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Transfer of power in Massachusetts Senate set for July

April 5, 2018

BOSTON (AP) — Senate President Harriette Chandler and expected incoming president Sen. Karen Spilka announced Thursday they will transfer power this summer.

The two issued a joint statement saying the transition will take place during the week of July 23. The 40-member Senate ends its formal session for the year on July 31.

The two said they arrived at the date after ongoing conversations and “a spirit of long-held mutual respect.”

“Each of us also believes that a smooth, orderly transition between each of our tenures as Senate president is the only way to ensure the Senate’s uninterrupted work on behalf of the men, women and children of this commonwealth,” the statement said.

Chandler, a Worcester Democrat, assumed the top post after Democratic Sen. Stan Rosenberg stepped down from the presidency in December amid a probe into whether he violated any Senate rules in connection with sexual assault allegations against his husband, Bryon Hefner.

Hefner was indicted last week on charges of sexual assault, distributing nude photos without consent and criminal lewdness. Hefner’s lawyer says he intends to plead not guilty.

The Senate Ethics Committee has hired a Boston law firm to conduct a separate investigation into Rosenberg. He and Hefner have separated.

Chandler agreed to serve as Senate president for the remainder of the current session but ruled out keeping the post beyond that. While the formal session ends July 31, the Senate remains in informal session until January, when the new Senate is sworn in.

Spilka, an Ashland Democrat and current chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, announced last month she had secured enough votes in the chamber to be the next Senate president.

That left the prospect of Chandler serving the rest of the year as president with Spilka waiting in the wings. Thursday’s announcement clarifies the transition.

The two had words of praise for each other in separate statements.

Chandler said she and Spilka have been long-time friends and colleagues and that she’s pleased to be handing the Senate over to a strong leader. Spilka credited Chandler for helping lead the Senate through a difficult period and said she’s asked Chandler to be a member of her leadership team.

Spilka also said she doesn’t plan to make any significant changes to Senate leadership positions this year. The Senate president has the power to make committee assignments.

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