|By G. Michael Dobbs|
SPRINGFIELD State Rep. Cheryl Coakley-Rivera expects the House to be passing the bill that would extend the loan payback period shortly and forwarding the legislation to the Senate for approval.
And because the final House legislation was crafted with David Sullivan, the executive counsel for the Office of Administration and Finance, Coakley-Rivera said the governor is ready to sign the bill into law once passed by the Senate.
The bill extends the repayment period for the $52 million loan extended to the city by the state from seven years to 10 years. It also establishes a binding referendum vote on changing the mayor's term from two years to four years and created a commission to consider raising the mayor's rate of pay.
The bill would also create a new position in city government, a chief financial and administration officer who would report to the mayor.
The bill was the subject of an often heated hearing conducted several weeks ago at Springfield City Hall by State Representatives Coakley-Rivera, Sean Curran, Benjamin Swan and Angelo Puppolo. Coakley-Rivera explained to Reminder Publications that after the hearing, she and the other members of the delegation worked to reach a compromise on some of the more disputed measures of the bill as it was first written.
"Everyone compromised," she said.
One of the contested parts of the bill was the binding referendum on the mayor's term. Normally, the state representatives explained at the hearing, such a change would either come about through a charter change committee or as a home rule petition approved by the City Council and mayor and forwarded to the Legislature.
The original provision in the bill called for the binding referendum to be placed on this year's ballot, but that was changed. The referendum will now be on the ballot in 2009 at the "regular city election" instead of this fall. If passed, the first four-year Mayoral term will begin in 2011.
Coakley-Rivera said the change allows for a greater awareness of the issue and time for a debate on the subject.
Another change was in the provision creating a committee to study the mayor's pay scale. There will be member of the City Council on the committee rather than a representative of the Springfield Chamber of Commerce.
"We went to the bat for Springfield and delivered a grand slam for our constituents and our city," Coakley-Rivera said. "We have safeguarded Springfield's financial future by insisting on better repayment terms of the state's loan, ensured that citizens will have the time to learn about and evaluate the proposed change in the mayoral term and have input on the mayor's salary."