STATE HOUSE, BOSTON — Senate President Karen Spilka, at the starting gate of her first full term leading the upper chamber, put her imprint on the Senate's power structure on Thursday by unveiling her own team that includes Westport Democrat Michael Rodrigues as the chair of the powerful budget-writing committee.

Rodrigues, 59, who led the investigation last session into the conduct of former Senate President Stanley Rosenberg as chair of the Ethics Committee, will step into one of the most prominent positions on Beacon Hill.

With responsibility for not just writing the annual state budget but also influencing almost every major piece of legislation to move through the Senate, the Ways and Means chairmanship has also often been a springboard in the past to the presidency itself.

Spilka first took over as president in late July in the waning days of formal sessions for the year and opted against reshuffling the ranks of leadership and committee chairs. Elected in January to her first full term, the Ashland Democrat had the chance at the start of the session to put her own people in positions of leadership.

Sen. Cynthia Creem of Newton will remain on as majority leader, while Spilka put Sen. William Brownsberger in the third-ranking position as president pro tempore, displacing Sen. Marc Pacheco.

Sen. Joan Lovely, who was vice chair of Ways and Means under Spilka last session and ran that committee without the chair title when Spilka ascended to the presidency, was elevated to assistant majority leader and chair of the Rules Committee.

Brownsberger will also chair the Redistricting Committee as lawmakers look ahead to the decennial census.

Rodrigues will be paired with a new chairman of Ways and Means in the House this session as well. House Speaker Robert DeLeo will announce his pick for that post later Thursday.

Last session as chair of the Ethics Committee, Rodrigues led the Senate's probe into the Rosenberg and whether, as president, he had done enough to shield members and staff from the abusive behavior of his husband Bryon Hefner. The committee's final report, produced by an outside law firm hired and guided by the Ethics Committee, led to Rosenberg's ultimate resignation from the Senate.

First elected to serve on Beacon Hill in 1995, Rodrigues spent 15 years in the House before being elected in 2010 to represent the Senate's 1st Bristol and Plymouth District. A Westport native, he has a degree in accounting and took over his family's flooring business 10 years ago.

He grew up working for his father at ABC Flooring, starting at age 12. His dad paid him $5 a day, which in 1971 meant "I was loaded," the senator told the News Service in a previous interview. Having an old-school Portuguese dad meant the $25 a week went right into the Westport Credit Union savings account, he said. Besides his pay, he said, he received family-business lessons as well: "Like, when you're working, you're spending your time earning, not spending."

Rodrigues is a centrist Democrat who, after joining the House, aligned with a conservative faction to elevate Thomas Finneran to the speakership.

--Matt Murphy, State House News Service

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