Spilka to assume Senate presidency in late July

Indicates she will leave Ways and Means post vacant

SEN. KAREN SPILKA said on Thursday that she will take over as Senate president during the week of July 23 and indicated she will leave her former post as chair of the Ways and Means Committee vacant for the remainder of the year.

In a joint statement, Spilka and Senate President Harriette Chandler said they would commence an orderly transition the week of July 23, which is the last full week of the legislative session and normally a very hectic time. The statement did not address why that date was selected.

“This certainty in timing and in outcome allows the Senate to have a smooth transition, and to continue, without interruption, its pursuit of our economic, social, and civil justice priorities,” the statement said.

The budget process, which Spilka oversees as Ways and Means chair, typically wraps up at the end of June or early July.

Spilka said in the statement that Chandler would remain a member of her leadership team, and indicated little else would change in the short term. “I do not anticipate any significant changes in the Senate organization this year,” she said.

Rachel Lefsky, a spokesman for Spilka, said the senator would give up the chairmanship of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. Asked if that post would remain vacant for the remainder of the year, Lefsky said: “She’ll make a determination on committee decisions based on the needs of the Senate.”

At a press conference on March 22, it became clear that Spilka and Chandler had not answered the obvious question facing them – when would Spilka take over. The unusual situation came about when former Senate president Stanley Rosenberg stepped down after allegations of influence peddling were made against his spouse, Bryon Hefner, who was subsequently indicted for sexual assault.

Chandler was elected Senate president to serve out the remainder of this year, and those senators who wanted the top job agreed to end their politicking. But Spilka announced in March that she had assembled the necessary votes to become Senate president. At the March 22 press conference, Spilka indicated she wanted to assume the presidency sooner rather than later, while Chandler suggested she wanted to serve through the end of the year. The issue dragged on for two weeks before the two senators worked things out.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Michael Widmer, a veteran State House observer and the former president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, speculated that Spilka had the votes and wanted to begin exerting her authority before the Legislature adjourned for this year. By contrast, he said, Chandler was probably enjoying her new role and wanted to honor her commitment to serve the remainder of the year.

“This has never really happened before – there’s no precedent for this,” Widmer said.