When Robert DeLeo speaks, Beacon Hill listens. Lobbyists, Senate lawmakers - even Gov. Charlie Baker - know that DeLeo's the one who controls whether most legislation will get the chance to become law or die in the process.
DeLeo laid out his short term priorities Wednesday, giving a clear indication of what kind of bills the House will aim to put before Baker this year. The Speaker told the House that he wants to pass bills soon on clean energy and early education and more, setting the agenda for lawmaking in 2016.
Among DeLeo's highest priorities is finishing a bill that expands access charter schools, an issue the Speaker has been happy to let the Senate run point on in past sessions.
"Districts that want charters should be given the chance to pursue them or any other option that they may deem necessary in order to do right by their students.," DeLeo said.
Early childhood education is also a target of this year's House session, according to DeLeo. The Speaker wants the Legislature to act on a bill to enhance the state's pre-kindergarten programs, an investment DeLeo says has ramifications well beyond smarter five-year-olds.
"Access to high quality early education provides short and long-term benefits that not only impact an individual, but impact our society as a whole," DeLeo said, adding that proper early education can improve everything from kindergarten readiness, "to financial independence to widespread economic health to incarceration rates."
To do it, DeLeo says the House plan will use a three-tiered strategy to build out the workforce of educators that can provide access to early education programs.
On energy, DeLeo vowed that his chamber will pass a bill to set straight the state's use of clean energy in the coming years. Gov. Charlie Baker and the Senate have their own ideas on what certain combination of clean energy (the governor prefers a heavy reliance on Canadian hydropower, the Senate may support more breaks for solar producers) the state puts in place.
"This year, the House will pass legislation that will promote resource diversity and cleaner energy. We will contain costs and ensure that we maintain a reliable electric grid," DeLeo said of the expect "omnibus" energy bill.
Another issue on DeLeo's to-do list: figure out regulations for ride-hailing services like Uber so they can coexist with the taxi industry. DeLeo says the House will take up a bill to regulate the ride-hailing industry next month.
"We will find a way to make companies such as Uber and Lyft part of the permanent landscape in Massachusetts, while keeping in mind the benefit that competition from taxi cabs and livery companies bring to the marketplace. Consumer choice is a good thing," DeLeo said.
And then there's what DeLeo's House won't do. They won't raise taxes or fees in the budget, he told his fiscally-minded membership during his annual January address. The ban on higher taxes is keeping with DeLeo's biannual pledge to not dip further into taxpayer pocketbooks during election years when member become vulnerable to charges of overspending by Beacon Hill Democrats.