Hart moves up the ranks in State Senate leadership

Michael Norton, State House News Service
Jan. 24, 2012

South Boston Sen. Jack Hart and Worcester Sen. Harriette Chandler moved up the Democratic leadership ladder in the Senate Tuesday and Sen. Karen Spilka of Ashland broke into the ranks of Senate President Therese Murray's closest advisers.

Murray announced the personnel moves, including a series of committee chairmanship changes, as Gov. Deval Patrick swore in William Brownsberger to the Senate. Brownsberger, a Belmont Democrat, won a special election to fill the seat long held by Steven Tolman of Brighton, who resigned last year after being elected president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO.

Hart was named by Murray to the assistant majority leader's post that Tolman had held and now ranks behind only Majority Leader Frederick Berry (D-Peabody), who is not seeking reelection this year, and Sen. Stanley Rosenberg (D-Amherst), the Senate Speaker Pro Tempore.

In moving into the upper echelons of Senate leadership, Spilka gives up her Economic Development and Emerging Technologies Committee chairmanship. Murray named Wilbraham Democrat Gale Candaras to fill that slot. Spilka was named assistant majority whip; Chandler was bumped up to majority whip.

Sen. Katherine Clark (D-Melrose) was reassigned by Murray to chair the Revenue Committee, which Candaras had chaired. Brownsberger (D-Belmont) will fill the Public Service Committee chairmanship vacated by Clark.

Sen. James Timilty (D-Walpole) took Spilka’s seat on the Senate Ways and Means Committee and Sen. Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport) was assigned to fill her spot on the Revenue Committee.

Announced by Murray’s office, the leadership changes were approved in a Democratic caucus Tuesday.

Murray told the News Service last September that she intends to serve as Senate president until she reaches an eight-year term limit in 2015. She attributed rumors to the contrary to baseless scuttlebutt among lobbyists who frequent Beacon Hill and the drinking establishments near the State House.
"Put that out there because these rumors are crazy," Murray said last year. "It's ridiculous, and I think it comes right out of down the street … Scollay and Mooo, where all the lobbyists hang out and gossip and make things up."

Asked if she would serve until the eight-year limit on her presidency runs out, Murray said, "I hope so, unless you know something I don't know." Murray took over the Senate presidency mid-session in March 2007, succeeding Robert Travaglini, and is eligible under current rules to remain president until March 2015. The rule says that no senator may hold the presidency for more than eight straight years.