State of flux

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  December 11, 2009

Patrick loudly argued that the legislature should come back into session to finish the job. He said the failure to make the cuts would force him to slash services to some of the state's most vulnerable citizens — and in a bit of grandstanding, the governor orchestrated a summit of affected groups who criticized the legislature's inaction.

It wasn't Patrick's first act of aggression. As it became clear that the House was unlikely to pass education reform before the break, Patrick held a deliberately provocative press conference at a charter school just outside DeLeo's home town of Winthrop to warn of the potential loss of a large federal grant.

The inaction of the House didn't sit well with some state senators, either, who say that the House delays made them look bad.

But DeLeo prevailed, and in the end, circumstances seemed to validate the House's reticence on the emergency cuts. A one-time tax settlement, along with higher-than-expected November revenues, put an extra $120 million in the state's coffers — prompting Patrick to back down.

Leadership in the House downplays the talk of tensions. Murphy, for one, declares himself optimistic about legislative action after the new year. "At the end of the day," he says, "you've got people in charge who are responsible and smart, and want to get the job done."

Early this week, Patrick and DeLeo seemed almost chummy as they announced a package of $47 million in federal and state money to build a parking garage at Wonderland in Revere, part of DeLeo's home district. Nothing like tens of millions of dollars to smooth over disagreements and make everybody friends again.

Not merry for Terri
The Senate president, too, has been pushing for development in her home district. But that one, for a film and television studio complex, seems to be collapsing.

Murray has been a major proponent of the $650 million Plymouth Rock Studios project, and lobbied hard for the state to spend $50 million for local upgrades to accommodate it — an effort blocked by the Patrick administration this summer. Regardless, construction was supposed to begin before the end of this year; in November, however, the financing fell apart. That stunning news was followed by a Boston Globe Spotlight report describing the studio's legal and financial problems.

That's just one in a series of recent high-profile losses for Murray, a run that has one top House staffer professing amazement that she has avoided much bad press.

After the forced resignations of Dianne Wilkerson and Jim Marzilli, Murray has yet another misbehaving member on her hands: Anthony Galluccio of Cambridge, who has been charged in a hit-and-run accident.

Then, as the fall formal session came to a close, Murray seemed to get outmaneuvered, if not outright embarrassed, by DeLeo on the budget-trimming "supplemental." The House didn't approve the bill until very late on the session's last night, forcing Murray to agree to passing it on voice vote, without debate, in an informal session — hardly the way she wanted to close out a year dedicated in large part to openness and transparency.

And on the education and criminal-records bills, insiders say, not only was Murray frustrated by the House's failure to act, she also had to deal with unexpected defections from some allies in the Senate, who have their eye on statewide-office runs in 2010.

Murray pre-emptively responded to any charges of legislative failure by penning an op-ed in the Quincy Patriot Ledger, arguing that the state legislature has had an extremely active and successful 2009.

In hindsight, it needed to be, because there may be very little to crow about this time next year.

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

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