By Andy Metzger
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE -- While Speaker Robert DeLeo said there has been "a lot of discussion" about the potential length of his term, several House members who received leadership posts under his tenure said they have not heard talk within the House about the possibility of the speaker extending his reign beyond a 2017 term limit.
In interviews conducted in the lead-up to the last formal House session of the year on July 31, no state representatives said they had heard talk of a fifth term for DeLeo, who is on track to start his last full term as speaker in January.
Rep. Ellen Story, a division chair under DeLeo, said, "I haven't heard any talk of that inside the building," and the only mention she has seen is in news coverage.
"I haven't heard anything," said Rep. Paul Donato, who is also a division chair and often wields the gavel during sessions. He said, "There's been no scuttlebutt about it" other than the news coverage.
"I think the first time I heard about it was reading about it in the State House News," said House Committee on Steering, Policy and Scheduling Chairman Louis Kafka.
"I only saw a press report about one of my colleagues suggesting that. But there's been no talk about that that I've heard on the floor, talking to colleagues at all," said Rep. Stephen Kulik, the vice chairman of Ways and Means.
Kulik said the term limit is a "good idea," and said the Senate, where President Therese Murray is not running for re-election in the face of a March 2015 term limit, is undergoing an orderly transition.
"I think turnover - even among a very successful leadership such as Speaker DeLeo - I think is important every now and then. So I think eight years is a good amount of time. I think he's done a great job for us and he's led the way in many reforms over the last six years and I'm sure he will do so in the next two years," Kulik said. "But I think as the Senate is experiencing now with an orderly turnover in leadership in January, I think that makes sense in the House as well."
Even representatives given the opportunity to comment without attribution said they had not been privy to discussions. Initiatives within the House are not necessarily widely known among the members.
DeLeo's office declined to comment.
Political reporter David Bernstein said in a recent webcast of WGBH's "The Scrum" that "most people who I've talked to behind the scenes believe that he's going to find a way to extend his speakership beyond the eight -year current limit."
Responding to that report, DeLeo said July 23 that he was "flattered" and Speaker Pro Tem Patricia Haddad said she had not been involved in discussions about that, but suggested it might be a good idea.
"It's a rule. It can be changed. I don't think it's a bad idea. We have a good team. Things are going well. Do you change the manager when the team's playing well?" Haddad said.
Donato said he agrees with Haddad.
DeLeo has been given opportunities to assert his intention to abide by the term limit he put in place, but has not yet taken the step to tamp down the rumor.
The speaker has conceded that his reputation was damaged by the recent trial of three former probation officials, who were convicted in a job-rigging case where he was named an unindicted co-conspirator. On Broadside with Jim Braude, DeLeo said he understood why the trial could give the public a "jaundiced view," while claiming federal prosecutors had "no evidence" of any wrongdoing on his part.
"One thing that I can suggest is that I'm going to leave this job on my own terms," DeLeo asserted, saying he would work to restore his reputation.
Even if there is little initiative to make it a reality, speculation about a potential additional DeLeo term could postpone for DeLeo the loss of influence that elected officials historically experience as they near their exit from office and colleagues begin eyeing potential successors. In 2008, DeLeo and Rep. John Rogers competed behind the scenes for the speakership, with DeLeo succeeding Speaker Sal DiMasi in January 2009.
DeLeo helped institute the rule limiting speakers to four terms right after he took over the House in 2009.
In a July interview with Fox 25, DeLeo was asked how long he would be speaker, DeLeo responded, "Right now there's been a lot of discussion and it's been very, very gratifying, and rewarding... The only thing I'll say at this point is that's not on my mind right now."
House Minority Leader Brad Jones said he has heard "nothing" about a longer DeLeo stay atop the House.
Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, a Lenox Democrat, said aside from news coverage he has not heard about potentially extending DeLeo's ability to remain as speaker "even in casual passing."
"I think it's premature," said Pignatelli. He said, "Term limits were imposed for a reason."
A fifth term for DeLeo wouldn't start until January 2017, which is two election cycles away.
Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure House Chairman John Scibak and Vice Chairman of House Ethics David Nangle both said they had not heard talk about that.
"It has not been discussed, at least not with me," said House Committee on Post Audit and Oversight Chairman David Linsky.
DeLeo has no primary opponent Sept. 9 and is set to face Republican Paul Caruccio of Winthrop on Nov. 4.
Gintautas Dumcius contributed reporting.