Every great recipe starts with the right ingredients. Perhaps no
one on Beacon Hill knows that better than Senate Majority Leader
Stan Rosenberg, who is expected to be voted in as the new Senate
president when the legislative session kicks off on Jan. 7.
Rosenberg, a cooking enthusiast and collector of cook books, is
known at the State House for his famous tomato sauce. Each fall he
handpicks all his ingredients fresh from the fields of western
Massachusetts. He freezes them so he can make his highly
sought-after sauce and homemade pasta even in the middle of a
bone-chilling New England winter. The sauce garnered so much
acclaim that the Boston Globe published the recipe in
"I like to cook, but rarely get a chance to do that anymore," says
Rosenberg, who represents the Hampshire-Franklin District, which
includes Amherst and Northampton.
His time in the kitchen may be cut back even more with his
forthcoming presidency seat in the state Senate. Not only will
Rosenberg be moving into a new role, he'll also be working with a
new governor in Charlie Baker when a new administration takes over
in January. Rosenberg has served as a state senator since 1991 and
has worked his way up the leadership ranks. A knowledgeable
legislator that has earned the respect of his colleagues, Rosenberg
possesses the key professional ingredients to produce a winning
recipe for leadership of the Senate.
'Dean of the State Senate'
As the longest tenured member of the Upper Chamber with 23 years
of service, Rosenberg has earned the honorary title of "Dean of the
State Senate." An advocate for education and social justice for
all, he has served as president pro tempore, assistant majority
leader and chairman of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. In
2001 and 2011 he also served as Senate chair of the Joint Committee
A resident of Amherst, Rosenberg has lived in the Pioneer Valley
for more than 40 years. His district is made up of 24 communities:
17 in Franklin County, six in Hampshire County and one in Worcester
County. He is a graduate of Revere High School and UMass
Rosenberg is in position to claim the highest seat in the Senate
with the departure of outgoing Senate President Therese Murray, who
did not run for reelection. After a six-month period of internal
conversations about what the future of the Senate might look like,
Rosenberg was given the opportunity to become the new leader.
"It's a significant responsibility and opportunity. I am fully
aware and take it with a great deal of seriousness," says
Rosenberg. "We have an opportunity to build an agenda in the
Senate, work with the speaker and in this case we now have a
divided government with a Republican governor and a Democratically
While putting together an agenda in the Senate is still very much
in the discussion stage at this point, Rosenberg notes that the
state's economy will be at the center of it.
"I'm looking forward to continuing on the path of increased
transparency and engagement both by the members of the Senate and
the public in building and maintaining a very robust economy," he
Criminal justice reform
In addition to the economy, the topic of criminal justice reform
is one of many key areas for Rosenberg. In November, he attended a
conference on criminal justice reform in San Diego. The conference,
"The Justice Reinvestment National Summit: Sustaining Success,
Maintaining Momentum," was sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trusts,
the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Assistance and
the Council of State Governments Justice Center.
Rosenberg was among 450 attendees from 35 states at the
conference. Seventeen of those states are significantly engaged in
justice reinvestment initiatives, which involve different ways of
looking at and spending resources in order to protect public
safety. The goals include reducing incarceration and
re-incarceration, creating stronger re-entry programs for those
that have been incarcerated and reducing the rate of re-entry into
the prison system.
In Massachusetts, the Special Commission to Study the
Commonwealth's Criminal Justice System recently recommended
eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses. The MBA
has been a long supporter of eliminating mandatory minimum
sentences in those cases.
Rosenberg points out that several of the states that are actively
engaged in criminal justice reform are known for conservative
agendas with strong law and order approaches to public safety
"The states that are aggressively reviewing and repealing them are
actually 'red' states. If they can review, revise, repeal and
reform, then so can Massachusetts," says Rosenberg. "I'm looking
forward to the possibility that with the success in so many other
states of reviewing and revising that we can take a page from their
book without fear that we'll be compromising public safety."
'Blue Ribbon' report
Housed within the criminal justice reform discussion is the topic
of how to improve the challenges facing assistant district
attorneys, public defenders and bar advocates in Massachusetts,
where compensation rates have changed little in 20 years.
The MBA's Blue Ribbon Commission on Criminal Justice Attorney
Compensation released a report in May 2014 that found the salaries
of attorneys who work in the state's criminal justice system to be
inadequate and inequitable. The report, "Doing Right by Those Who
Labor for Justice: Fair and Equitable Compensation for Attorneys
Serving the Commonwealth in its Criminal Courts," is the first
study conducted on this topic since the MBA's groundbreaking
"Callahan Report" in 1994.
Following the release of the report, Governor Deval L. Patrick
named the MBA to a commission to study the salaries of assistant
district attorneys and staff attorneys of the Committee for Public
Rosenberg sees this issue fitting into the larger discussion of
overall reforms to the criminal justice system.
"I think that this is one of the issues that could benefit by a
comprehensive look at the criminal justice budgets, from the courts
to the DAs to the defense bar to the jails and houses of
correction," he says. "If we look at that whole system and we are
able to make the kinds of changes that are happening in other
states, we will free up money in the criminal justice budget to
invest more wisely and more effectively in other parts of that
Voir dire legislation
Starting Feb. 2, Massachusetts attorneys will, for the first time,
be allowed to question prospective jurors in civil and criminal
trials throughout the Superior Court thanks to the passage last
August of Chapter 254 of the Acts of 2014, a measure the MBA
strongly advocated for.
Massachusetts joins 39 other states that allow some form of
attorney-conducted voir dire. The new law not only permits
attorneys to question potential jurors and screen for bias in
Superior Court trials, it also allows attorneys to suggest a
monetary amount for damages suffered by a plaintiff in a civil
"It made sense to me and I'm glad we were able to get it passed,
and I'm hoping that this reform will ensure that people will have
quick and fair justice," says Rosenberg. "A compelling case was
made and a good bill was put forward and is now law."
Civil legal aid
Rosenberg is also very aware of the need for state funding for
programs that provide civil legal aid to low-income residents. This
year the MBA will once again co-sponsor the 16th Annual Walk to the
Hill for Civil Legal Aid on January 29. Each year hundreds of
attorneys participate in this event, which is one of the largest
lobby days at the State House.
As he moves into the role of Senate president, Rosenberg suggests
that a restructuring of the budget could lead to more funding for
civil legal aid as well as other services.
"If we can effectively participate in this justice reinvestment
strategy, it opens up the door for all of these types of services
to get access to funds that are otherwise now tied up. Let's free
up money in the system so that those dollars can flow into areas
that are a much better use of that money than some of the ways
we're spending it now," said Rosenberg.
Relationship with the legal community
Like his famous tomato sauce, Rosenberg will depend on several
ingredients as the keys to his success at the helm of the state
Senate. One of the most important ingredients for Rosenberg will be
further developing his strong relationships with various
constituencies, including those within the legal community.
"The courts are a co-equal branch of government and I respect
their responsibilities and their job and will continue to be active
with my colleagues, especially the folks on the judiciary
committee, to identify opportunities to improve the delivery of
swift and fair justice," says Rosenberg. "I'll look to the
judiciary chair in the Senate as a source of information and
guidance and then to our budget team that will include people
working on various aspects of the criminal justice system,
including budgets that support the legal community and the courts