TERM LIMITS FOR SPEAKER

By Bob Katzen

The House 43-113, voted against a proposed House rule that would prohibit any member from serving as speaker for more than eight consecutive years, with the exemption of current Speaker Bob DeLeo. The term limit was originally adopted by the House as part of a rules package that was approved in 2009 but it was repealed in 2015, thus allowing DeLeo to continue as speaker

Speaker DeLeo was a champion of the 8-year limit when it was approved during his first year as speaker in January 2009. In 2015, he said that his position on term limits has “evolved” during his tenure as speaker. At that time, he said, “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 has now been speaker for 10 years and won re-election to the post in early January.

Supporters said that lack of term limits breeds cynicism and mistrust among voters. They argued that term limits prevent anyone from becoming “Speaker for Life.” They noted that the indictments and convictions of the three prior speakers, Charlie Flaherty, Tom Finneran and Sal DiMasi, prove that too much power for too long is a problem. Some said that term limits will help facilitate turnover so that a woman can eventually become speaker.

Opponents of term limits said the voters elect their representatives and the representatives, not some arbitrary term limit, should decide who leads the House. They said this restriction would make a speaker serving his final two years a lame duck. They noted that it would reduce the speaker’s power in dealing with Gov. Charlie Baker and Senate President Karen Spilka.

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