In Cambridge May Be Found One Reticent Pol/GoodSon/Serious Legislator

Thursday, June 30, 2016

I’m trying to decide what I like most about Cambridge rep David Rogers’s maiden speech.  It’s a toss-up among three things:

One, Rogers waited three-and-a-half years to give his maiden speech; two, Rogers spoke lovingly of his recently deceased mother; three, Rogers was advocating for a good bill he’s sponsoring that would increase penalties on anyone convicted of trying to get someone else to commit a felony.
An attorney, Rogers is obviously no show-off or camera hog.  On the contrary, he seems remarkably secure and low-key for someone of his ilk.  Rogers was first elected in the fall of 2012 and re-elected two years later.  Yet he waited til the second year of his second term was almost half over before formally addressing his colleagues from the House rostrum on June 22.  Most politicians get this over with in their rookie years.

Lyndon Johnson famously divided legislators into two categories: show horses and workhorses.  This Rogers has to be a workhorse
Thanks to the State House News Service, we have a pretty good transcript of Rogers’s speech, which went as follows:

“I rise in strong support of this bill (An Act to Properly Punish the Solicitation of Felony Crimes), which I introduced.  Given that this is the first time I’ve addressed my colleagues, I want to offer some thanks.  First, I want to thank my constituents: I never take for granted your support.  Mr. Speaker (Robert DeLeo), I’d like to thank you for your guidance and leadership.  Louis Brandeis said the states are laboratories of our democracy.  If that was true when he first said it, it has never been truer than right now.  With our federal government gridlocked, the states have had to sept into the void and provide leadership.  Under you, Mr. Speaker, that’s exactly what we have done.  We have had tremendous leadership.
“I also want to thank my family.  My campaign in 2012 was largely a family affair.  I also want to acknowledge my mom.  Many of you know I recently lost my mom, and I want to thank you all for offering your kindness during this time.  She grew up on a tiny farm in Iowa; they lost everything in the Great Depression.  My father came back from World War Two and started a family.  I lost my father when I was 12 and my mom stepped up tremendously.  My mom loved this place, Mr. Speaker.  I remember calling you to ask if she could sit next to me when I was sworn in, and before I even put the phone down, work came back that you would set up a chair for her.  My mom loved the stories of this place. 

“When I was running, a guy asked me what I was going to do about Putin.  I thought President Obama had joined me at my event or something.  I told him that I was running for the state legislature, not a federal office.  He said, ‘You aren’t even in office yet and you’re already making excuses.’  So I told him, ‘If I’m elected, I’ll sit down with Vladimir Putin and tell him a thing or two.’  The guy said, ‘Well, you’ve got my vote!’
“I come from Cambridge and 12 of the bills I introduced this session had to do with lightening the foot of our criminal justice system.  I think we’ve gone too far with things like mandatory minimums and mass incarceration.  The district attorney came to me and said a guy went to an undercover cop to have his wife killed.  But, because the cop did not have the intent to kill (since he was a police officer), the guy could only be charged with solicitation and not conspiracy.  This bill fixes a major shortcoming in our system and I’m proud to support it.  Thank you, Mr. Speaker.”  

One of the better rituals of the legislature revolves around the importance of a legislator’s maiden speech.  The presiding officer always gives the rep or senator in this situation a special introduction. All members remain quietly and attentively in their seats while the speech is being delivered, which rarely happens otherwise.  And at the end, there’s loud applause and every member quickly lines up to shake the maiden orator’s hand and offer effusive congratulations.  Legislators always remember the time they gave their maiden speeches and can easily recall what they spoke about on those occasions.
Beyond the above (unfamiliar to him) pleasures of the spotlight, Rep. Rogers got to enjoy the thrill of having his maiden speech lead immediately to a unanimous 153-0 vote to enact An Act to Properly Punish the Solicitation of Felony Crimes, now numbered House Bill 4005.  The bill has been sent to the Senate, where it would seem, by virtue of having no apparent, serious opposition in or outside the State House, to have a good chance of passage before the legislature must end all formal sessions on July 31.

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