By Bob Katzen
JAN. 29, 2015 (STATE HOUSE) – The House 45-109, voted against reinstating a rule that prohibits any member from serving as speaker for more than eight
consecutive years. The rule was originally adopted by the House as part of a rules package that was approved in 2009. There was not a specific roll call vote on the limit itself in 2009.
Today’s elimination of the limit allows current House Speaker Robert DeLeo to run again for speaker in the 2017-2018 session and beyond. If the term limit had remained in place, this current 2015-2016 session would have been DeLeo’s last.
Speaker DeLeo was a champion of the eight-year limit when it was approved in January 2009. He had just been elected as speaker following the resignation of former Speaker Sal DiMasi, who is now serving time in a federal prison after being convicted of charges that he received $57,000 in payments from Cognos, a Canadian software company that he helped land nearly $20 million in state contracts.
At the time, DeLeo told the Boston Globe that voters sometimes are concerned about political figures getting stale and argued that term limits for the speaker shows there’s opportunity for change. He continued, “It’s important in a position such as speaker for there to be an opportunity for fresh ideas, and the only way you can ensure that is to put term limits on the speaker.”
Earlier today, DeLeo addressed reporters and said that his new position against term limits has “evolved” during his six-year tenure as speaker that began in 2009. “I wouldn’t say I’m going back on my word as much as the fact that over six years, rightly or wrongly, I feel I have learned in terms of what the importance is of doing away with the term limits we have in the rules,” DeLeo told reporters. He highlighted some of the House’s accomplishments during his reign as speaker. “Other members have approached me about the importance of staying on and completing this type of work and continuing this roll of success.”
DeLeo said that every two years he and other House members take a look and decide whether to run for re-election to the House. He said the chatter that he supported abolishing the limits so he could extend his reign is not true. He noted, “To state that this [term limit] amendment was due to the fact I have some idea in mind that I want to be here for a certain period of time just isn’t true … I look at it as important relative to the institution and probably even more importantly for whoever the next speaker may be.”
Rep. Garrett Bradley (D-Hingham), a key member of DeLeo’s leadership team, said that term limits would make a speaker serving his final two years a lame duck. He noted that this would reduce the speaker’s power in dealing with Gov. Charlie Baker and Senate President Stan Rosenberg.
Rep. Jim Lyons (R-Andover) spoke in favor of the limits and criticized those who are flip-flopping on the issue. He said, “Reform … is supported by everyone until it becomes inconvenient. [Term limits] was a good move then [in 2009] and it’s just as important today.” Referring to the indictments and convictions of the three prior speakers, Charlie Flaherty, Tom Finneran and Sal DiMasi, Lyons said, “Too much power in office, we know from history what that has done. So now that we understand that … we should not go backwards.”
Pam Wilmot of Common Cause said that term limits are important “especially for legislative leaders who are not elected statewide but have statewide influence.” She continued, “Term limits restrict the amount of power than can be amassed by a leader and ensure predictable, stable transitions of power. The fact that the current team is working well is not a reason to remove term limits.”
Gov. Chalie Baker tried to stay above the fray. “I’m a big believer in letting the House and the Senate make their own decisions with respect to how they want to manage their affairs, and they’ll make whatever [decision] they think makes sense for them,” Baker said.
Here’s how local representatives voted on the eight-year term limit.
(A “Yes” vote is for the eight-year term limit. A “No” vote is against the limit.)
Rep. Christine Barber No Rep. Denise Provost Yes Rep. Timothy Toomey No