The Boston Phoenix
December 25, 1997 - January 1, 1998

[1997 in Review]

Best and worst of Beacon Hill

1997 in Review: News by Michael Crowley

It wasn't easy keeping score in such a turbulent year for state politics. But with 1997 at an end, we present a few awards to wrap it all up.

the year in

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Paul Cellucci: instantly transformed from sympathy case to acting governor when Bill Weld resigned in May. Now he's the man to beat in the 1998 governor's race.

Tom Finneran: reigns supreme on Beacon Hill after less than two years as Speaker -- even if he sometimes needs to brush up on Democracy 101.

Tom Menino: basked in the warmth of a red-hot economy and ran unopposed. True, even without a challenger, he won only 71 percent of the vote. But the safe-playing Menino had about as good a year as a big-city mayor can hope for.


Dianne Wilkerson: tax evasion scandal probably ruins any chance of reaching her potential beyond the State House.

Ray Flynn: embarrassment of a public job search was almost mitigated by an underdog run for governor. But then the Globe unleashed the story people had talked about privately for years: glug, glug, glug . . .

Barbara Anderson: in a bad year for Anderson's brand of populism, term limits were thrown out, and her tax-cut petition looks like a failure. But might she run for secretary of state in 1998?

Bill Weld: see Helms, Jesse.

Joe Kennedy: see Kennedy, Michael.


The legislature's budget included $29 million for an earned income tax credit. The credit, also offered by the federal government, is designed to give money back to people who hold down jobs but don't earn enough to pay taxes. People, in other words, who work hard but don't have much to live on.


A bill that would strip Boston's police commissioner of his power to make personnel changes without union approval threatens to undermine the city's community policing program, which has become a national model. Cellucci vetoed the legislation, but it originally passed with enough votes for a veto override, which is likely to come in January. This one was about sheer union muscle.


Among the last bills signed by Bill Weld were one designating the tollhouse cookie the official cookie of Massachusetts, and another naming the Fig Newton the official fruit cookie. Your tax dollars at work.


A bill "allowing for the use of crossbows by certain handicapped persons." Disabled hunters, unable to use an ordinary longbow, had asked for a special exemption to the state's ban on hunting with crossbows.


Representative Chris Hodgkins (D-Lee): in a year when most House members were afraid to stand up to Tom Finneran -- who likes to call all the shots in the House, and punishes those who defy him -- the cantankerous Hodgkins never hesitated to denounce Finneran as a tyrant, block backdoor legislative tactics, or raise hell about "pigs at the trough" when the Speaker tried to slip through pay raises for his allies.

Representative Jim Marzilli (D-Arlington): like Hodgkins, Marzilli served as an invaluable Finneran watchdog, staying around the State House for much of the House's summer recess to keep an eye on the shenanigans that take place in informal sessions. But Marzilli, a progressive who is one of the House's smartest members, was a constructive force as well. He led the fight to abolish Middlesex County's wasteful government, and championed legislation to help low-income families cope with rising water and sewer rates.


Representative Nancy Flavin (D-Easthampton): Flavin earned the mistrust of several colleagues after suggesting to death penalty opponents in October that she would vote with them, and then reversing herself. A few days later, she carried dirty water for Finneran and the insurance industry. Flavin, the House chair of the Insurance Committee, yanked a controversial bill regulating mutual insurance companies out of committee before it came to a vote. Then she tried to sneak it into law in an informal session before being stopped by . . . Jim Marzilli! (See above.)


"He cannot get the blood of the victims off his hands."

-- House Minority Leader David Peters (R-Charlton), accusing Speaker Tom Finneran of twisting arms to defeat the death penalty, on November 6.


"I'm not the brightest light in this chamber, but I still don't understand this, and I've had it explained to me five times."

-- State representative Francis Marini (R-Hanson), during a moment of procedural confusion in the House's October 28 death penalty debate.

Michael Crowley can be reached at mcrowley[a]