New State House Leadership Gets Started

By Sarah Birnbaum

Jan. 31, 2011

BOSTON — A new team of leaders in the Massachusetts House gets to work Monday after House Speaker Robert DeLeo brought a major shakeup to his inner circle during a closed-door meeting at the State House on Friday.

DeLeo ousted his majority leader, Franklin's James Vallee, replacing him with Ronald Mariano of Quincy. Previously, Mariano had been the assistant majority leader and has been a key voice in prominent health care legislation.

In another reshuffling, DeLeo moved his Ways and Means Committee Chair Charles Murphy, of Burlington, to a less prominent post.

Haverhill Rep. Brian Dempsey, who was the point man on last year's ill-fated casino legislation, will be DeLeo's new budget chief.

Speaking Friday, Murphy sounded resigned to the change. "At the end of the day, the speaker is the speaker. I serve at the pleasure of the speaker, and I'm okay with that," Murphy said.

DeLeo gave nothing away about the meaning behind the shakeup. "What I did was try to take the talents of the various new members and put them in various new slots, and I think we've done that," DeLeo said.

But State House observers say Murphy and Vallee were jockeying behind the scenes, hoping to become the next speaker. Although DeLeo denies it, many believe he's sending a message to the rank-and-file that political posturing won't be tolerated. And that he plans to be around for some time.

So when lawmakers get to work Monday, perhaps their day will be about just that: getting down to state business.

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