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Travaglini to Step Down Today

In a year that already has seen a party change in the governor's office, Beacon Hill is expecting the imminent departure of Senate President Robert Travaglini after months of speculation he was considering a private-sector job.

Travaglini, who has led lawmakers through stormy gay marriage debates and championed the state's landmark health care law, planned to step down on Wednesday, according to House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, a fellow Boston Democrat.

DiMasi said Tuesday that Travaglini called him Monday night to give him the news.

"He told me that tomorrow (Wednesday) he would be relinquishing his presidency,'' DiMasi said. He did not otherwise elaborate on Travaglini's future plans.

A call to a Travaglini aide was not returned on Tuesday.

The House leader said he also received a call from Senate Ways and Means Chairman Therese Murray, D-Plymouth, who invited him to attend to attend a Senate session Wednesday during which she is expected to easily win election as Travaglini's successor.

Murray aide Samantha Dallaire said the senator was not in her office when contacted by The Associated Press about Travaglini's departure.

"As far as confirming or not confirming, that would have to come from the Senate president's office,'' Dallaire said.

Murray would be the first woman to head a Massachusetts legislative body. Deval Patrick in January became the state's first black chief executive and the first Democrat to hold the office in 16 years.

Travaglini, the senate's leader for four years, has presided over a series of constitutional conventions that weighed a proposed ballot question that would ban gay marriage.

In early January, he stunned both his House and Senate colleagues and gay marriage advocates by calling for a quick vote on the ballot question proposal. The measure gained enough votes, including Travaglini's, to advance to a second constitutional convention where it must again be approved if it is to go before voters on the 2008 ballot. Murray voted against the proposed amendment.

Sen. Robert A. Havern, D-Arlington, said he'd spoken to Murray, and said "she's all set to take over.''

"I think she's going to be more numbers oriented coming from Ways and Means,'' he said. "Sen. Travaglini really wasn't necessarily a numbers guy, he's more of a people person.''

DiMasi said he felt a little "melancholy'' to see Travaglini, with whom he has had a close working relationship, leave the top slot at the Senate, but expressed confidence in Murray.

"She'll be a great Senate president,'' DiMasi said. "She knows the issues. She's a hard working senator who knows the details of the budget.''

On Friday, the Massachusetts Council of Community Hospitals voted to approach Travaglini with a lucrative offer to head up the lobbying group. The top job could pay $300,000 a year, more than three times as much as his current $90,000 salary as Senate president.

Travaglini has not commented on the offer.

Paul Guzzi, president of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, said Travaglini's legacy will be passing the state's first-in-the-nation health care law, which mandates coverage for all residents.

"He really was a major initiator. He will get rightfully credited on health care, that will be the most significant accomplishment,'' said Guzzi, who said he looked forward to working with Murray. "Terry Murray is experienced. She understands the issues.''

Rumors of a possible departure by Travaglini had grown in recent months. Travaglini, a cancer survivor who underwent heart surgery in 2001 at age 48, has faced increasing financial pressure at home with three college-age children.

Travaglini, 54, won an internal Senate vote to become president in January 2003, assuming leadership of the chamber at the same time Mitt Romney took office as governor.

An insurance broker by trade, Travaglini had been a Boston city councilor from 1984-93 before moving over to the Senate. His power base was East Boston, where he grew up and served as a liaison between local residents and the Massachusetts Port Authority, which operates nearby Logan International Airport.

Murray, whose age is not listed in the state's official political almanac, was elected to the Senate in 1992 representing the Plymouth and Barnstable district.

Having lived in Plymouth for over three decades, she previously worked as mitigation manager for the Massachusetts Highway Department, community relations coordinator for American Cable Systems and founder and treasurer of South Shore Cablevision Inc.

She is divorced and has one daughter.

Travaglini sometimes sparred with DiMasi, his fellow Italian-American and Beacon Hill powerbroker, but the two both flanked Romney at Faneuil Hall last April as the former governor signed the state's landmark health care law. Each had pushed for the measure.

On Wednesday, DiMasi said he would miss Travaglini, whom he first met more than two decades ago when Travaglini served as Boston city councilor. His district included the North End, where DiMasi lives.

"It's sad to see a good friend leave,'' DiMasi said.

This program aired on March 21, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.

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