It may be a while before they start passing bills, but lawmakers on Beacon Hill kicked off the 191st legislative session on Wednesday.
It was more ceremony than substance as Massachusetts’ 200 legislators gathered at the State House to take the oath of office, administered by Gov. Charlie Baker. The body now includes 25 new state representatives and five new state senators. On Thursday, Baker will be sworn in himself for his second term by Senate President Karen Spilka.
There are hopes that by the time this session draws to a close 19 months from now, legislators will have tackled some of the state’s tougher issues. That list includes the public education funding formula, tax reform, affordable housing, just to name a few.
On the House side, there were no surprises as members overwhelmingly voted to re-elect Democrat Robert DeLeo to his sixth-consecutive term as speaker. In brief remarks, DeLeo said contrary to what’s taking place in Washington, there’s a lot to be grateful for in Massachusetts.
“You can be rest assure[d], that this House — as has always done — will do everything to make sure that those who try to diminish or dilute whatever rights or privilege that we may have, that we will fight that all the way,” he said.
DeLeo is expected to outline his legislative priorities later in the session.
His counterpart, Spilka, took to the rostrum in a newly-refurbished Senate chamber, promised her branch will follow an ambitious agenda, and implied that the public wants lawmakers to get to work.
“They are telling us that the time for small ideas and incremental change is over,” she said. “They are telling us that we cannot let the political battles of today prevent us from conquering the complex challenges of tomorrow.”
The Legislature will spend the next few months focusing on the state budget, a yearly ritual that runs until the end of June.