Harriette Chandler Sees Her Shadow, Eleven More Months of Winter

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2018/02/07/harriet-chandler-sees-her-shadow-eleven-more-months-of-winter/

Stan Rosenberg apparently won’t be Massachusetts Senate President in 2018 – but his fellow state senators are still not saying never. How can that be?

Rosenberg, 68, took a leave of absence in December after his now-estranged civil-law spouse, Bryon Hefner, 30, was credibly accused by several male Beacon Hill lobbyists of sexually assaulting and sexually harassing them while flaunting his connection to power.

If that sounds like an automatic career-killer to you, well, welcome to Massachusetts politics. Recent revelations that Hefner had access to Rosenberg’s email and tried to influence state business may have finally done in Rosenberg’s comeback … but even that’s not settled-science.

The latest (as of Wednesday afternoon) is that acting Senate President Harriette Chandler is no longer acting. Now she’s Senate President.

She who said in December that at age 80 she wasn’t interested in taking the job is now taking it.

It’s temporary, you understand. Only until January 2, 2019, when the next legislative session begins. That’s when all the current state senators who aren’t indicted and who can no longer justify commuting to Beacon Hill to make the difference between their current salaries and 80-percent-of-the-average-of-their-three-highest-years in pension come back for a new term after being re-elected with little or no opposition.

Supposedly that’s when a new Senate President will be elected. But don’t hold your breath. State senators have had it in their hands to elect a new president for two months, and have apparently passed on four candidates who offered themselves.

That leads to a question:  Why didn’t Linda Dorcena Forry get the job?

Dorcena Forry (D-Dorchester), a high-energy, down-to-earth, personable pol with enough gumption to host a famous St. Patrick’s Day brunch in South Boston as a black woman, was a serious candidate to lead the Senate before she resigned last month to take a job with Suffolk Construction.

When she threw her hat into the ring after Rosenberg’s troubles surfaced in December, Dorcena Forry looked like an almost-obvious pick for social justice warriors obsessed with identity politics. She’s the daughter of Haitian immigrants, born and brought up in Dorchester, and apparently unencumbered by her Catholic upbringing when it comes to moral issues so dear to left-wingers. She would have been the first black person to lead the Massachusetts Senate, a place obsessed with such firsts. She also would have brought a little pizzazz to the joint.

Obviously, a majority of Democrats in the Senate didn’t want her, for whatever reason. But neither could a majority coalesce around more conventional candidates like Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett) and Karen Spilka (D-Ashland).

And so they’re left with an octogenarian who says she doesn’t really want the job.

This zigzagging is making the Massachusetts Senate look even worse than usual. That tugs at our heartstrings. Democrats of the Senate:  You know that we’re big fans of yours, and have only your best interests at heart. So here are a few suggestions:

Declare Stan Rosenberg’s Senate presidency dead

We know you liked him while he was Senate President because of his collegiality and that hefty pay raise he and Speaker-for-Life Robert DeLeo squired through a year ago.

But that was so 2017. Now, he is a former Senate president whose personal life has spilled onto public business in sordid ways.

The remarkable thing is that Rosenberg is still a state senator through all the hubbub, not that he hasn’t returned to lead the Senate. He can’t. You know it. Make it official.

Stop the investigation of Stan Rosenberg

If Stan Rosenberg isn’t going to be Senate President again, there is no need to investigate alleged corruption of Senate business under his watch. No one has accused Rosenberg of any crimes, and no one thinks he’s guilty of any. It isn’t a crime for a public official to allow (unwittingly or wittingly) someone close to him to try to influence legislation or flaunt his presumed connections to power to get what he wants.

That’s a political no-no, of course. But that only affects which senator the other senators pick to lead the Senate. That’s a political decision. Senators don’t need interviews, affidavits, testimony, paper trails, or surveillance video to make that political decision. They’ve already got all the information they need.

The possible crimes in this matter are what Hefner is said to have done to the lobbyists. But whether those incidents are investigated and prosecuted is up to the victims. If they want criminal charges, they can go to the cops. If they don’t, they can remain anonymous. They can’t do both. But more to the point:  Whatever they want done can be handled by police and the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office. We don’t need an investigation of the Massachusetts Senate.

State officials won’t even offer an estimate of costs for this investigation by a high-priced Boston law firm. Why see such an investigation through when all it can possibly tell us is that Rosenberg can’t serve as president of the Massachusetts Senate? We already know that. Cut your losses now.

Assume that every Senate President is temporary.

State senators should talk and act as if the every-two-years vote for Senate President is always up for grabs, whether it’s Harriette Chandler presiding or anyone else.

It should be. Just as state legislators shouldn’t ensconce themselves in the Great and General Court for half a lifetime, the leaders of each chamber ought to rotate on a fairly regular basis. We’ve seen term limits come and go in the House, which simply voted to dispense with them in order to keep Speaker DeLeo. But term limits are a good thing.

George Washington may have been the one indispensable man in American government. And even he moved on after eight years – after he rendered himself no longer indispensable. 

The point of a republic – from the Latin for “thing of the people” – is to represent the people. To do it fairly requires checks on power, which requires limits on the amount of time someone can be in power.

In the meantime, though, senators should stop putting off what should be obvious decisions concerning the Senate presidency.

It’s time to put this ugly episode behind us, and get on to the next scandal.