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Law change could speed replacement of Kennedy

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick says he will work to change state law so that he can appoint an interim senator to replace the late Edward M. Kennedy before a special election next year.

September 01, 2009|Bloomberg News

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said Monday that he would work to change state law so that he could appoint a temporary replacement for the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy before a special election next year.

Appointing an interim senator would ensure that Massachusetts is fully represented, Patrick said at a news conference at the statehouse in Boston. He said he would seek the individual's personal assurance that he or she wouldn't run in the special election to serve out the veteran Democrat's term, which runs through 2012. The election is scheduled for Jan. 19.

Current law specifies only that a special election be held five months after a U.S. Senate vacancy occurs. A joint legislative committee has scheduled a Sept. 9 hearing on whether to change the law.

Lawmakers could have a bill on Patrick's desk by the end of the month or sooner, said Michael J. Moran, a Democratic state representative from Boston. Patrick can appoint an interim senator on the day he signs the bill, Moran said.

Allowing Patrick, a Democrat, to appoint an interim senator would preserve the party's ability to cut off debate and force action on legislation. That would give the party 60 votes -- 58 Democrats plus two independents who caucus with them. That's the minimum needed to avert a filibuster.

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