There’s a revolution brewing on Beacon Hill — and it’s about time.
With Robert DeLeo exiting his position as House Speaker, presumably for a job at Northeastern University, business-as-usual dictates the job would pass seamlessly to his top deputy, Quincy’s Ron Mariano.
Not so fast, says state Rep. Russell Holmes, D-Mattapan, who has thrown his hat in the ring for the speaker’s job.
“I didn’t think we should just roll over and let this happen,” Holmes, a financial planner who was elected in 2010, said in a phone interview Friday morning. “It can’t just be more backroom deals.”
We’re not sure if “backroom deals” have ever been spoken of with derision before on Beacon Hill, and it’s a breath of fresh air.
Closed-door deals are part and parcel of the House, particularly when it comes to the annual budget. Critics have slammed these covert deliberations as lacking transparency for years.
In April of last year, the Herald reported that government watchdogs and political observers called the House budget process a “charade,” a “joke” and a “scam” after it finished up four days of deliberations, mostly done privately in Room 348.
DeLeo will be the first speaker in this century to leave the job without being ousted by criminal charges. That dubious honor is a key focus of Holmes’ platform.
“We need to uproot this poisonous tree,” Holmes said, referring to the criminal corruption under previous speakers and the norm of secrecy under the DeLeo.
Last year, DeLeo and 34 state reps refused to share any details of bills they paid or gifts received over the previous three years. The chamber’s legal counsel informed the Herald the Legislature is “exempt from the Public Records Law.”
That law shields them from detailing their daily schedules, providing copies of their emails or handing over notes from closed-door meetings.
“People should be able to learn what is happening behind closed doors. The Legislature is doing the public’s business,” Greg Sullivan, former state inspector general and research director at the Pioneer Institute said at the time.
An excellent point — but that’s not how business is done on Beacon Hill.
Changing the status quo is a radical idea. And a much-needed one.
Holmes said he wants to decentralize power, bringing the speaker’s pay back down to the other reps and making the processes for everything from getting parking spaces and staff members acquiring committee chairmanships more transparent.
Cutting a pol’s pay? In Massachusetts? We hope the State House is stocked with smelling salts.
““Politics has become our careers and life experiences — and that’s the opposite of what the founding fathers wanted,” Holmes said.
Massachusetts taxpayers need leadership that puts citizens first and the political machine second. It’s time for a change in the Legislature.
But Holmes is facing an uphill fight.
State Rep. Claire Cronin, D-Easton, told the Herald on Friday that she doesn’t see a race for the speaker “being any possibility” because she’s “confident that Leader Mariano has the votes to be the next speaker of the House once Speaker DeLeo chooses to step down.”
“I already think that Leader Mariano has more than enough support,” Cronin, the House chairwoman of the judiciary committee, said. “I believe strongly that he will be the next speaker.”
Holmes said he spoke to people who said they pledged support to Mariano two, three years ago.
“I’m a praying man,” Holmes said.
He is not alone.
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