Legislature Slow to Return to Business

The House of Representatives may be back in session, but it's not back to work.

After our first, full, formal day, with the swearing in of Representatives and the pageantry of telling the Governor and telling the Senate that we were ready for business, nothing has happened. No formal sessions, no votes, no committee meetings. Nothing.

Maybe we should have heeded the clue that first day, when the House committee went to the Senate Chamber to tell Senators we were ready for business. They arrived to find the Senate had adjourned.

The committee sent to notify the Governor met a similar fate. The committee was informed that the Governor had left the building.

Where did the Governor go? The Governor went off to Texas for lunch with the President Elect, and then went to Florida for a week's vacation. He returned to the State House this past Tuesday, and left again on Thursday for Inaugural events in Washington.

Why didn't the House meet? Why was there so much inaction? Well, the Speaker announced there wouldn't be any formal session last week, because a number of Representatives were on trips to Israel and Cuba.

This week? No formal sessions because a number of Representatives were off to Washington to celebrate the beginning of George Bush's term as president. And, the Governor was giving his State of the State address.

The State of the State. In Worcester. Mechanics Hall. Why? Because he has decided to go out among the people in the hinterlands of Massachusetts. For the second year in a row.

I think it's a bad idea. The State of the State has traditionally been given in the State House. And I think a speech in Worcester loses the aura, the pageantry, the truly beautiful location of the State House. But, the Governor didn't ask me. So I trekked out to Worcester.

Did anything at all happen in three weeks? Well, not much could happen, because the chairs of the committees have not been named.

And, word is, the chairs won't be named until after the House debates the rules under which we will operate this year. Why? Because the Speaker knows the members will follow his lead, and vote the way he wants, in hopes of getting appointed. If they "vote off" that coveted chair might just go to someone else.

So, we'll debate rules this coming Tuesday. Then we'll know such things as how late we can stay at night, how long bills can stay in committee, stuff like that. Sort of our own Roberts Rules of Order.

I have to note, however, that the Republicans have announced which committees the members will serve on. Obviously, because they are a minority with only 24 members out of 160 in the House, they won't be naming any committee chairs!

I'll be returning to the Insurance Committee for the fourth straight term. Better yet, I've been named Ranking Republican on Long Term Debt and Capital Expenditures, a leadership job that offers extra pay, as well as Ranking Republican on Banks and Banking.

Outside of the State House, various groups have planned legislative breakfasts-Human Service providers, insurance agencies, labor unions, to name a few.

And constituent services continue, as Tim Cheever and Carla Moran, my aides, and I work to solve your problems. Problems ranging from mental health care to child support, traffic signs to background information on a former state representative, dealer plates to elderly housing, and fuel assistance to satellite tv broadcast rights.

We continue to provide citations, awards from the legislature honoring people for becoming Eagle Scouts, for turning 75 or 100, or being the local Pastor for 25 years, and honoring organizations like Westfield Voke for 90 years of quality technical education or St. John's Lutheran Church on its 100th anniversary.

Next week, however, it's really back to work. Rules will be debated, committee chairs named, and bills assigned to committees. Hearings will start and the action will return.

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