Avid Readers Find Good Tea Leaves in Temporary House Rules Committee

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

When Speaker Robert DeLeo announced on Monday the appointment of a temporary House Rules Committee, the State House News Service said the move provided a “glimpse of the House in-crowd.”
Might it also have shown who is not as close to the Speaker as they once were?
Right now, the legislature is in a warm-up phase.  Although it began a new, two-year session on January 2, no committee assignments have been made, and the deadline for filing new bills has not yet arrived.  The real work of lawmaking and budget-making won’t start for at least a few weeks.
There is, however, routine business and some time-sensitive matters to tend to.  The temporary Rules Committee was formed to organize and schedule that work, and to set the table for the first weeks of the imminent, formal House sessions.
On the state government web site, the Rules Committee mission is described as recommending “special orders for the scheduling and consideration of legislation on the floor of the House” and recommending and proposing “changes in rules for the purpose of improving and expediting the business and procedures of the House and its committees.”
Nothing gets put to a vote in the House without the approval of the Rules Committee, and, in particular, of the committee chairman, who is always close to the Speaker, a trusted confident, an unfailing ally. 
If you’re a rep who wants her bill to pass, you have to go through Rules.  Serious power resides there.
“…DeLeo shed a little light on his most favored members on Monday,” the State House News Service reported that afternoon, January 14.  “During a lightly attended informal session, House leadership announced members of a temporary Rules Committee set up until permanent members are announced.”
Democrats designated as temporary “Rulers” were:  John Binienda of Worcester and Cory Atkins of Concord, who were the last incumbent chair and vice chair, respectively, of House Rules; Byron Rushing of Boston, Ron Mariano of Quincy, Kathi-Anne Reinstein of Revere, Ellen Story of Amherst, Garrett Bradley of Hingham, and Patricia Haddad of Somerset.
The Republicans assigned to the temporary committee were: Geoffrey Diehl of Whitman, Paul Frost of Auburn and Don Humason of Westfield.
All 11 of the temporary Rules Committee members had served on Rules during the previous (2011-2012) session, but not all of the previous committee members were named to the temporary committee.
The previous House Rules Committee had 15 members, so four were not selected for the temporary committee: John Fernandes of Milford, David Nangle of Lowell, Gene O’Flaherty of Chelsea, and Tom Petrolati of Ludlow. 
There are many possible vanilla explanations of why these four gentlemen are not serving on the temporary committee.  The amount of work on the House warm-up agenda may not require a complement of 15 representatives, for example; or the four members not tabbed for the temporary assignment may have other pressing items to deal with.
If, on the other hand, the story behind it is more colorful, i.e., significant, it will become apparent when the new permanent committee assignments are made and the new committee chairmen are named -- soon, in other words.

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