BOSTON, Mass. — State Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli is taking over the House chairmanship of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture for the late Rep. Gailanne Cariddi.
Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo appointed Pignatelli to the seat that was previously chaired by his former Berkshire delegation colleague, Cariddi, who died earlier this year. The dean of the Berkshire delegation will likely be removed from his current committees to focus solely on the chairmanship.
"Clearly, I am very honored. This is a key legislative position in leadership," Pignatelli said. "It bodes really well to have the chairman be from Western Massachusetts."
Pignatelli had seats on the Joint Committee on Education, Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure, and the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight. Whoever has the chairmanship of the environment committee typically does not sit on other committees, and Lenox Democrat expects that to be true with him as well.
"I am humbled by the honor and excited for the opportunity to work on the many challenges ahead, not only for Western Mass but for the entire commonwealth," said Pignatelli. "As someone who grew up surrounded by the most beautiful landscapes in the commonwealth, I know the importance of preserving open spaces. I look forward to working in this new capacity to protect Massachusetts' finite natural resources, look after our local farms, and implement policies to support responsible environmental stewardship for future generations."
In his 15 years in the House of Representatives, Pignatelli believes this is the only committee he had not previously sat on. But, he's had an interest in environmental issues and wants to focus on ways to better manage food waste, and push through an omnibus agricultural bill to help farmers.
"It is somewhat bittersweet," Pignatelli said of taking over the position from Cariddi. "It's kind of cool that I can follow in Gail's footsteps in this way."
Pignatelli has the largest geographic area of any representative in the House. He'll be working with the Senate Chairwoman Anne Gobi, D-Spencer, relating to legislation that comes before the committee.
"Smitty has always taken a genuine interest in issues and policies before the committee. I look forward to working with him and building on the progress started with our great friend, Rep. Cariddi," Gobi said in a statement.
Pignatelli said the committee is somewhat behind because of Cariddi's death and he has a "learning curve" to get caught up. But, he says there isn't any pressing piece of legislation pending and he hopes to have hearings scheduled in the coming weeks.
"We're trying to play catch up and I'm getting up to speed with the legislation," Pignatelli said, adding that he is confident that things will "get rolling" quickly.
DeLeo offered the position to Pignatelli on Sunday and, on Monday, Pignatelli went right to work meeting with committee staff.
"Chairman Pignatelli's intelligence, dedication, and passion for the environment make him an ideal fit for this role," DeLeo said in a statement announcing the appointment. "I've had numerous conversations with Smitty about how his district and the Berkshires have informed his perspective on the environment and agriculture. I believe this background and his commitment to the commonwealth will serve both his constituents and Massachusetts well."
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