DeLeo and Spilka Need More Time for Panel Assignments
By Katie Lannan
State House News Service
BOSTON -- Nearly six weeks into the two-year session, legislative leaders on Monday declined to put a date on when they would assign lawmakers to the committees that will review the thousands of bills awaiting attention.
Senate President Karen Spilka pegged her timeframe as “soon.” Neither Spilka or House Speaker Robert DeLeo gave a concrete answer when asked if they would make their appointments this week, with DeLeo also saying he hoped to do so soon.
“That would include this week if at all possible,” he told reporters after meeting with Spilka and Gov. Charlie Baker.
Lawmakers were sworn in 40 days ago, on Jan. 2, and most are still waiting to learn what committees they’ll serve on and whether they’ll hold a leadership post. House freshmen have been sharing workspace in a basement hearing room until the assignments -- and corresponding office decisions -- are made.
House Minority Leader Brad Jones has assigned the members of his 32-person caucus to committees, and both Jones and Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr have
The gradual ramp-up is not out of character for the Legislature. Over the last decade, committee assignments in either branch have been made in a window ranging from Jan. 21 (Senate President Stanley Rosenberg in 2015) to Feb. 26 (DeLeo in 2011), often in mid-February.
Baker, who kicked off his second term by filing bills dealing with education funding reform, traffic safety, pretrial dangerousness determinations, the sharing of sexually explicit images and other issues, said the pace tracks with his expectations.
“We filed several pieces of legislation, and we fully expect that once the committee assignments get made, they’ll start the hearing process,” he said. “And in our sort of internal calendar, we thought all along that sort of March, April, May was the right timeframe for us to anticipate that a lot of this stuff would get in front of the committees, and that’s fine.”
The House and Senate Ways and Means committees that will work off of Baker’s $42.7 billion proposal to craft the fiscal 2020 budget will each have new chairs this session. Spilka chaired the Senate’s budget-writing panel last session, and former House Ways and Means Chairman Jeffrey Sanchez was unseated in last year’s primary.
The House Ways and Means Committee currently has custody of a $165.3 million supplemental spending bill for fiscal 2019 that Baker filed on Jan. 31. That bill includes $54 million for collective bargaining costs, $32.9 million to help cover “unanticipated” medical costs at the Department of Correction and $11 million to offset federal reductions in the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) program.
Baker said he hoped that spending bill “could get dealt with sometime this month.”
“We’ve talked a little bit about it,” he said. “There’s some stuff in there that I think is important. One of the pieces that’s particularly important is the LIHEAP issue, which has to do with fuel assistance for people ... But again, those are the kinds of things that folks get to when they need to get them done, and I’m not worried about it.”