As the new session of the Massachusetts House of Representatives opens, the members will deal with a motion to do away with the eight year term limit for the House Speaker. If passed, the current House Speaker Robert DeLeo will remain in his current leadership position subject only to the majority vote of the House members. Given the history, the power and the influence of DeLeo’s position, he will undoubtedly serve as Speaker indefinitely. This move is a power play to irreversibly consolidate power. DeLeo seeks a coronation.
Ironically, it was Robert DeLeo in 2009, who pushed for term limits in his bid to become House Speaker. He ran for the post in the wake of scandals involving his three predecessors. The three were convicted of bribery, perjury and extortion in federal court. DeLeo offered term limits, on the tenure of the House Speaker, as a means of restoring public confidence. He was elected and has served as House Speaker since that time.
Rather than change state government, he gave us more of the same. He crafted rules and procedures that cleverly obfuscated the House voting process in order to shield many in the majority party from casting votes that would put them at political risk. He instituted procedural hurdles that have insulated him and the majority leadership from oversight. He has used House rules to thwart debate on measures to reduce the state budget, to increase local aid and to improve the administration of welfare services. During his tenure the House budget process has been reduced to a closed door administrative exercise where he dictates who wins and loses.
During the worst economic downturn since the great depression he gave us a tax hike and offered casino gambling as the panacea for our stalling economy. He jeopardized our vital technology innovation sector by foisting a tax on it, and he was a central figure in one of the most egregious abuses of power every brought to light in Massachusetts politics, the probation scandal. US Attorney Carmen Ortiz described our legislature under DeLeo’s tenure as a “culture of corruption”.
When George Washington completed his eighth year of his presidency, he humbly stepped aside and returned to his farm. He set an example for a new nation on how citizen’s in a Republic should relate to power. In contrast, Napoleon Bonaparte regarded Washington as a fool for giving up his power. At his coronation in Notre Dame Cathedral, Napoleon grabbed the crown out of the hands of the Pope and placed it on his own head. DeLeo and his cronies have clearly demonstrated their inclination toward the Napoleonic perspective. The members of the Massachusetts House of Representatives should preserve the term limit requirement for the House Speaker. It is a vital safeguard against the abuse of power.