Rosenberg unveils leadership team
Chandler, Spilka get top posts
SENATE PRESIDENT STAN Rosenberg announced his leadership team and committee chairmanships today, putting women senators in two of the chamber’s most powerful posts.
Sen. Harriette Chandler will serve as majority leader, while Sen. Karen Spilka will chair the budget-writing Senate Ways and Means Committee.
Spilka, an Ashland Democrat who served as Senate chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, has become a leading voice in the Legislature for the state’s tech community. In 2013, she helped launch the Tech Hub Caucus in an effort to spotlight the importance of the technology sector to the state’s economic growth and development.
Chandler, a Worcester Democrat, was a key Rosenberg ally as he vied for the Senate presidency. She delivered the nominating speech earlier this month that preceded his formal election to the post, a decision that had effectively been reached by Senate Democrats a year and half ago. Chandler served three terms in the House before winning a special election to the Senate in 2001, where she has served since.
Speaking with reporters outside his office after he shared the new assignments in a closed meeting with Senate Democrats, Rosenberg said Chandler had taken on a lot of challenging assignments during her time in the Legislature. “She a good leader and the members respect her,” he said.
He called Spilka a “strong negotiator” and a “good listener.” “You’ve got to have a lot of stamina and patience. She’s got both in abundance,” he said.
Asked whether he had talked to Spilka about options for addressing the state budget shortfall, including pursuing new revenues, Rosenberg said, “We’ve not had those kinds of discussions.” He added that Spilka was busy poring over the budget picture at that very moment, preparing for Thursday’s revenue consensus hearings when Beacon Hill leaders work to agree on a set of revenue expectations on which to base next year’s budget.
The Baker administration has pegged the deficit for the current year at $765 million. Rosenberg has called the budget crunch “both a spending and a revenue problem.”
In a move that’s not likely to cheer charter school advocates, Rosenberg kept Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz in the chairmanship of the Senate Education Committee, and Sen. Patricia Jehlen will remain as vice-chair. Both are viewed as unfriendly to charter expansion. A bill to expand charter schools went down to defeat last year in the Senate. Chang-Diaz said she was striving for a compromise, but charter school advocates said the plan she developed would have destabilized charter funding.
Rosenberg rejected the idea that the appointments represent an early signal of the Senate’s view on further charter expansion. “Both of those senators have engaged in extensive research and conversations with people trying to figure out how to move forward on charters, solving the problems that people have been raising,” he said.
Rosenberg named Sen. Marc Pacheco to the post of President Pro Tempore. He expanded the assistant majority leader position from one to three slots, naming to Sen. Cynthia Creem, Sen. Brian Joyce, and Sen. Mark Montigny to those positions. Sen. Anthony Petruccelli, a key moderate Democrat who backed Rosenberg for Senate president, will be majority whip, while Sen. Ken Donnelly will be assistant majority whip.
The Senate also formally adopted new rules that had been unveiled last week. The rule changes are intended to undergird Rosenberg’s pledge of a more transparent and inclusive Senate. They include requiring that the Senate agenda be posted 48 hours in advance, rather than 24, and having the text of late-filed bills posted online.
“I talked about shared leadership and shared responsibility and empowering the members, and the structure that we created is intended to make that work,” said Rosenberg.The Senate will also post floor roll call votes within 24 hours. Rosenberg said the same would be done with Senate committee votes.
There are 27 legislative panels that are joint committees of House and Senate members. The two chambers must agree on joint rules governing these committees. “A lot of members want to do that in the joint rules as well,” Rosenberg said of the posting of committee votes, signaling an area where the new Senate focus on transparency may present a challenge to practices in the House.