Leadership Posts Remain Unfilled Following Massachusetts Senate Caucus

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2018/02/14/leadership-posts-remain-unfilled-following-massachusetts-senate-caucus/

By Matt Murphy

BOSTON — Despite expectations that Senate President Harriette Chandler would round out her leadership team Wednesday, Senate Democrats met for almost two hours without making any decisions about who would fill vacant leadership posts that carry significant financial stipends.

Chandler set the expectation last week when she predicted she would have no problem “finding good people” to fill the roles, that she wasn’t looking to “change everything around,” and that she hoped to present her picks to the Democrat caucus this week.

She couched the importance of filling the roles in her leadership team as part of the process of turning the page on the tumult of the past two months and focusing on the Senate’s legislative objectives for the remaining six months of formal sessions. One of the open positions is majority leader, the second highest ranking post in the Senate behind the president.

“No announcement today, but thank you so much,” Chandler said as she exited her office Wednesday afternoon, trailed by Democratic senators on their way to the House chamber to hear former Sen. Linda Forry give her farewell speech to the Legislature after resigning last month for a job at Suffolk Construction.

Forry had served as one of two assistant majority whips, in one of the spots Chandler must fill.

Chandler was reaffirmed last week by the Senate as its president for the remainder of the year, a vote intended by Democrats to stabilize the leadership picture that had been blurry since Sen. Stanley Rosenberg stepped down in December amid an Ethics Committee investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and Senate meddling by his husband.

After the vote, Chandler said she intended to move quickly to fill the majority leader slot, which she held before she became Senate president.

“I’d like to make it next week so I can bring it to the caucus,” the Worcester Democrat said last Thursday. “There’s no reason why I should be holding on. I mean, we’ve got to get going here.”

Chandler offered no explanation for why she did not present a new leadership chart to the caucus on Wednesday, but her staff said an announcement should be coming soon once the final details are ironed out. One of the issues, according to someone familiar with the process, is compensation.

The House and Senate voted at the start of the session in 2017 to significantly increase the stipends that come with leadership positions and chairmanships, and in the Senate members are allowed to received up to three stipends, depending on the positions they hold. Part of the delay, according to a source, has to do with figuring out how to implement a reshuffling of the leadership ranks without reducing any one member’s salary for the year.

Several senators approached after caucus referred questions about leadership appointments to Chandler’s office. Asked if it came up during the caucus, Sen. James Welch of Springfield said, “No, just that it wasn’t happening today. At least that’s what I understood.”

In addition to naming a new majority leader and assistant majority whip, Chandler may also fill the chairmanship of the Senate Redistricting Committee, another post she holds. She also chairs the Special Senate Committee on Citizen Engagement.

There could be dominoes that fall behind any promotions she hands out requiring a shuffling of positions, and there is also the question of what to do with Rosenberg, now a rank-and-file senator who has not been assigned to serve on committees or in chairmanship or leadership posts.

In addition to the turbulence caused by a mid-session change in the presidency, five senators left the chamber this session — Sens. Forry, Jennifer Flanagan, James Timilty and Thomas McGee have left the Senate to pursue other jobs and Sen. Ken Donnelly died.