Here We Go Again ... Gearing up for 2001

"If somebody is looking for an easy path in life, don't seek elected office."

The words of Tom Finneran, the state representative from Mattapan, and current Speaker of the House. Also, the man sure to be re-elected Speaker for the next session.

The next session starts next Wednesday. By law, it always starts on the first Wednesday of a new year. This session will run for two years, 2001 and 2002.

And, there are several changes in the session to come.

It is the last session before redistricting, when legislators in both Senate and House may find their districts radically changed. Sometimes changed in such a gerrymandered way as to eliminate certain parties from winning, or retaining, seats.

Also, this coming year, we will get raises. I'm not sure yet how much, but let me remind you that we in the legislature didn't set the new amount. In an attempt to avoid the public's criticism of previous raises, the way to change legislator's salaries was voted on, by you, the voting public, two years ago. It's based on median family incomes changes, both up and down.

There will be some changes in the membership of the legislature as well. A few incumbents lost-Walter DeFilippi of West Springfield and Evelyn Chesky of Holyoke among them. Altogether, five incumbents won't be back because they lost primary or general races.

A few others decided not to run for personal or health reasons, or because they assumed other jobs. So, there will be a dozen new faces for this reason.

Republicans are fewer than they were before, sinking from 27 out of 160 members of the House down to 24, and declining from 7 in the 40-member Senate, down to 6.

And the Democrats have a new state committee chair, Philip Johnson of Marshfield.

The Speaker is sure to name new committee chairs and vice-chairs. All Democrats, of course.

Both Democrats and Republicans will have new members in their leadership teams, because each lost a member who resigned to take other jobs or retired.

All departing House members had the chance to give their formal "goodbyes" last month.

The speeches were varied. Recounting races and victories, ignoring the advice of spouses and parents, thanking their cohorts and leaders, announcing future plans, reviewing successful legislation, giving advice to the future legislature.

A Marine honor guard escorted Mary Jeanette Murray into the well for her farewell. Not only a retired legislator, but a retired Marine!

Another tradition, another year. More will leave during the year, if the 2001 session is like any other. And, a year from now, the speeches will be made again.

Looking at the new session, some legislation will be coming around again. Like the Death Penalty, for sure. (Most surveys show it's destined to fail again.)

But, let's stop here. That's only one of about 8,000 bills that have been filed. Deadline for filing was earlier this month.

I'll try to keep you posted on the most important ones, the ones that will affect your daily life, as we proceed through the new session of the legislature.

Meanwhile, Happy New Year, to all of you!

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