TEAM CHEMISTRY — Recap and analysis of the week in state government

MEET THE PRESS: The new House and Senate budget chiefs, Rep. Aaron Michlewitz and Sen. Michael Rodrigues, talked to reporters outside their caucuses on Thursday. Photos: Sam Doran/SHNS

House Speaker Robert DeLeo walked out of a caucus of his Democratic members on Thursday looking pleased.

To his right was new Ways and Means Chairman Aaron Michlewitz. To his left was new Ways and Mean Vice Chairwoman Denise Garlick. And behind him stood Jennifer Benson, the new chairwoman of the Committee on Health Care Financing.

"It's not just about one position. It's about all positions," DeLeo said, describing the "many months, many hours of consideration" that went into assembling a "team" of party leaders and committee chairs for the young two-year session.

"I'm really, really excited about this coming session with the folks we have put together," he said.

In many ways, Thursday's committee assignments were the starting gun for the legislative session, six weeks after lawmakers took their oaths and said they're ready to get to work, and several weeks after members filed thousands of bills and co-sponsored thousands more.

Across the building, Senate President Karen Spilka was doing the same thing. She tapped Westport Sen. Michael Rodrigues to lead the Senate Ways and Means Committee, and made a number of other choices that raised some eyebrows, including the removal of long-time Education Committee Chairwoman Sonia Chang-Diaz from her post.

Spilka never came out of her office to introduce the team she had assembled, leaving it to them to speak for themselves.

Given the concentration of power in the speaker and Senate president's offices, it easy to read too much into the committee assignments. At the end of the day, DeLeo is still making the final calls in the House and Spilka in the Senate. But it can be informative to see who they choose to have whispering in their ears.

The chairmanship of Ways and Means has historically been a good jumping off point for politicians who aspire to the top job in either the House or Senate. The appointment of Michlewitz, however, may carry slightly more import.

While Spilka is just starting her first full term as president in the Senate, DeLeo is embarking on his sixth. The speaker has given no indication that he's getting ready to move on, and, in fact, has said he intends at the very least to finish this two-year term. But there's no denying that DeLeo is probably closer to the end of his career in the Legislature than Spilka, with no heir apparent.

Michlewitz, who previously worked in the speaker's office as an aide to Sal DiMasi, is now firmly planted in the conversation about what happens in the House post DeLeo. But there will be others, including women.

But that may be getting too far ahead. In the meantime, both Ways and Means chairs will have to get up to speed fast on Gov. Charlie Baker's budget, and start drafting their own spending plans for fiscal 2020. The hour is later for Michlewitz, who needs to write a budget bill by April, and the speaker said Thursday that budget hearings will have to start "immediately."

Both Michlewitz and Rodrigues said they are not closing the door on anything right now, including new taxes or revenue streams to support investments in public education, transportation or other priorities, but progressive Democrats can't be optimistic.

Michlewitz is a team player, and if DeLeo is still reluctant to pursue new revenues he's unlikely to push that issue. Rodrigues, meanwhile, is self-described as being comfortable in the "boring middle."

Sen. Jamie Eldridge, who will chair the Judiciary Committee in the new session and leads the Senate Progressive Caucus, diplomatically avoided expressing any disappointment he might have been feeling with Rodrigues' elevation.

"I'm excited for him," Eldridge said. "I am someone that is a very strong advocate to raise revenue and I'll certainly be making my case to him that this session we need to raise revenue and not just look to pass the millionaire's tax in four years."

Spilka, actually, surprised a lot of people in the building by turning to Rodrigues for Ways and Means and bringing other senators like Sen. Mike Rush and Sen. Joan Lovely from moderate districts into her leadership team.

"The rumor on the street ... it was a little different from what I expected and what I heard, so it was interesting to see," House Majority Leader Rob Mariano said.

Might these appointments someday be viewed as the beginning of the thaw between the House and Senate?

The Ways and Means appointments tend to overshadow everyone else because of the volume of legislation that moves through that committee, or dies there, and the outsized influence that chairmanship carries, but Michlewitz and Rodrigues were certainly not the only story out of assignment day.

Notably, the last session's two biggest legislative failures – education funding and health care reform – will have almost entirely new faces running point for the House and Senate.

Benson will be joined by Sen. Cindy Friedman as co-chairs of the Committee on Health Care Financing, replacing Sen. James Welch and Peter Kocot, who passed away before the end of session last year.

Meanwhile, Sen. Jason Lewis steps in for Chang-Diaz at the Education Committee where Rep. Alice Peisch remains on the House side. Chang-Diaz's removal from Education went unexplained by Spilka, but it's unlikely we've heard the last of it with Chang-Diaz vowing to remain involved in the debate.

In fact, there are so many changes, this list could go on and on. But other things did, in fact, happen this week.

For starters, General Electric – the white whale that Gov. Baker reeled in to great fanfare in 2016 – has fallen on such hard times that they announced they would be selling their Fort Point property and using some of the proceeds to repay the state's $87 million in tax incentives they received to relocate to Boston and .

GE will stay in Boston, but won't build a tower it promised and instead will lease a smaller space in the buildings that are being sold to accommodate a much smaller workforce.

At least they didn't pull out altogether, which is what Amazon did to New York this week when it broke up with the Big Apple on Valentine's Day in a cautionary tale of what can happen when a state falls too hard, too fast with a corporation promising jobs that the the public doesn't think are worth the hassle.

The Fort Point property will now be back on the block for redevelopment, just like the former site of the BaySide Expo Center, which the University of Massachusetts announced it would be leasing to Boston-based Accordia Partners for $192 million to $235 million over the next 99 years.

Accordia says it wants to build a "mixed-use urban innovation campus," which could become a transformative project for the Columbia Point neighborhood and the UMass Boston campus.

STORY OF THE WEEK: House and Senate team captains name their varsity squads.

SONG OF THE WEEK: Will be Beacon Hill be stuck in the middle with Rodrigues?