Speaker Robert DeLeo has been busy considering whom to appoint as the leaders of the committees in the House of Represenstatives for the new year.
“It’s very important to get the right people in to the right posts, anywhere from the chairs to the members of the particular committees” said DeLeo. “Many of the reps have stated to me their case for a particular committee. I will meet with anyone who wants to see me.”
DeLeo was re-elected Speaker of the House in the 160-member body. The popular DeLeo, who has represented Revere and Winthrop in the House since 1991, was seen sitting in his customary chair on the rostrum as Governor Charle Baker delivered his speech at the inauguration ceremonies at the Statehouse.
“I’m very pleased with the overwhelming support that I received for Speaker,” said DeLeo.
DeLoe has enjoyed his reign as speaker, a position that amounts to him being the powerful Democratic leader in Massachusetts. DeLeo travels the state for numerous speaking engagements and award acceptance ceremonies, and his appearances on the Channel 5 show, “On The Record” are legendary, notably for his traditional acing of Ed Harding’s pop quiz on topics from politics to sports to the state’s history. The show’s ratings are the highest when DeLeo is “on the record.”
In other words, he is in demand everywhere, but the Speaker remains focused on his work representing the people of Winthrop and Revere. In fact, Deleo is leading the effort “to support the resilience of the infrastructure of our coastal communities, which is something we did address in the past year’s budget.”
DeLeo said one of the major issues that he will be continuing to work on in the coming year is the opioid crisis in Massachusetts. “Originally I said it was a long-term fight that we would have and we will continue our focus on that,” said DeLeo.
Education funding is “a major item” on DeLeo’s list of priorities for 2019. “We came close to getting over the goal line last year, so I think we’re in a better position this time to talk about the foundation, the budget, and education funding as a whole.”
Transportation and the healthcare for older adults will also be major items for discussion in the House of Representatives.
DeLeo was asked about sports betting, which is now legal in the United States. There are sportsbooks in operation at two casinos in Rhode Island.
“I think that [sports betting] is going to be an important topic that we will be studying and discussing in the House,” said DeLeo. “It’s going to require some real discussion. People are going to have various opinions as to how it should be done. There have been many ideas who should do it and who should control it. I think it’s going to require input from an awful lot of people.”
Wnthrop Council President Ron Vecchia goes back 40 years with Speaker DeLeo, with whom he served for two years on the Winthrop Board of Selectmen. Attorney Robert Noonan was also a selectman at the time.
“We were the board that negotiated the first mitigation package with the MWRA,” recalled Vecchia. “That was a package in which we secured roughly $24 million over a 10-year period.”
Vecchia has remained in close contact with DeLeo through the years. “Bob is a dear friend as is Bob Noonan,” said Vecchia. “I talk with Bob relative to current matters in Winthrop. Speaker DeLeo and Sen. Joe Boncore were instrumental in getting our PILOT (Payment In Lieu OF Taxes) program renegotiated with Massport. We had an additional five years left on a 20-year mitigation package with Massport, and we felt that we should reopen it because we weren’t getting our fair share. Thanks to Bob DeLeo and Joe Boncore, we did that and we got nice a nice boost on the PILOT Program. We went from $900,000 a year to an additional $300,000 in 2019, and each additional year, another $150,000. By 2025 when the contract is up, we’ll be getting roughly $2 million from Massport each year.”
Vecchia said he looks forward to continuing his work with DeLeo in 2019 and beyond.