Before we get to the latest Beacon Hill disgust, our congratulations and appreciation today go out to one
of CLT's longest and strongest supporters, Howard Foley, executive director of the Mass. High Tech
Council. Howard will be honored tonight at a banquet to celebrate his retirement.
The State House News Service recently reported: "Foley
founded the council 24 years ago and will be succeeded by Christopher Anderson. Taking Anderson's spot as vice president
will be Cort Boulanger, who has most recently served as spokesman for the Executive Office of Administration and
Finance. Dinner speakers include Gov. Cellucci, Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Margaret Marshall, Harvard
Pilgrim CEO Charles Baker, and University of Massachusetts President William
Barbara, Chip Faulkner and I will be there to wish our
longtime ally well in his retirement.
There was a very long period after Tom Finneran maneuvered
himself into his position as House speaker that only Barbara and CLT spoke out about him and how he'd taken in the media
with his new image. For years nobody in the media really paid much attention to our viewpoint, though they kept coming back
when they wanted an opposing view -- "balance" to a story. Unlike so many others, we were not cowed
by Finneran's growing power; we were able to recognize reality and willing to speak
The concentration of power and loss of true representative
government in the House is now undeniable ... to all but "Finneran's little lambs," who tow the line to power and kneel
to kiss the ring.
The Boston Herald
Thursday, January 25, 2001
King Tom: Finneran crowned 'Speaker for Life'
by David R. Guarino and Karen E. Crummy
Less than a day after House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran
distanced himself from a move making him "speaker for life," his loyal lieutenants adorned him in a near-imperial cloak by
abolishing the eight-year limit on his term.
Passed under the guise of cleaning House after last year's
partying and phantom voting scandals, the move to lift term limits left Republicans and liberals reeling from the fear that
"King Tom" had just been coronated to rule Beacon Hill.
"This is a sure sign of Speaker Finneran's desire to control
the institution," said House Minority Leader Francis L. Marini (R-Hanson), scoffing at Finneran's claimed disinterest.
"To think these people would do anything without his OK is
laughable. He obviously changed his mind."
Government watchdog groups contended that the vote is but
the latest in a string of Beacon Hill power grabs.
"Too much power concentrated in too few hands diminishes
representative democracy," said Ken White, executive director of Common Cause of Massachusetts.
The Mattapan Democrat, elected speaker in 1995 after the
resignation of Speaker Charles Flaherty over tax and fund-raising troubles, was due to be term-limited off the
rostrum after the 2004 term.
If he's elected speaker by House members after then, Finneran's Beacon Hill clout would rise
to the rarified levels of former Senate President William Bulger and former House
speakers Thomas McGee and Leverett Saltonstall.
Indeed, officials said, he'd be only the fifth speaker to
serve more than eight years in the commonwealth's history.
Last night's 111-39 vote led by Finneran loyalists came even
after the speaker dismissed speculation that he had any interest in becoming "speaker for life."
Finneran went out of his way to stay off the House floor
throughout the contentious debate, voting only present. The speaker swore, just hours before, that he wasn't lobbying
members to grant near-unending power.
"This is not about me," Finneran said. "I've consciously
stayed away from the (House) floor just so that there's no semblance of pressure."
But some lawmakers said that the move to end term limits had
everything to do with the speaker, who has been criticized in the past for ruling the State House with an iron fist.
The House vote to lift the term limit rule came amid annual
rules debate, when members were planning to institute broad reforms sought in the wake of last year's "Animal House"
scandal. Even as Finneran denied speculation that he wanted the limit abolished to consolidate power,
his lieutenants marched onto the House floor to propose lifting the eight-year ban.
Loyalists, forced into the vote even as Finneran considers
their futures on still-undecided committee slots, said government should be more like the business world -- where
"This is not about us but the people we serve. With more
experience, we do better," state Rep. Marie Parente (D-Milford), a longtime Finneran ally.
But even some of Finneran's detractors rallied around the
speaker, saying lawmakers, like voters, shouldn't be denied the right to vote for the best candidate.
"We want a House more open and subjugated to more debate and
this includes the ability to make independent decisions," said Rep. Marie St. Fleur (D-Boston).
Sources said the vote came at a tough time for Finneran
supporters and detractors. The band of liberal "progressives" in the House was battling back threats that reforms after the
"Animal House" scandal would be gutted in the rules debate.
The liberals were warned that Finneran's team might move to
gut the reforms, proposing to legalize "pairing" of votes that would allow members to vote even if they're not in the State
House. Plans were also being made to give the powerful Ways and Means Committee the
right to draft its own legislation, a move that would consolidate extreme financial power with
Those changes were dropped after the term limit was lifted,
though not in a quid pro quo, the progressive Democrats said.
"There was no deal. There certainly were negotiations but
there was no deal," said state Rep. James Marzilli (D-Arlington).
Some of Finneran's critics and even his allies warned that
too much could be made of the lifted limit. They said McGee, who swore he'd serve only eight years and changed his mind,
was then summarily dumped in 1985's last great speaker fight -- the same fight that brought
the term limit.
Finneran is still a lifetime away from "speaker for life"
"Just because somebody wants it, it doesn't mean he'll get
it," one Finneran ally said. "A lot could change around here in four years."
The Boston Herald
Thursday, January 25, 2001
Finneran's power play
A Boston Herald editorial
When he became speaker of the Massachusetts House in 1996,
Rep. Tom Finneran (D-Mattapan) did so under a rule limiting a member to eight years in the speaker's chair,
a rule that had covered his two predecessors. The House has now abolished the
speaker's term limit, further concentrating power in a post that quite possibly had too much already.
It was too cute. Abolition was not part of the rules changes
brought forward by Finneran himself, but was an amendment from the floor. Now Finneran can reply to critics, "The
members did it, not me." Nobody who knows anything about Beacon Hill believes the
members would have done it if Finneran hadn't wanted it.
The abolitionists claimed that a term limit is "anti-democratic." Yet experience leads to many
rules modifying strict majority rule, as the work of the Electoral College
recently demonstrated. The president is limited to two terms. The U.S. House now limits terms of its
speaker and committee chairmen.
Recent Massachusetts experience teaches that the longer a
speaker serves in this position of enormous discretion, the more set in his ways and likely to believe in his own
infallibility he becomes, and it takes a bitter palace coup to dislodge him. A reasonable term limit preserves
the necessary collegiality of the body and permits new blood to circulate,
bringing in fresh views. The House and the commonwealth will be sorry the limit was dropped.
The Boston Herald
Thursday, January 25, 2001
Backsliding on Mass. House reform
by Wayne Woodlief
Give a little, get a lot. That's House Speaker Tom Finneran's motto after he was crowned
virtual speaker for life yesterday.
Despite a spirited debate, Finneran's flunkies pushed
through a new rule eliminating the current eight-year term limit on House speakers. The vote was 111-39.
That means that when Finneran, who became speaker in 1996,
finishes his eighth year in the job in 2004, he won't have to step aside and let new blood take the reins (and maybe -- just
maybe -- allow members to think and vote more for themselves).
Nope, King Tom will be able to go on. And on. And on.
Not a bad deal Finneran got, after giving in on a couple of
other rules changes, as the House rank and file actually stood up to him -- just a bit, mind you.
A majority of the House approved a rules change to force the
Steering and Policy Committee -- which has been the graveyard for many bills in the past -- to report out bills on
which it hasn't acted for 30 days, or explain publicly why it had not acted.
That means there's a better chance now to pass some bills
even if Finneran or other barons of the House despise them.
Rep. Jim Marzilli (D-Arlington) was delighted with that
small but significant step for democracy, even though it was Rep. Francis Marini (R-Hanson), the House minority leader,
who introduced it yesterday using language Marzilli championed in vain last year.
Objections from the rank and file also forced the House
leadership to withdraw a proposal -- offered just the day before by Finneran -- to give the House Ways and Means
Committee broad new power.
The proposed new rule would have required that any new
spending amendments to the budget proposed on the floor be offset by a proposal for an equal cut somewhere else.
Finneran tried to sell it as good fiscal discipline. "That
makes everybody a quasi-chairman of Ways and Means. They have to show responsibility," he said, with a straight face. This
time, the rank and file didn't buy it. They knew most members are neither chairs or Ways and
Means Committee members, and would have virtually no influence over the budget if their
amendment wings were clipped.
For a moment, a growing number of members seemed concerned
about the perception of them as Finneran's little lambs, following him in lock step, to the detriment of the citizens
who elect members to represent them -- not the speaker's will.
Finneran ended up taking some bad practices that made the
House the laughingstock of the nation last year, proposing a few rules to "correct" them under the label of "reform" -- and
wound up with his power increased, the House more under his thumb than ever.
Though the membership did some good things yesterday, the
House didn't shake the public scorn it acquired last spring. That followed its gawd-awful "Animal House" antics when the
House jammed the state budget through in an all-night session as some members boozed it
up, slept at their desks and even voted for absent colleagues (one on a plane when the roll
call was held). This is how it tried to change the image:
The membership -- with only a handful of change-minded
legislators dissenting -- voted for rules that make it easier for the speaker to kill bills he loathes, to limit debate and
schedule roll calls so rapidly on poorly documented bills that many members often don't know what
they're voting on.
The House rejected a new rule that would have permitted a
legislator to vote for another member who's absent. He would have had to pair with that member; in other words, make
sure he or she is on the opposite side of an issue and publicly announce it for the voting
In a burst of common sense, the House still officially
disapproves such "phantom voting."
Finneran had favored the idea of pairing votes, apparently
as a convenience to members who were busy doing his bidding in committees during roll call votes. But that never has beat
heeding the old-fashioned notion that your constituents sent you there to vote on their behalf
You could tell that to King Tom, but what does he care?