The downside of all this, as some see it, is a Senate completely dependent upon Murray and her staff, with nobody ready to provide leadership when she leaves — whether that's in three years or sooner. (See sidebar, "Who's Next?")

But there is reason to be more optimistic. The new crop of senators include many smart, savvy, progressive pols with a sharp interest in both policy and good governance.

What they need is a little more seasoning in the processes and procedures of the State House. As they get a couple more years under their belt, they should be ready to emerge as a force right when Murray steps down.

Significantly, they could be taking leadership positions just as the recovering economy starts replenishing the government coffers — giving them a chance to choose budget priorities and adopt new programs that have been impossible during the current lean times.

And they seem to want equally significant changes in the way the Senate itself operates.

They have relatively little patience for the top-down model that has been the norm, to varying degrees, since the Bulger days. When they select a new president, they will be looking for someone who promises to let chairs run their committees without interference, allows more open debate on the floor, and exerts less control through the caucus process.

That next president may be one of their own, or one of the veterans who makes those commitments. Either way, the Senate could be heading toward a new heyday — although it may come only after a fallow period in the near future.

To read the Talking Politics blog, go to  thePhoenix.com/talkingpolitics. David S. Bernstein can be reached at dbernstein@phx.com. Follow him on Twitter @dbernstein.

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