Ron Mariano is your new Speaker. This is like the motion of tectonic plates: Things move underground, but nothing changes above.
The end of an era. What kind of era — well, you can describe it yourself. I’d say DeLeo generally did what he had to do; hardly anything more. I think his greatest “triumph” — meaning a good thing that happened on his watch, if not by his impetus — was the school funding bill passed last year. I’d also count this year’s police reform bill and the ROE Act as progress.
The great failures have been the continuing neglect and decay of the MBTA, compounded by COVID; and the absence of a major climate bill so far. (No, DeLeo’s GreenWorks bill, despite spending a lot of money, does not count.) We’ve had little major action since the DiMasi era, the epochal bills of 2008, Green Communities and the Global Warming Solutions Act.
UPDATE: The legislature’s conference committee has indeed announced its report on a climate bill, “An Act Creating a Next-Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy”. It does look like a major bill, with many and sundry useful aspects, getting Massachusetts to “net-zero” by 2050. (The “net-” is a bit of a squishy notion, but there it is.) So we’ll credit this to the very tail end of Speaker DeLeo’s tenure, even as Mariano is already Speaker.
Mariano is, as we pointed out, a guy who very openly trades access for campaign cash. If that doesn’t seem like an inspired choice, well, it wasn’t much of a choice at all. Once someone appears even as a front-runner, the same dynamic exists as for an incumbent Speaker: Don’t cross him (yes, it’s always “him”), or you’ll lose all your perks. I appreciate the courage of Russell Holmes, even as we all knew what was going to happen.
If, on the other hand, House progressives acquiesce quietly in Mariano’s election, they will be complicit not just in flouting basic democratic norms but also in elevating to the powerful speakership someone whose record shows indifference, if not outright hostility, to progressive values and legislative priorities.
Mariano is well to the right of Robert DeLeo. In his 30 years in the House, he has shown little interest in human services and civil rights (both important to DeLeo), as well as the environment or social and economic justice. Having served many years as chair of the Financial Services Committee, Mariano has consistently sided with big business, big finance, and big health care – often while keeping his fingerprints off these measures. He is the only top House leader to vote against Democrats’ signature progressive tax measure, the so-called “millionaires’ tax.”
Mariano, 74, who has been collecting votes for speaker for years, is expected to win easily. Vote counters believe he will capture more than 110 votes out of a possible 126 Democrats, including those of members considered much more progressive than he is.
And they’ll all tell you they had no choice.
Now, Rep. Dylan Fernandes (from the Cape and Islands) is on Twitter this morning saying that Mariano is a supporter of climate action, particularly offshore wind. That’s genuinely good. Judy Meredith was on Facebook* saying essentially that Mariano will work with progressives when they have the votes — i.e. when they’re organized and have the juice on a local level. I have to wonder if all this is a bit … hopeful; the bargaining stage of grief.
We can safely ignore Joan Vennochi’s column, rather over-determined even in hindsight, about how Jeff Sánchez would have been the progressive Speaker we’ve all been waiting for. Nika Elugardo was a great candidate who has since pushed the ball forward on any number of issues — the aforementioned school funding and police reform — for which DeLeo can take “credit”. Jonathan Cohn claims Sánchez was a Mariano supporter for Speaker anyway. So much for all that.
All I have is two eyes and two ears, not a crystal ball. This seems like more of the same.
Full disclosure: I took a class at Tufts with Rep. Maria Robinson this semester.