:30 a.m. Before his microphone shut off, he said: “Let’s get the hell out of here.”