The most interesting man in the Bay State political world

With Massachusetts focused on Deval Patrick’s “Lone Walk” and Charlie Baker’s inauguration, one person has been out of the headlines in recent weeks: House Speaker Robert DeLeo.

DeLeo is largely invisible to the vast majority of state residents – his Salvation Army holiday bell-ringing stint outside Macy’s in Downtown Crossing did not attract as many requests for selfies as Baker’s did.

But the man who helped crush Patrick’s hopes and dreams (see entries under tax code reform, Massachusetts, 2013) is uniquely positioned to do the same for the next occupant of the Corner Office as he moves into his fourth two-year term.

The Massachusetts speakership is one of the country’s most powerful. Republican lawmakers are free to take their swings at DeLeo, but Democratic members usually walk in lockstep with his dictates or oppose his wishes at their peril.

DeLeo’s period out of the limelight, in part necessitated by the election season and all that unseemly business about the Probation Department, is quickly coming to an end in a way that most politicians would prefer to avoid.

It’s all about the Benjamins. The Boston Globe’s Frank Phillips jolted Room 356 out of any remaining holiday stupor with a report on Beacon Hill’s new quandary over pay raises for legislative leaders.

In December, the Special Advisory Commission on Public Compensation created a mini-firestorm of sorts when it recommended that the pay of constitutional officers and legislative leaders be bumped up to better reflect their responsibilities and to attract more qualified people to public service who would be otherwise put off by low public sector salaries.

DeLeo and outgoing Senate President Therese Murray were all in and Patrick was ready to John Hancock a bill as he headed out the door. But an uncommon show of rank-and-file defiance from lawmakers with one eye on the state’s red ink and another on 2016 appear to have put the kibosh on all that. Legislators may yet see a smaller increase, courtesy of a constitutionally mandated cost-of-living adjustment, but that’s about it.

The resistance doesn’t bode well for DeLeo, who some believe dearly wants to set aside the term limits (that he instituted six years ago) that would bring his eight year speakership to an end in 2017. DeLeo has dismissedspeculation that he’s interested in holding on to the gavel any longer than that.

Phillips posits that DeLeo’s interest in finagling a pay raise is tied to the pension increase that he’d get should a plan go forward. But even the commission chair Ira Jackson, the dean of UMass Boston’s McCormack Graduate School, concedes that the current state budget deficit imbroglio means that “the timing was terrible.”

The most interesting man in the Bay State political world has to calculate whether he wants to get off to a rocky start with a Republican governor who would be more than happy to compare and contrast the Speaker’s quest for cash with looming cuts across state government.

–GABRIELLE GURLEY

BEACON HILL

Boston Herald columnist Joe Battenfeld and sidekick Erin Smith report the Patrick administration has a lot of people working in public relations.

Reviewing Gov. Deval Patrick’s legacy, the Lowell Sun offers praise but says much more could have been accomplished if he worked better with the Legislature.

Shirley Leung tells the story of how Patrick’s push for criminal offender records information reform made a difference to one Springfield man.

A conservator carefully unpacked contents of a time capsule buried beneath the cornerstone of the State House 220 years ago, revealing newspapers and coins dating back as far as the mid-1600s.

Tax collections last month were up 10.1 percent from December 2013 to $2.3 billion, state officials reported Tuesday.

CASINOS

Scot Lehigh isn’t sure whether Marty Walsh will win his lawsuit against the state gambling commission’s licensing of an Everett casino, but he’s glad he’s giving it a try.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

City leaders in Boston are grappling with the fact that a number of top municipal officials, including the head of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, live outside the city in apparent violation of residency laws.

Beverly’s waterfront, long restricted for maritime uses, could be opened up to new development under a recommendation from the state Office of Coastal Zone Management, the Salem News reports.

A tax break is awarded to a downtown Haverhill housing project, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

CASINOS

Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria says Boston’s lawsuit against the Massachusetts Gaming Commission contains nothing new, the Herald reports.

INTERNATIONAL/NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

Twelve people have been killed at the offices of French paper Charlie Hebdo in a rampage the country’s president has said was a terrorist attack. The satirical paper had gained notoriety for its barbs at Islamic fundamentalism.

John Boehner is re-elected as speaker of the US House, NPR reports.

The Globe’s Brian MacQuarrie profiles Maine’s up-from-nothing, hard-right governor, Paul LePage.

An explosive device is set off near the offices of the NAACP in Colorado Springs, the Denver Post reports.

A grand juror in the case involving former Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death ofMichael Brown has filed suit to get the gag order on panel members lifted, saying the district attorney has misrepresented the proceedings.

Greater Boston has a preview of the upcoming controversial Frontline documentary about the NRA’s power and its reach in American politics.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The minimum wage increased in 20 states at the start of this year and is slated to rise in three others soon,Governing reports.

It was a banner year for Boston-area nonprofits, as three of the 10 largest donations to US nonprofits landed here — two at Harvard and one at the Broad Institute, a biomedical research center staffed by Harvard and MIT scientists.

TRANSPORTATION

Fall River police have fined the company that runs the bus lots where the city’s school buses are parked $1,000 forviolating the city’s noise and pollution ordinances after a neighbor complained they were starting the vehicles early in the morning and warming them up for students.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

In a potentially crippling blow to Cape Wind, NStar and National Grid have voided their agreements to purchase power from the wind farm after the developer missed a December 31 deadline to line up financing and begin construction, CommonWealth reports.

Entergy , the Louisiana-based owner of Pilgrim power plant in Plymouth and nine other nuclear power plants around the country, has filed suit against the federal government for failing to build a nuclear waste storage site as required by a 1982 law passed by Congress.

With the president’s veto threat, Congress and the administration are headed for a showdown over the Keystone pipeline, the New York Times reports.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

A judge has ruled Aaron Hernandez’s fiancee and mother can attend his murder trial even though both may be called as witnesses. Judge Susan Garsh also ruled that when jurors visit the former Patriots tight end’s home in North Attleboro, his trophy case does not have to be covered as requested by prosecutors.

Lynn police officials and residents meet to discuss the use of deadly force by officers, the Item reports.

Meet the Author

Gabrielle Gurley

Senior Associate Editor, CommonWealth

About Gabrielle Gurley

Gabrielle covers several beats, including mass transit, municipal government, child welfare, and energy and the environment. Her recent articles have explored municipal hiring practices in Pittsfield, public defender pay, and medical marijuana, and she has won several national journalism awards for her work. Prior to coming to CommonWealth in 2005, Gabrielle wrote for the State House News Service, The Boston Globe, and other publications. She launched her media career in broadcast journalism with C-SPAN in Washington, DC. The Philadelphia native holds degrees from Boston College and Georgetown University.

About Gabrielle Gurley

Gabrielle covers several beats, including mass transit, municipal government, child welfare, and energy and the environment. Her recent articles have explored municipal hiring practices in Pittsfield, public defender pay, and medical marijuana, and she has won several national journalism awards for her work. Prior to coming to CommonWealth in 2005, Gabrielle wrote for the State House News Service, The Boston Globe, and other publications. She launched her media career in broadcast journalism with C-SPAN in Washington, DC. The Philadelphia native holds degrees from Boston College and Georgetown University.

MEDIA

A newspaper analyst wonders why more publications don’t halt their print editions, at least on some days, the Nieman Journalism Lab reports.