There’s no doubt that Sal DiMasi, John Rogers, and Bob DeLeo will be reelected this fall. The big question is which, if any, of them will be Speaker of the House.
This is a big and important question. With no functional Republican opposition, the House Speaker pretty much controls the agenda in the House, which seems to mean that nothing gets done unless the Speaker wants it to be done. We’ve seen over the last two years that the Speaker has the ability to single-handedly block high-profile initiatives from the Governor — casinos (yay!) and closing corporate tax loopholes (boo!) come to mind. (To his credit, the Speaker largely came around on the corporate tax loopholes, and we ended the session with quite a good series of changes to MA’s tax laws.)
Speaker DiMasi has been a good leader on some important issues. He had the most progressive views on health care when the health care bill was being assembled, and he was a real hero on preserving marriage. But he keeps running into big, big problems. Joan Vennochi recounts them in today’s Globe, and they boil down to two words: Cognos, and Vitale. The issues are serious enough that Attorney General Martha Coakley has opened an investigation, which guarantees that the issue will not go away anytime soon.
The would-be successors have their own problems. John Rogers recently paid a $30,000 “settlement” to the Office of Campaign and Political Finance to end an investigation into a peculiar real estate deal. Yet, today’s Globe reports that unanswered questions remain about the deal, and it appears from the story that Rogers may not have been entirely truthful in explaining how the deal worked. And Rogers, who came to prominence under the socially conservative ex-Speaker Tom Finneran, has in the past been unreliable (to say the least) on marriage and other important issues, though he did eventually come around.
And Bob DeLeo, who as recently as 2005 was described as “a little-known State House insider popular with colleagues”? Well, there’s the whole “intimidating your colleagues” thing, there’s serious questions about the fundraising of his top lieutenant, Thomas Petrolati, and there are allegations of pretty strong-armed tactics in lining up support. I don’t know much about DeLeo on the issues, since I’m not aware that he’s ever taken much of a stand on them (though he, along with Rogers and DiMasi, did vote against the anti-marriage amendment last year and in favor of repealing 1913 this year).
Can’t say it’s all that pretty a picture. And so, a question to the BMG community:
Who do you want to see as the next Speaker? Sal DiMasi, who has established a pretty solid progressive track record, but whose ethical issues continue to dog him? John Rogers, who also faces ethics problems and who may not be the progressive that DiMasi is? Bob DeLeo, whose tactics seem unusually aggressive and whose stands on the issues seem mysterious?
Is there another option? Should there be?