By Matt Murphy
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE -- House Speaker Robert DeLeo, who has helmed the chamber since 2009 and is staring at a term-limited departure from the speaker's office in just over two years, said Wednesday he was "flattered" by the suggestion that he might try to extend his stay.
DeLeo's comments were a reaction to an unsourced report that the Winthrop Democrat might be considering extending the term limit for speakers. Though DeLeo sidestepped a question about his desire to stay, the third ranking Democrat in the House said she didn't think a longer DeLeo reign would be a bad idea.
"I'm flattered to think that people would say that, but to be very honest with you I've got eight, nine days left. I've got enough to keep me occupied right now than to think about 2016," DeLeo told two reporters in response to a question about whether he had any interest in remaining speaker beyond 2016.
There will be only eight days remaining in the formal legislative session after Wednesday, and the House and Senate have been occupied with processing a flurry of legislation they hope to pass before the end of July when most lawmakers will turn their attention to re-election efforts.
The speaker started to repeat a similar answer, but was hustled to an elevator by staff, when asked if he had at least thought about changing the eight-year term limit he instituted in 2009 as one of his first actions in the wake of former Speaker Salvatore DiMasi's departure and indictment on corruption charges.
Political reporter David Bernstein earlier this month, during a webcast for WGBH's "The Scrum," posited the theory that DeLeo wants to remain speaker beyond 2016.
"I think he is looking to his power in the long run. You know, he only has a couple years left, technically, but most people who I've talked to behind the scenes believe that he's going to find a way to extend his speakership beyond the eight -year current limit. He wants to keep there from being any fights for secession [sic] such has happened in the state Senate," Bernstein said.
He repeated the assertion a week later on Boston Public Radio, suggesting it was "sort of expected to happen," according to a Tweet from the station.
Speaker Pro Tempore Patricia Haddad, a Somerset Democrat, told the News Service that she has neither heard DeLeo discuss the topic, nor has she heard any lawmakers urging him to consider remaining speaker beyond 2016.
But as someone within DeLeo's inner circle, Haddad said she wouldn't mind if the speaker asked the House to change the term-limit rule he put in place just over five years ago limiting speakers to four two-year terms, or eight years, similar to the limits in the Senate for the president of that branch.
"It's a rule. It can be changed. I don't think it's a bad idea. We have a good team. Things are going well. Do you change the manager when the team's playing well?" Haddad said.
Bernstein floated similar speculation in January about Senate President Therese Murray, who had yet to say whether she planned to seek re-election even though term limits in the Senate would have forced her to give up the presidency at the end of the year.
Murray's response was to immediately disavow the rumors on Twitter, and she eventually announced this would be her last term in the Senate.