BOSTON (SHNS) – On track to become the longest continuously serving House speaker in state history in eight months, Rep. Robert DeLeo plans to run for re-election next year and then seek another two-year term as the leader of the House.
The Winthrop Democrat has a new counterpart in the bicameral Legislature, as Worcester Sen. Harriette Chandler was elected acting Senate president on Dec. 4.
“Everyone has their own different forms in terms of leadership, and what Acting President Chandler’s will be I’m not sure. We’ve known each other for a long time — both served in the House together. She’s always been a friend, so I don’t expect any issues,” DeLeo told the News Service on Thursday.
DeLeo said he and Chandler have already discussed their goal of finishing up a criminal justice bill that is in conference committee, and they plan to talk about other priorities in the coming weeks.
“We plan to get together within the next couple of weeks to talk about other issues, and other priorities and whatnot,” DeLeo said. “We’ll continue to work and we’ll continue to work smoothly.”
DeLeo spoke to the News Service after ringing the Salvation Army bell. The speaker’s presence seemed to draw out the charitable side many members of the House who showed up to greet the speaker and make a donation. Reps. Michelle DuBois, Joseph McGonagle, Paul McMurtry, Jerald Parisella, Sean Garballey, Kevin Honan, and Paul Donato were among those on-hand at Downtown Crossing as the speaker clanged the bell and solicited donations for the non-profit.
The reins of the Senate shifted hands after Sen. Stanley Rosenberg stepped aside – with hopes that his departure will be temporary – amid allegations that his husband, Bryon Hefner, groped men who work on Beacon Hill and suggested he has influence over Senate business.
DeLeo has exchanged phone messages with Rosenberg, but he has not “had the opportunity to actually talk to him personally” since the Amherst Democrat stepped aside, he said.
A former chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, DeLeo has been one of the Big Three of state policymakers since Jan. 28, 2009, when Salvatore DiMasi resigned from the speakership and the House amid a federal investigation that later led to his imprisonment on corruption charges.
On Aug. 4, DeLeo will surpass the late Tom McGee – father of incoming Lynn Mayor Tom McGee – as the longest continuously serving speaker in Massachusetts state history, according to a News Service review.
Last week, DeLeo’s office announced senior staffers James Eisenberg and Toby Morelli would depart for lobbying jobs and staffers Seth Gitell and Whitney Ferguson would be promoted to chief of staff and deputy chief of staff. DeLeo said he plans to remain in the speakership. Asked if he planned to run for re-election next November, seek the speakership again, and seek it for a full two-year term, DeLeo answered in the affirmative.
Since an Oct. 27 Boston Globe column outlining women’s experiences with sexual harassment on Beacon Hill, DeLeo has taken steps to investigate existing policies intended to curb harassment and retaliation within his legislative branch.
The speaker on Thursday said he has not personally received any information since then that would be cause for any concern that members of the House are guilty of that sort of behavior.
“I have not heard anything. No one – at least with me – has stepped forward at all. Beyond that I don’t have any other further knowledge,” DeLeo said, emphasizing that House leaders take sexual harassment allegations “very seriously,” and encouraging those who have been sexually harassed to “please come forward.”
House counsel James Kennedy on Tuesday told House personnel about upcoming listening sessions in January where lawmakers and staff are invited to talk about the issue. A final report from Kennedy is due March 1, and DeLeo declined to comment on what steps the House might take after receiving the report.
The speaker said he hopes to have a report ready to share with House lawmakers by the beginning of March. Asked for a preview of what it might recommend, DeLeo said, “I’d just as soon wait for the report.”