When things are complicated, as they have been for the past many months in
the House, it is hard to comment publicly.
But I’m very pleased to share with you today my feelings about the new
speaker of the House, Bob Deleo. I committed well over a year ago to vote
for Bob and his solid final victory yesterday was very good news.
Bob is a low-key, decent guy with a self-deprecating sense of humor. He is
smart and hard-working and respectful to all. And I think he is exactly
what we need right now to lead us through a session with many challenges.
As the chair of Ways and Means, he has shown that he can work well with the
diverse membership of the House and steer complex legislation to enactment.
He has also shown that he can work well with the Senate President and with
the Governor, and his agenda is well-aligned with theirs. He has committed
to swift action on transportation reform, pension reform and ethics reform.
I’m very hopeful that we’ll achieve progress on these issues.
I think he has a very grounded perspective, based on many years of state and
local experience. I am also convinced that he genuinely cares about people,
and not just people that he knows personally, but about all the people that
his choices may affect.
I believe that he will be a speaker who will respect the deliberative
process of the House as opposed to one who imposes his will on the House.
He is tough enough to focus the body and move issues along, but he will
allow the members to do their job and represent the people who elected them.
I think the news will not be about what Bob does, but about what the House
Some columnists have fretted that he is “too close” to the last speaker or
tainted somehow by the Vitale matters. As to the Vitale matters, the Ways
and Means committee is a lay-over stop or final resting place for thousands
of bills every year. The fact that the ticket scalping and knowledge
software language moved through Bob’s committee has zero significance. The
past speaker controlled any legislation that he felt was important and all
committee chairs followed his instructions without necessarily knowing why a
bill was to move or not to move or to be amended.
As to whether Bob was too close to the last speaker, first, Sal DiMasi was a
good and effective leader on major issues. Friendship with Sal is no stain.
However right or wrong Sal’s actions were on bills of concern to lobbyist
friends, he leaves with a distinguished record of contributions on the major
issues of his time.
But here’s another thing that I’ve come to understand better: To be a
candidate for Speaker of the House, one needs to have relationship capital
that can only be built over long tenure. All the representatives with
adequate tenure are close to one or more of the recent past leaders of the
House. They served with them for many years. The Rogers/Deleo fight echoes
back to the Finneran/Voke fight in the 90s. John Rogers, who gracefully
accepted defeat yesterday, had the support of past speaker Finneran and some
of his former lieutenants who are still in office. Power in the House does
extend well beyond the chamber itself — lobbyists also had their
preferences in the speaker fight and played a quiet but active role in
influencing members opinions about the candidates.
I know that Bob understands the need to make a break with the past and to
reassure the public about the integrity of decision-making in the House.
That won’t be easy, but I am sure Bob has a better shot than anyone else of
making it happen.
As tough as the issues we face are, I’m very hopeful that the House will
acquit itself well over the coming session.