Spilka poised to take Senate presidency in 2 weeks


State House News Service
Thursday, July 12, 2018

Two weeks from today, the Massachusetts Senate will have its third president in the span of eight months, capping off a tumultuous session for the chamber during which senators grappled with instability in the top ranks of its leadership.

Senate Ways and Means Chairwoman Karen Spilka, an Ashland Democrat who is currently enmeshed in protracted negotiations with the House over a late fiscal 2019 budget, is expected to be elected Senate president by her colleagues on Thursday, July 26.

According to people familiar with the transition planning, the vote will take place at 1 p.m. when the Senate will pause what is normally a busy period of lawmaking in the waning days of the two-year session to inaugurate a new president.

Senate Democrats were informed of the transition plan on Wednesday during a private caucus. Spilka has invited friends, family and supporters from her district for the vote and ceremony where she will also deliver remarks, according to an advisor.

Spilka will take over from Chandler with just five days left on the formal legislating calendar. As chairwoman of the Ways and Means committee, she is intimately involved in almost all legislation moving through the Senate at the hectic end of session.

Currently serving on two conference committees, one for the 12-day late state budget and the other a negotiation over short-term rental regulations, Spilka is not expected to relinquish those duties if both conferences are still active when she becomes president, according an advisor.

She is also not planning to assign new chairmanships or reshuffle the leadership chart in any way before the next session begins in January, an aide told the News Service.

Sen. Joan Lovely, a Salem Democrat and the vice chair of the Ways and Means Committee, is expected to be the point person for the Senate on any legislation moving through the committee during informal sessions after July 31.

Spilka has also said that Chandler will remain “a valued member of my leadership team,” but what that means for this year and beyond is still unknown.

She also pledged to continue a style that has come to be known in the Senate as “shared leadership,” a less top-down approach that empowers individual senators to help steer the policy direction.