This past week, we said farewell to a leader with a steady hand who has been a friend to The Arc and others since joining the legislature in late 1991: Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo. The State House News article quoted Speaker DeLeo’s overarching philosophy: that “what this job is all about, very simply, is helping people.”
Personally, I will miss him because of his character and friendship over nearly three decades. Although his responsibilities were broad and deep, he was always responsive to persons with disabilities and other constituents. The Arc recognized Speaker DeLeo twice as legislator of the year.
During his long service in the Massachusetts House, he has been a fierce advocate for those with disabilities, playing a key role in the evolution of disability services for children and adults. During his tenure, he supported removal of the ‘R-word’ from the Massachusetts General Laws, was instrumental in establishing the autism insurance bill (ARICA), expanded Turning 22 (transition), and played a key role in funding of adult autism services for persons with developmental disabilities. Under Bob’s leadership, assistance to families, including DDS family support, received additional appropriations.
As a new State Representative, Speaker DeLeo showed his empathy for people with disabilities and families by fighting to protect key provisions of the Chapter 766-Special Education law as the House modified the legislation. As Ways and Means Chair, Speaker DeLeo furthered this commitment by supporting increased funding for the DDS budget including Turning 22 (transition of students with special needs to adult services) and family support.
We wish him well as he moves on. We will always be thankful for his leadership.