Spilka on DeLeo: “Northeastern’s gain is our loss”

Boston Statehouse

House Speaker Robert DeLeo listened to Senate President Karen Spilka’s inaugural speech after she was first elected to lead the upper branch on July 26, 2018. (Sam Doran/SHNS/File)

BOSTON (SHNS) – Senate President Karen Spilka late Monday night talked about House Speaker Robert DeLeo as if his departure from Beacon Hill after his record-setting 12-year run atop the House was assured.

“Speaker DeLeo has been here for a long time as we know,” Spilka told the News Service in a post-session interview. “Northeastern’s gain is our loss. Whoever is speaker I will certainly work hard with for the people of the Commonwealth.”

Spilka spoke after the Senate passed a compromise version of the policing reform amendments returned by Gov. Charlie Baker.

The proposal now moves to the House, where DeLeo as of Friday confirmed that he was entering talks with Northeastern University about a new job and Majority Leader Ron Mariano appears poised to rise to speaker should DeLeo resign from the post, as expected. DeLeo has been unavailable to the media in recent days.

And while the House may within hours or days have a lame duck session leadership change to work through, the Senate president pointed to a wall of work that remains before lawmakers just three days before Christmas and with two weeks remaining for the current General Court.

“I just believe we have so much other work,” she said. “We have health care, transportation, economic development, among other bills that we want to get done. We need to keep moving.”

Spilka ascended to the presidency in July 2018 with only a few days remaining for formal sessions that year, a time when lawmakers were scrambling, with mixed results, to pass major bills addressing short-term rental regulation, education funding, health care, animal protection and clean energy.

On Monday night, she did not say whether she had even spoken with DeLeo about his status in the House and Beacon Hill’s two top Democrats did not hold their semi-regular Monday afternoon conference call with Gov. Baker on Monday. She also didn’t say if she had spoken with Mariano.

“I believe that the House needs to process it’s processes and procedures and whatever ends up happening I will work with that person who is speaker, if there’s a change,” she said.

The House and Senate in late July voted to extend formal sessions through the remainder of this General Court to facilitate work on an overdue state budget, COVID-19 legislation, and five major bills that had cleared the House and Senate but not emerged from conference committee.

Voting 31-9 to amend a policing reform bill, one of the five bills, the Senate agreed Monday night to scale back restrictions they had sought to put on the use of facial recognition software by law enforcement and to limit the influence of a civilian led commission over police training. A spokeswoman for Baker said the governor would sign this new version of the bill if the House goes along with the changes made by the Senate.

The House, which may take up the Senate amendment on Tuesday, has been involved in talks on the amendment.

“This is a strong bill and I wouldn’t have put it before the members if I did not think that the House and the governor hopefully could be on board with it as well,” Spilka said.

Asked about plans for the rest of this holiday-shortened week, Spilka said getting the policing bill to Baker “hopefully for him to sign” is a priority.

“We have other amendments from the budget that need to be taken care of,” she said. “We have overrides – 137 overrides that need to be done. There are other bills. We’ll see if any of the conference committees come up with their bills. There’s other bills out there that I know we could possibly take up. So we still have a lot hopefully on the horizon to get done.”

When asked to mention any of the “other bills” that may surface in the remaining lame duck sessions, she said, “Not at this time.”

A bill aimed at reducing sexual assaults on higher education campuses is one of the bills that may advance to the governor’s desk before this session ends.

According to legislative clerks, any bill sent to Baker by Saturday, Dec. 26 won’t be eligible for a pocket veto, but bills sent to Baker after that could face a pocket veto, which happens when the governor’s 10-day window to review enacted bills extends beyond the final day of the two-year session of the General Court and goes by without action from the governor on a piece of legislation.

The 2021-2022 legislative session begins on Wednesday, Jan. 6 and the last full day of possible legislative business this session is Tuesday, Jan. 5.

The House gavels in at noon Tuesday and the Senate at 3 p.m.

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