Democrats Rodrigues, Michlewitz to head budget-writing panel
BOSTON (AP) — Six weeks after the start of the new legislative session in Massachusetts, House and Senate leaders posted committee assignments on Thursday, including new leaders for the panels that oversee the state’s $42 annual budget.
The announcements by Senate President Karen Spilka and House Speaker Robert DeLeo clear the way for the Democratic-controlled Legislature to finally begin hearings on the hundreds of bills filed for consideration the 2019-2020 session.
Sen. Michael Rodrigues, a Democrat from Westport, will chair the Ways and Means Committee in the Senate, while Rep. Aaron Michlewitz, a Boston Democrat, will lead the one in the House.
Both coveted positions, widely considered the most powerful in the Legislature aside from the Senate president and the speaker, had been vacant since the start of the year and were the subject of considerable speculation about who might fill them.
In addition to wielding clout over the budget and nearly all legislation that involves the expenditure of state money, the Ways and Means chairs also receive a $60,000 annual stipend on top of the current legislative base salary of $66,256. Massachusetts has among the highest legislative salaries in the nation.
Spilka chaired Ways and Means in the Senate before being elevated to president. Jeffrey Sanchez, the most recent chairman of House Ways and Means, left Beacon Hill after losing his re-election bid.
Rodrigues is serving his fifth term in the Senate after seven in the House. As chair of the Senate Ethics Committee during the 2017-2018 session, he oversaw an ethics investigation of Stan Rosenberg, a former Senate president. Rosenberg resigned after a report prepared by an outside law firm found that he had failed to take steps to protect the Senate from his husband, Bryon Hefner, who has pleaded not guilty to charges he sexually harassed or assaulted several men.
Michlewitz, first elected to the House in 2009, was one of the principal architects of a 2016 law that regulates ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft.
Spilka also announced new Senate chairs for other key committees.
Democratic Sen. Jamie Eldridge, of Acton, will head the Judiciary Committee. He succeeds Sen. William Brownsberger, a Belmont Democrat, who becomes President Pro Tempore of the Senate and will also head the redistricting committee.
Boston Democrat Sonia Chang-Diaz, an outspoken advocate for education financing reform, will no longer serve as Senate chair of the Education Committee, with Sen. Jason Lewis, of Winchester, taking over the post. Chang-Diaz will lead two other committees: Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities and the Marijuana Policy committees.