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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

From a tiny acorn, a mighty oak grows?

It's may be like a faint wind on the hottest, most humid day -- and it way be emanating from almost as pungent neighborhood -- but there could be a fresh breeze stirring in the Massachusetts House.

The mini-protest over House Speaker Robert DeLeo's refusal to air out the particulars of a $378,000 legal bills rung up in defending the House from the mess left by Sal DiMasi, probably makes no sense to most folks focusing on Christmas.

"They're all crooks," most will mutter. And while the protesters, led by Needham Democrat Lida Harkins don't have the purest of motives, they are good enough.

Harkins and three of her colleagues are annoyed with DeLeo over the way House staff layoffs were handled. The four all supported John Rogers, the Norwood Democrat who was DeLeo's No. 1 rival in the unseemly chase to replace DiMasi before the erstwhile speaker stepped down and was indicted.

The ire is principally aimed at the fact it was their staff who got axed a couple of weeks before Christmas. These folks aren't reformers -- they backed Rogers after all. But in true the enemy of my enemy fashion, they may be on to something.

The legal deal DiMasi negotiated on his way out the door seems totally out of whack. After all, the notorious spendthrift Deval Patrick handled all the legal bills associated with DiMasi investigations in house with lawyers he was already paying.

And DeLeo's decision to stonewall legislation calling for an audit of what the money paid for, adds to the stench, particularly when claiming they were constrained by a subpoena.

Aren't subpoenas what got the House into this mess in the first place?

The practical effect of shutting down the House in the final weeks of December is practically nil. DeLeo decided to do that when he ignored a request to handle an education reform bill after formal sessions ended for the year, triggering a six-week vacation.

The loophole is the constitution requires lawmakers to meet at least somewhat regularly -- hence the tradition of "informal" sessions, where supposedly non-controversial business is transacted -- unless one member objects.

It appears the new Gang of Four -- Harkins, William Greene Jr. of Billerica, Matthew Patrick of Falmouth and Thomas Stanley of Waltham -- intend to do just that. At least until a caucus, a closed door meeting away from the media supposedly to discuss the education bill, takes place.

As a reporter, I used to stand outside Gardner Auditorium and wait to pounce on members to emerge so we could find out what happened. I suspect there will be voices loud enough to be heard in the hallway when the caucus meets this week.

Hardly reform -- but maybe a start of something bigger. It really doesn't matter who sits in the Corner Office until the winds of change blow through the House and Senate.

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Anonymous Joel Patterson said...

As for your final thought, it does matter who is Governor. While the Lege may be the most powerful branch in Mass., the executive branch does a much better job when it is filled with people who actually believe in making government work (i.e. Democrats).

December 15, 2009 6:35 AM  

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