Back when Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts and John Kerry was running for Senate, the Massachusetts legislature passed a law ensuring that Romney wouldn’t be able to appoint a Republican to fill Kerry’s Senate seat if he won. Instead, the seat would stand vacant until a special election could be held. Now, though, Deval Patrick is governor of Massachusetts and Ted Kennedy is in poor health. So Kennedy, sensibly, is encouraging Massachusetts to change the rules again and let Patrick appoint a temporary replacement so the seat won’t stand vacant if he needs to abandon the seat.
Jason Zengerle says “there’s a good lesson here about legislative bodies being careful not to muck around with these sorts of rules for short-term political gain.” I sort of feel the opposite way. There’s a very minor problem here, and it’s been totally solvable for months. The only roadblock is that the MA legislature seems too hesitant to change the rules for short-term political gain. But when you have a state whose state legislature is firmly and forever in the hands of one political party, the smart thing is for the legislature to be constantly changing rules based on short-term considerations. Nothing’s stopping them from changing the rules back later.