As I wrote in my last post, this legislative session looked to be a difficult one at its onset. But there’s been a nearly complete lack of drama, as the House and Senate have made their way through allocating federal Covid relief aid, tackling Covid-related challenges, running the Big Bills smoothly through, and also addressing a notable number of issues that could easily have been kicked down the road till next year. As is common practice in the first year of a biennium.
It’s time to give House and Senate leadership a lot of credit for this. Things are getting done with no untimely eruptions, bruised feelings or twisted arms, no visible splits in the majority caucuses. No muss, no fuss.
What makes this more remarkable is that the two leaders, House Speaker Jill Krowinski and Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint , are each in their first year. Past leadership changes have usually brought rocky times in Year One. Houses-Senate relations get awfully tetchy.
Not this year. And that’s remarkable.
Well, there’s been no drama that we can see. The Zoom Legislature means that reporters can’t roam the halls and pick up hints of backstage drama. There may be stuff going on that we can’t see. But that’s pure speculation. To judge by available evidence, Balint and Krowinski are doing a bang-up job.
Remember earlier in the session, when there appeared a couple of “think pieces” about how Balint or Krowinski were being put to the test? Actually, that was the exact title of one story: “Balint’s First Big Test.”
The test isn’t over yet. But so far, Balint and Krowinski are doing very well. They’ve disappointed those who were waiting for failure or conflict.
Krowinski did have a major misstep on public sector pensions, floating a reform plan that would have seen employees paying more and retirees getting less. The unions exploded, and Democrats started backtracking. Nine days later, Krowinski abandoned the plan with no excuses or defensiveness. Neat, complete, and quick.
Since then, the pension issues has moved smoothly through both chambers. Democrats have been united where they could have been deeply divided. Now, you can take issue with Krowinski’s Plan B. But as a measure of leadership alone, Krowinski got it done.
As for Balint, she must have used all her leadership skills in smoothing the path for some sticky legislation. A complicated broadband bill has moved with dispatch. And the oft-obstreperous Judiciary Committee stood down after initial resistance on the gay-panic defense bill and H.225, the “bupe bill.” On the latter, two Senate committees waived their usual, deliberate processes in order to move the bill in little more than a week’s time. And Judiciary chair Dick Sears is not one to move quickly or abandon cherished procedure.
Balint and Krowinski obviously had a leg up on past rookie leaders, because both had occupied their chamber’s number-two position before ascending to the top. They’re familiar with the challenges of their new jobs. But the value of that experience has its limits. Being the leader is a whole different ballgame.
And so far, they are both winning. Bigly.