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Mass. Lawmakers Break For A Wee Bit O' Fun

By Steve Brown (WBUR)

House Speaker Robert DeLeo, left, jokingly presents a mini slot machine to Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick, right, at the annual Saint Patrick's Day breakfast held at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center on Sunday. (AP)
House Speaker Robert DeLeo, left, jokingly presents a mini slot machine to Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick, right, at the annual Saint Patrick's Day breakfast held at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center on Sunday. (AP)

The political leadership of Massachusetts shows no signs of nearing agreement on addressing some major financial challenges. But they managed to make light of the situation during one South Boston Saint Patrick's Day tradition — the annual political roast that comes before the parade.

Irish music and some clever ditties highlighted the breakfast where pretty much everything, and everyone, is fair game.

With a mayoral race and talk of raising taxes on the political agenda this year, participants came armed with plenty of material: some better than others.

Robert DeLeo told the crowd his biggest fear when he was elected speaker earlier this year was the realization that he would have to appear at the breakfast. DeLeo found he was facing a tough crowd when he tried to joke about dealing with the governor's proposed overhaul of the state's transportation system.

"We're going to have a streamlined system," DeLeo said. "We're just caught on one major issue: the Senate President and myself as we speak. The senate president wants to put the secretary's office down in Plymouth, which is an interesting concept. Right under Plymouth Rock. That's where she wants to put it."

And when the audience only slightly laughed, he said, "That should have got a much better... it's my first year, cut me some slack, alright?"

Sen. Jack Hart, who was the emcee, stepped in. "He's in training this year. Probation he's on. Like most of the people at the head table. They're all on probation."

One of those at the head table with a bit more experience at handling the breakfast crowd and in wielding the gavel was DeLeo's legislative counterpart, Senate President Therese Murray, who presented the speaker with a gavel and a lesson on how to use it in dealing with the governor's proposed tax increases.

"This session will now come to order," Murray said as she banged the gavel. "Question comes on the adoption of a toll increase. All those in favor say aye."

Silence.

"Opposed?"

"No!" the crowd shouted.

"The nos have it," Murray proclaimed.

"The nos have it," Hart interjected. "Now that's democracy!"

"All those in favor of a nineteen cent gas increase say aye," Murray went ahead. "Opposed?"

Another round of no's from the crowd.

"The nos have it. All those in favor of taxing candy, say aye. Opposed?"

The crowd again shouted, "No!"

"The nos have it." Murray continued, "And most important to this crowd, all those in favor of a tax on beer. All those in favor... the nos have it!"

While DeLeo came with jokes and Murray came with some props, Gov. Deval Patrick came with a song he called "The Gas Tax Lament."

"We're facing a meltdown at the MBTA. And the roads and the bridges are showing decay," Patrick sang. "'Cus when Weld and Cellucci and Mitt ran the store, they ran up Big Dig debt, upkeep was a bore. They said no, nay, never. No, nay never no more, will we pay for our transport, ignore it some more."

While everyone in the hall laughed at the songs and the jokes, it will be back to business on Beacon Hill as lawmakers and the administration get down to dealing with the serious issues of closing deficits, gas taxes, tolls, and overhauling the state's transportation system.

Listen to three of the musical performances at this year's Saint Patrick's Day Breakfast:

Gov. Deval Patrick sings "The Gas Tax Lament" »

http://audio.wbur.org/storage/2009/03/morningedition_0316_11.mp3

Sen. Jack Hart sings a campaign song for the Boston mayoral candidates »

http://audio.wbur.org/storage/2009/03/morningedition_0316_12.mp3

Congressman Stephen Lynch sings "I'm Changing My Name To Merrill Lynch" »

http://audio.wbur.org/storage/2009/03/morningedition_0316_13.mp3

This program aired on March 16, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.

Steve Brown Twitter Reporter/Anchor
Steve Brown is a veteran broadcast journalist who serves as WBUR's State House reporter.

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