Poised to take over the top leadership position in the House, Majority Leader Ronald Mariano pledged to usher in a new era of “openness” in a chamber where debate often happens out of view of the public.
“One of my goals is to spend more time in the chamber and relate to people on a personal level rather than on an issue-by-issue and to increase the comfort of discussing issues and the openness,” Mariano told the Herald during a brief interview on Tuesday.
Longtime House Speaker Robert DeLeo resigned on Tuesday and Mariano is expected to assume the role. A Democratic caucus is scheduled for noon Wednesday, where Mariano faces no known challengers.
Mariano steps in following the departure of the state’s longest-serving speaker and he said he plans to bring his own “style” to the chamber and “bring things to floor a little bit sooner” than DeLeo, who rarely introduced bills for debate unless he was confident they held supermajorities.
The two Democrats came up together on Beacon Hill in 1991 and rose through the ranks to top leadership positions. DeLeo appointed Mariano majority leader in 2011 and the Quincy Democrat has long been DeLeo’s right hand.
The power pass off between the pair of entrenched elected officials rose a few eyebrows on Beacon Hill. Rep. Russell Holmes says it is “indicative of the structural racism of the building” and launched a protest candidacy, but he ultimately decided not to challenge the speaker after the pair met to hash out differences last week.
Mariano told the Herald he “doesn’t agree” with Holmes, but plans to foster an inclusive environment under his leadership.
“I have an open door and anyone can come in. I help people on a whole myriad of issues,” the majority leader said.
Mariano said he’s ready to roll up his sleeves following the vote on Wednesday to continue overriding the governor’s budget vetoes and to finalize as many of the remaining conference committee bills as possible before the session ends on Jan. 5.
But Mariano said one piece of legislation unlikely to cross the finish line this year is an eagerly-awaited economic development bill tied up in conference committee negotiations.
House and Senate versions of the omnibus bill both include millions in much-needed small business grants, but Mariano said conferees are “significantly far apart” in reaching agreement on the two bills’ many differences.
In the upcoming session, Mariano said “the first priority is to rebuild the economy that’s been devastated by the pandemic.”
“Small businesses are still the backbone of our economy and a lot of small businesses are facing extreme difficulty through this whole pandemic, especially the restaurant industry. We need to come up with some ways to help get these industries back on their feet,” Mariano said.
The next order of business will be getting students back into schools. Once “everyone is protected and safe,” Mariano said the focus will shift to clean energy and confronting the health care industry amid the pandemic.