By Bob Katzen
The House 120-31, re-elected Rep. Bob DeLeo (D-Winthrop) to a sixth term as speaker of the House. Rep. Bradley Jones (R-North Reading) received the votes of 31 of the 32 Republicans and was re-elected GOP minority leader. Rep. Shaunna O’Connell (R-Taunton) was absent.
DeLeo received the votes of 119 of the 128 Democrats. One Democratic representative was absent and eight opted not to cast a vote for speaker and voted “present.” That list included returning Reps. Jonathan Hecht, Russell Holmes (D-Boston), John Rogers D-Norwood) and Angelo Scaccia (D-Boston); along with freshmen Reps. Tami Gouvieia (D-Acton), Nik Elugardo (D-Boston), Patrick Kearney (D-Scituate) and Maria Robinson (D-Framingham).
Earlier in the day at a Democratic caucus, Robinson proposed an amendment that the speaker be elected by secret ballot rather than the current system of a recorded roll call vote. Ironically, the proposal was defeated on an unredorded voice vote. Holmes, Hecht, Elugardo and Kearney of spoke in favor of Robinson’s amendment.
Supporters of the secret ballot said members should be able to cast a vote without worrying about the next speaker knowing that he or she voted against the him or her. They noted that they were all elected by their local voters who voted in secret.
Robinson said she wanted to ensure that House lawmakers would be independent. “And it is difficult to have independence when you do not have a private ballot for one of the most important roles,” she said.
Opponents said an open ballot makes the House more transparent. They said voters deserve to hear where their elected representative voted on every matter, including the election of the most powerful man in the House.
To go to a secret ballot defies a republic,” said Rep. Tackey Chan (D-Boston).
Beacon Hill Roll Call made repeated attempts to get a comment from all eight members who voted “present.” Only Reps. Holmes, Elugardo, John Rogers, Gouvieia, Kearney and Hecht responded.
We did not get a response from Reps.Scaccia and Robinson.
“My constituents, many of whom are people of color, have made it clear that I should not continue to prop up an institution that does not listen to it or show it the respect that our voting records deserve,” said Rep. Holmes. “The House of Representatives is run by Democrats. However, the leadership and its goals does not have as its highest priority the desires of its most reliable voting constituency. We should be focused on eliminating the gaps between unemployment rates and income of people of color and whites, passing foundation budget and immigration reform, and pushing forward with eliminating violence in our community by solving unsolved murders. This is why I hear over and over again in my district that folks supported Gov. Baker at unexpected levels. He has been in the district many times and listens, values and respects our perspective as reforms are rolled out from his administration.”
“I voted present because I believe we need a new direction in the House,” said Rep. Hecht. “We need to make the House truly democratic by opening up the lawmaking process and giving an equal voice to all members and the communities they represent.”
“I would only vote for a candidate who would make a public statement about their vision for reforming House culture and House Rules, and in the absence of such a statement by any candidate I would have to vote ‘present,’” said Rep. Elugardo. “Any statement acknowledging the need to assess and address a culture of fear that is choking, for some reps, their ability to ask for roll calls and to call for reforms that increase transparency and robust debate would have sufficed. But to my knowledge at the time of voting none was presented to the members.”
I voted “present” today to be consistent with my long held belief in term limits for the office of speaker of the House,’ said John Rogers. “Indeed, the gentleman from Winthrop [Speaker Bob DeLeo] and I years ago both ran for speaker advocating for term limits forsSpeaker.Although I support his right to change his mind, I remain resolute in the fundamental belief in this necessary limit on the powers of the office of speaker.”