The Argument: A House United Cannot Stand

By Jason Schwartz | Boston Magazine |

The reason for the move? In February, Flynn backed the wrong horse, John Rogers, for speaker. When Robert DeLeo won, he stripped Flynn of his chairmanship and the $15,000 bonus and plum office that came with it.

"I knew [Rogers] didn’t have the votes, but I didn’t switch just to curry favor," Flynn says.

His defiant posture is rare in a legislature that’s created institutional rewards for obedience. That $15,000 bonus, for instance, represents a hefty raise for reps, whose base pay is $61,440 (vice chairs earn an extra $7,500). And because of the power the speaker wields — and his ability to decide matters in cahoots with his deputies — our current crop of lawmakers has grown convinced that the only way to get ahead is to get into leadership, or at least fall in line behind it.  

Consider the gaming issue. During the fight over Governor Deval Patrick’s casino proposal last year, the anti-gaming DiMasi twisted arms to ensure that Patrick’s bill was killed in committee, before the full House could debate it. "There were a couple of reps who were pro-casino — who actually signed on to my casino bill this year — who voted it ought-not-to-pass," Dorchester rep Marty Walsh recalls of the committee process.

Now we face a similar peril in the opposite direction. Speaker DeLeo represents Revere, home to slots-hungry Wonderland Greyhound Park, and has much to gain from legalizing the one-armed bandits. What — and more important, who — is to stop him from ramming gaming legislation through as forcefully as DiMasi blocked it? However you feel about the issue, it can’t sit well that one man elected by just a sliver of the state gets to influence the decision so heavily.

All of which is exactly why we need a modern incarnation of the DSG. Though he’s hopeful that DeLeo will bring openness, Walsh, frustrated by the DiMasi era, says he might just be game to rekindle the cause. Eventually. ‘Within six months to a year, if it goes back to a closed shop, then that absolutely will be needed," he says.

His patience is admirable, but we’ve already waited long enough. We need Democrats willing to take an opposing stand without sweating the blowback, and we need them now. The ammunition is all there — the only question is who’s got the guts to take the first shot.