DeLeo names leaders for House

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BOSTON — House Speaker Robert DeLeo's pick to work on legislation altering the marijuana legalization ballot law is fourth-term Braintree Rep. Mark Cusack, pairing the House Democrat with Sen. Patricia Jehlen as the tandem that will lead one of the most controversial and time sensitive efforts of the new session.

DeLeo also tapped Brighton Rep. Michael Moran to fill the highest ranked opening in his senior leadership team, and installed Rep. Claire Cronin as the new chair of the Committee on the Judiciary, which will lead this session's push to reform the criminal justice system.

House Democrats on Thursday afternoon ratified the speaker's leadership and committee assignments a day after Senate President Stanley Rosenberg and his caucus confirmed that branch's appointments. With the assignments complete, committees six weeks into the session can now begin to organize and schedule hearings on the more than 5,700 bills awaiting attention.

The new Committee on Marijuana Policy, however, will be under the biggest time crunch with legislative leaders and Gov. Charlie Baker expressing their desire to have bill modifying the ballot law completed by June, if not earlier.

DeLeo said Cusack was "willing to serve on and wanted to serve on" on the marijuana committee.

"First of all, he was open-minded in terms of the issue, in terms of yes or no, and secondly, I think his past experience of being a chair of a committee, the open-mindedness of the work I saw him do in his previous committee, his abilities and what not, I saw this as a very important committee," DeLeo said.

Cusack last session chaired the House Committee on Technology and Intergovernmental Affairs, and Rep. David Rogers served as his vice-chair. The pair will be reunited this session to work on pot with Rogers, a Cambridge supporter of legal pot, named vice-chair of the marijuana committee.

Cusack will be paired opposite Jehlen, who was a supporter of legalized marijuana, to work on the legislation that could impact everything from tax rates on pot to the potency of edible marijuana products.

Asked how he voted on the November ballot question, Cusack declined to reveal his previous position on the topic. "Ballots are private," Cusack said.

"I'm fully opened minded on the issue and look forward to working with my Senate colleague and gathering information and respecting the will of the voters while making sure we're putting in consumer protections and public safety measures," he said.

With his promotion to second assistant majority leader, Moran fills the role previously held by Garrett Bradley, who resigned last summer. Cronin, who served as House vice-chair of the Judiciary Committee last session, succeeds John Fernandes of Milford, who did not seek re-election.

Reps. Ronald Mariano, Patricia Haddad and Byron Rushing all remain in place in the top three posts under DeLeo as majority leader, speaker pro tempore and assistant majority leader, respectively.

Haverhill Rep. Brian Dempsey also retains his title as chair of the House budget-writing Ways and Means Committee with returning Vice-Chair Stephen Kulik and new Assistant Vice-Chair Elizabeth Malia under him.

While the upper echelon of DeLeo's leadership team remains in tact, two other new faces climbed the ranks to become two of the four House floor division chairs: Rep. David Nangle of Lowell and Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante of Gloucester.

Nangle was promoted from chair of Steering, Policy and Scheduling to become one of four floor division chairs, while Ferrante moved up from chair of the Committee on Community Development and Small Business.

Other lawmakers shuffled into new postings include:

-- Rep. John Scibak of South Hadley moves from the Labor Committee to chair the Committee on Higher Education, replacing Thomas Sannicandro after the Ashland Democrat did not seek re-election.

-- Rep. Paul Brodeur of Melrose slides into the chairmanship of the Labor and Workforce Development Committee and will work this session on minimum wage legislation, among other topics.

-- Rep. Denise Garlick of Needham takes over from Malia as chair of the Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery Committee

-- Rep Danielle Gregoire got a promotion to replace Garlick as chair of the Elder Affairs Committee.

-- Rep. Jamie Murphy of Weymouth takes over Steering, Policy and Scheduling, and Rep. Jerald Parisella takes his place as chair of the Committee on Public Service.

-- Rep. John Lawn of Watertown replaces Parisella, a veteran of the Army Reserves and current judge advocate in the Army, as chair of the Veterans and Federal Affairs Committee. Lawn is not a veteran. Vice-chair Rep. John Velis is a former Army reservist and member of the Judge Advocate General corps.

Rep. Gailanne Cariddi is the new chair of the Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, replacing Rep. Paul Schmid who is now the vice-chair of the Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight. Schmid last session supported a comprehensive agriculture bill that passed the Senate, but died in the House, and has been rounding up support for similar legislation this session.

The speaker's office did not respond to a request for comment on why Schmid no longer has a chairmanship.

Rep. Lori Ehrlich of Marblehead will join Sen. Eileen Donoghue as the first two chairs of the new Joint Committee on Export Development.

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