The crying game

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  March 1, 2010

Shaky ground
DeLeo, it would seem, has secured the allegiance of those who put him into the Speaker's office, but is on shakier ground beyond that group.

After winning the Speaker vote, DeLeo punished some of those who supported Rogers. By doing so, he may have created a group of dissidents — the eight in the Reform group, and others who are less vocal — who feel they have no incentive to go along with the crowd.

To this point, the increase in votes off has only rarely been enough to tip the balance in a roll-call. In his tenure as Speaker, just one veto override has failed — and it later succeeded, after some additional negotiations. Two other votes have gone against DeLeo: one on an amendment relating to the controversial bill giving Governor Deval Patrick authority to name a temporary successor to US Senator Ted Kennedy, and one on adding a hands-free cell-phone ban to the recent "Safe Driving" bill.

But those are only the instances we see in public. What is unknown is how many votes were not taken because DeLeo didn't have the votes to win. Some observers — including some on the State Senate staff — say that the House has been having trouble getting bills passed because DeLeo doesn't have control over his own members.

They were saying this in particular as the House went on its winter recess, without having passed an education-reform bill or criminal-offender record information (CORI) reform, and barely passing a stripped-down budget fix at the 11th hour. But since then, the House has acted on education reform, which has become law.

Making the list
A year ago, during the height of the DeLeo-Rogers leadership struggle, DeLeo publicly released a list of more than 80 House Democrats who pledged to vote for him. As a group, that bloc has voted off an average of just six times each. By contrast, the more than 50 Democrats not on the list — mostly Rogers supporters — have averaged more than 20 votes off apiece.

After taking over as Speaker last February, DeLeo used his leadership assignments to make his reward-for-loyalty system crystal clear. The Speaker has 52 "bonus" positions to assign — that is, leadership roles, chairmanships, and certain vice-chairmanships that, by law, come with an increase in pay, ranging from $7500 to $22,500 a year.

Almost every one of those positions went to DeLeo supporters — in many cases even knocking aside Rogers supporters. At least 15 Democrats who were not on the "DeLeo list" lost their bonus positions after he gained power.

Since then, the 52 bonus-receiving House Democrats have cast few votes against DeLeo. That includes a number of Boston-area legislators: Linda Dorcena Forry, Kevin Honan, Liz Malia, Michael Moran, Kathi-Anne Reinstein, Byron Rushing, Jeffrey Sánchez, Marty Walz, and Alice Wolf. They have cast a total of 13 votes off in the past year.

The other 30-plus names on that infamous list of DeLeo supporters may not be getting bonuses now, but many of them expect to in time. So, they have cast, on average, fewer than 10 votes off.

The Democrats not on the DeLeo list have felt no obligation to play along with leadership. They have averaged more than 20 votes off each.

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