Karen Spilka Chosen To Lead Massachusetts Senate, Lays Out Ambitious Agenda

Jan 2, 2019

Massachusetts state Senator Karen Spilka was elected to her first full term as Senate President on Wednesday, the third woman to wield the gavel in that historic body since 2007.

The Ashland Democrat sketched out an ambitious agenda for the next two years, setting the stage for what could be a fractious relationship with the House and Governor Charlie Baker.

Spilka, who took over the gavel in late July, declared that "the time for small ideas and incremental change is over," in her Wednesday afternoon speech.

While she promised to "listen" to Speaker Robert DeLeo and Baker, Spilka's speech alluded to tax reform and debates over funding for education and transportation. The agenda could set up early pressure points in their budding relationships.

Spilka said that one of the Senate's top priorities this session must be "adequately funding our education system," and promised passage of legislation "that slows the rise of prescription drug prices and increases transparency for the consumer."

Spilka also called for the development of an "economic development and tax framework for the 21st century" that would allow business to thrive, while also capturing enough revenue to "fund our vision for our future."

The new president made her remarks in the newly renovated Senate Chamber, which sits underneath the State House's famed golden dome.

Massachusetts State Senate President Karen Spilka speaks with Gov. Baker in a newly refurbished Senate Chamber.
Credit State House News Service

The new chamber, Spilka noted, contains a quote from Frederick Douglass engraved on the wall: "Truth, Justice, Liberty, and Humanity Will Ultimately Prevail." And it will soon contain new busts of Douglass, and, perhaps, Abigail Adams.

Spilka said that the senators listened to voices from the past as the Senate designed its new meeting space, and must now listen to the "voices of our future" to strengthen Massachusetts.

"They are telling us that the time for small ideas and incremental change is over," Spilka said.

On a roll call vote, Spilka received 33 votes to six votes for Republican Sen. Bruce Tarr. After the balloting was complete, Tarr moved that it be the "sense of the Senate" that Spilka's election as Senate president be declared unanimous.

This report was originally published by State House News Service.