Massachusetts Democrats Defeat Term Limits for Speaker [OPINION]
Massachusetts Democrats have solidified their grip on power at the State House by beating back an attempt to impose term limits for the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Quincy Democrat Ronald Mariano will likely serve in that powerful position until he retires or is voted out of office by his constituents, neither of which is likely to happen anytime soon.
The 74-year-old Mariano, who was elected speaker by his House colleagues in December when then-Speaker Robert DeLeo resigned, was first elected to the Massachusetts House in a special election in 1991. He was appointed House majority leader in 2011 and was a powerful player in the DeLeo leadership team.
Lawmakers voted 125-35 on Wednesday to scuttle any effort to impose an eight-year limit – four two-year terms – for the position of speaker. It is not the first time term limits for the speaker have been up for debate in the Massachusetts House. When DeLeo was first elected speaker in 2009, he voted with the majority to impose term limits. That would have meant that DeLeo would have had to hand over the gavel in 2017. But in 2015, DeLeo had a change of heart and led a successful bid to do away with the term limits.
The speaker is the most powerful person on Beacon Hill. In some regards, the speaker is more powerful than the governor. It is the speaker that determines which proposed laws will be debated and how members will vote on them. The speaker has the ability to stop the governor's agenda in its tracks or allow the governor to be successful.
The speaker wields much power and control, perhaps too much power and control to not be restrained by term limits. Sure, the speaker can be voted out by the membership, but dissenters are punished severely – therefore he is rarely, if ever, challenged.
The government in Massachusetts is corrupt to the core. It will remain that way as long as one party rules and voters refuse to elect new people. How depressing.
Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.