Someone Apparently Doesn’t Like the New Massachusetts Senate Budget

Printed from:

By Andy Metzger


BOSTON — The Massachusetts Senate session went out with a bang Thursday night, but no one seems to know the precise circumstances that led the Senate president to cut short his remarks in the final meeting held in the historic chamber before it is closed for renovations.

Senate President Stan Rosenberg was on the rostrum extolling the benefits of Twitter as a tool to engage the public in the budget debate around 9:25 p.m.when a loud bang — like the sound of something heavy hitting a floor — echoed throughout the chamber.

Senator Sal DiDomenico, the vice chairman of Senate Ways and Means, said the sound appeared to have come from above, and many in the chamber looked up after hearing it. Among them was Chris Smith, DiDomenico’s legislative aide, who was standing near the double doors the lead from the chamber to the lobby.

Some type of debris hit Smith in the eye and he clutched his head. Someone asked if he was all right. DiDomenico was initially concerned that something sizable had fallen onto Smith’s head, he said Friday.

“It looked a lot worse than it actually was,” DiDomenico told the News Service.

Rosenberg abbreviated his remarks and opened the roll call on the $40.4 billion budget, which passed unanimously. The Amherst Democrat instructed members and staff to avoid the double doors where Smith had been standing and exit the chamber through an egress in the rear, by the balcony overlooking Boston Common. The rear exit runs along a back hallway that leads out to the Senate lobby and contains a spiral staircase.

Rosenberg spokesman Pete Wilson said that during Thursday night’s session there was no one working directly above the chamber, which is located beneath the State House’s iconic golden dome. There was a worker in a crawl space above the nearby Senate Reading Room working with wires as part of a building-wide energy project, Wilson said.

“No one knows what the bang was,” said Wilson.

DiDomenico suggested Smith had been struck by a falling piece of plaster, while others theorized it might have been a chip of paint or a piece of dust.

Wilson said nothing of any substantial size was found on the carpet by the double doors.

Sarah Finlaw, a spokeswoman for the Office of Administration and Finance, which oversees the Bureau of the State House, referred questions about the noise to the Senate.

“It’s their chamber,” Finlaw said.

Slated for a roughly $20 million upgrade, the Senate chamber has peeling paint on the walls and chunks of black dust occasionally sprinkle down onto the chamber from vents on its ceiling.

“We’re just out of there in the nick of time, frankly,” Rosenberg said after the Senate adjourned.

During former Gov. Mitt Romney’s penultimate State of the State address in 2005, a light fell from the ceiling of the House chamber, landing on a seat that had reportedly just been vacated by Jen Flanagan, a Leominster Democrat who was then in the House and is now in the Senate.

The House also has plans to renovate its chamber, but there is no timeline yet for when work would begin.