Spellane and McGee To Chair Public Service

MAY 2009 VOICE: Leadership changes in the House and Senate have instituted two new chairmen and vice chairmen for the important Joint Committee on Public Service.

New House Speaker Robert DeLeo has appointed Robert Spellane (D-Worcester) to chair the Committee. Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport) will serve as the House vice chairman. The 39 year old Spellane and 50 year old Rodrigues are part of a new generation of leadership in the House.

DeLeo, who is 59, has assembled a leadership team largely comprised of Representatives under the age of 50. Both Majority Leader James Vallee (D-Franklin) and Ways and Means Chairman Charles Murphy (D-Burlington) are 43. Floor Division Chairs Garrett Bradley (D-Hingham) and Kathi-Anne Reinstein (D-Revere) are 38 and 37 respectively.

Lest anyone think that the Speaker has only surrounded himself with younger lieutenants, Speaker Pro Tempore Thomas Petrolati (D-Ludlow) is 52, while Assistant Majority Leader Ronald Mariano (D-Quincy) is 63.

On the Senate side, Senate President Therese Murray (D-Plymouth) has appointed Senator Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) to chair both the Public Service and Labor & Workforce Development Committees. Senator Thomas Kennedy (D-Brockton) will serve as the Committee’s vice chairman. McGee and Kennedy are 53 and 57 respectively.

“There is certainly a new wave of leaders emerging in the State House, many of whom are in their late 30s and forties,” said Association Legislative Liaison Shawn Duhamel, who is himself 38 and has been with the Association since 1994. “Many of these new leaders entered public service in the early 90s and have worked their way up the ladder by gaining experience.

“On the Senate side, both Tommy McGee and Tom Kennedy have many years of experience working with our Association on retirement issues. Both previously served in the House and were members of the Public Service Committee.”

Committee aides Patrick Charles and Jacob Baker will continue to staff the House side of the Public Service Committee. Charles, who has worked for the Committee during the past two sessions, serves as the research director and general counsel. Baker, who previously worked as an aide to Boston City Councilor Sam Yoon, joined the Committee in 2007 as a research assistant. Both have vast knowledge of the Chapter 32 retirement law and will play a key role in developing legislative initiatives.

Busy Session Ahead

Despite criticisms in the media of being off to a slow start in 2009, the Legislature is following its normal schedule of hearings that begin the legislative process. The Public Service Committee, which has been assigned over 900 separate bills to review, began its hearings in early April. With hearings scheduled through the month of July, the Committee will operate at breakneck pace in the coming months.

Paramount amongst the scores of bills under consideration are several key provisions that seek to bring about various “reforms” to the Massachusetts public pension system. These “reforms”, which will not impact current retirees, are aimed at closing so-called loopholes in the retirement law that have come under intense public scrutiny in recent years.

“There are a handful of controversial issues that the media has focused on. Things, like housing allowances for college presidents and special retirement benefits for elected officials, are likely to be changed,” explained Association President Ralph White. “These issues have nothing to do with our members, but the public controversy harms all public retirees and employees. The Legislature is wise to bring an end to these practices, which will then put the focus back on improving the lives of public retirees.”

As members know, the Association has filed 19 bills for the current session. Each bill will receive its own public hearing before the Committee, in which the Association will offer testimony.

The Committee then has three choices: release the bill with a favorable report; release the bill with an unfavorable report; or place the bill in a study for further review.