Onward from Here ....

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Onward from Here ....

Postby dougsears on Tue Nov 09, 2010 8:41 am

[bExcerpted From the State House News Service ][/b]

With the exception of Republican gains in the House, last Tuesday's elections left the status quo in place in Massachusetts with Democrats holding all of the state's Congressional seats and constitutional offices and maintaining a solid two thirds majority in both branches of the state Legislature.

On the policy front, voters repealed the 6.25 percent sales tax on alcohol sales, a tax cut that will take effect Jan. 1, 2011, reducing the prices of alcoholic beverages and removing more than $100 million in funds that the Legislature and Gov. Deval Patrick had earmarked for substance abuse treatment programs. Patrick and lawmakers are mulling potential responses to the tax cut and its impact on services.

Patrick has declared his next budget, which will be filed in January, will not include new taxes. Facing a budget gap that analysts roughly estimate at $2 billion, Patrick at this juncture says he is hoping that beyond-benchmark growth in tax collections and up to $700 million in rainy day funds will fill most of the gap that's opening up largely because billions of dollars in federal stimulus funds are running out.

Patrick and his wife Diane left on Friday for a weeklong vacation in northern California. He leaves behind an administration where senior officials are mulling whether to stay on for a second term or move on.

As with any administration heading into a new term, Patrick will inevitably encounter deputies who have decided to pursue new career opportunities. He has only two Cabinet secretaries still on board from his original team - Energy and Environment Secretary Ian Bowles and Health and Human Services Secretary JudyAnn Bigby. In developing his lineup for a second term, he'll balance his desire to keep experienced hands on board with the goal of bringing on new people with new ideas.

In addition to bringing in outsiders, Patrick has a large batch of retiring and ousted Democratic legislators who may look for employment in his administration or with other newly elected officials.

In the Legislature, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray, both unchallenged to date and expected to seek and win new terms in January as leaders of their branches, are also facing major shakeups both within their branches and within their leadership teams.

When lawmakers in the 2011-2012 session on Jan. 5, 2011, there will be eight new senators, all Democrats, and the majority party will hold a 36-4 numerical advantage over Republicans now at risk in the Senate of slipping into obscurity. Five of the new senators are state representatives who have used their seats in the House as launching pads to leap to the Senate.

Barring reversals from recounts, there will be 40 new members in the House in January, with 21 new Republicans and 19 new Democrats scheduled to be sworn in. The tide of new House Republicans means more members for House Minority Leader Brad Jones, but will also force him to adjust to an influx of members who may have different ideas about how the party should interact with the Democratic majority. Jones was elected minority leader in the current session only after a tense fight within the small Republican caucus led by Rep. Lewis Evangelidis and supported by Reps. Jeff Perry and Karyn Polito.

Evangelidis, Perry and Polito are all moving on and the only members remaining from their contingent are Reps. Daniel Webster, Donald Humason and Susan Gifford. House Republican leaders say that rift has been patched up but there were signs throughout the session of divided philosophies within the Republican caucus. The influx of new Republicans looms as an issue to watch in 2011.

The heavy turnover means lots of room for incumbents to step up into leadership positions. In the Senate, holders of three top posts are leaving: Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Steven Panagiotakos, Assistant Majority Leader Joan Menard and Majority Whip Marian Walsh. Every member of DeLeo's top leadership team is returning, though several committee chairmanships will open up, including the vice chairmanship of Ways and Means, which is held by Rep. Barbara L'Italien who lost on Tuesday.

In the Senate, the departure of Sen. Michael Morrissey opens up chairmanships on the Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure and the Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. The energy committee also has an opening on the House side with Rep. Barry Finegold jumping to the Senate. The Senate committees on housing, education and financial services will be need of new leadership with Sens. Susan Tucker, Robert O'Leary and Stephen Buoniconti, respectively, all leaving the Legislature. Finally, Rep. Robert Spellane's retirement from the House creates a vacancy atop the House Committee on Public Service.

The long period between the election and opening day also gives DeLeo time to calculate the impact of 32 House Republicans trying to align themselves with moderate House Democrats as a buffer against leadership policy or tax proposals they might view as too liberal.
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