Governor's Councilor Was Aiming for the Senate When She Shot Herself in the Foot

Friday, May 13, 2011

Memo to Jennie Caissie: Generally, it's not a good idea to insult someone who has a say in eliminating your job.

Caissie serves on the eight-member Governor's Council, also known as the Executive Council, the mostly invisible arm of state government that confirms the governor's judicial nominees. This week she came out with both guns blazing at state senators who want to do away with the council on the grounds that it is a costly (at least $400,000 per year) relic of our colonial past.

"Quite frankly, I can't imagine a more politically corrupt system than having the senate approve judges in this one-party state," said Caissie, one of two newly-elected Republicans on the Governor's Council. "Talk about a shake-down that would make a thug on the streets of Chicago blush."

In most states, the senate confirms judicial nominees, and some Massachusetts legislators have indeed suggested that our senate could easily do the job, but the latest word is that senate leaders, and others, don't want to go that route. They're afraid it would look too much like a power grab.

Folks are leaning, instead, to having a new group vet, and vote on, judges -- a group composed, say, of the Attorney General, Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, and President of the Massachusetts Bar Association. So Caissie was shooting down an option that had already been taken off the table.

That doesn't mean her words haven't drawn blood at the State House though.

Senate proponents of eliminating the Governor's Council wouldn't be worthy of their bumper stickers if they didn't try to turn Caissie's words against the council.

Will those words cause more senators to jump on the elimination bandwagon? Maybe.

Being dissed by someone who collects $26,000 a year to attend a brief meeting now and then, while all the time rolling up pension credits, can do wonders for your motivation.

The state constitution will have to be amended by popular vote before the Governor's Council can be eliminated. And in order for the proposal to get on the statewide ballot, the Massachusetts House of Representatives and Senate will have to vote for the measure in two consecutive years while meeting in a formal session known as a Constitutional Convention.

The legislature has scheduled its next Constitutional Convention on July 13 at 1:00 p.m. in the House chamber.

I hope Ms. Caissie will be in the lobby that day, making the pitch to passing senators and reps that the Governor's Council is a trusty tool of democracy, a venerable institution that does not deserve to die. That could get interesting fast.

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