EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

December 19, 2012

Finegold: No interest in changing U.S. Senate vacancy law again

BOSTON — As co-chair of the Committee on Election Laws, State Sen. Barry Finegold, D-Andover, said he is not inclined to revisit the process that allows for an interim senator to be appointed should President Barack Obama tap U.S. Sen. John Kerry as his next secretary of state.

Finegold said yesterday he has heard rumblings of people pushing to change the law, but no one has contacted him directly.

“There has been some behind-the-scenes talk. I have no interest in changing this law,” Finegold told the News Service.

“I think we have a good system where immediately there will be someone to serve, and at the same time you give people the chance to, if this happens, see who is going to be the person to replace him.”

Current state law requires the governor to appoint an interim senator once a vacancy is created by death or letter of resignation. The interim appointee holds the spot until a special election, which must be held between 145 to 160 days after the vacancy. A letter of resignation creates a vacancy, under the law, even if the resignation is not effective until a later date.

The date of the election to fill a vacancy “shall be after the resignation is effective,” the law states. Patrick has repeatedly said he would prefer to appoint someone for the remainder of the Senate term rather than make an interim appointment — which was the case under previous state law before 2004.

When Kerry ran for president, the Legislature changed the law to allow for a special election in order to prevent Gov. Mitt Romney from appointing a successor for the remainder of the six-year term. Lawmakers changed it again in 2009 to allow Patrick to make an interim appointment until a special election when Sen. Edward Kennedy died, resulting in the election of Scott Brown over Attorney General Martha Coakley.

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