With less than three weeks left before the MBTA’s oversight board is scheduled to disappear, the state Senate on Thursday voted to create a new board to take its place, offering a different vision from the House of Representatives.
The Senate proposed a new, seven-member board that includes the secretary of transportation as a member, and would reserve two seats for members of local governments; all but one member would be appointed by Governor Charlie Baker.
As part of a larger transportation package approved in March, the House recommended extending the existing five-member board, but adding two seats to represent municipal government, with one specifically from the city of Boston.
The Senate’s vision is more similar to Baker’s proposal for a new seven-member board that includes a seat for his transportation secretary, Stephanie Pollack, and a seat representing all the cities and towns served by the T.
However, there was one crucial difference: the Senate bill would take the ability to fire and hire the MBTA’s general manager out of the hands of Pollack and instead give it to the board.
State Representative William Straus, the House’s transportation leader, has said he would not support that idea, arguing it is important for a clear line of command between the governor and the T. And Baker voiced a similar opinion on Thursday, telling reporters that “the governor should have a role in appointing the general manager.”
The two chambers will now need to reconcile their ideas, and on a short timeline: the current board, called the Fiscal and Management Control Board, will terminate on July 1, five years after it was originally approved to put tight attention on the T.
Without either a replacement or extension of the current board, oversight of the T would fall back to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, which critics say is already overloaded with the highway and Registry of Motor Vehicle systems to give the MBTA the attention it warrants.
The Senate plan came as part of a bill that would increase the amount of funding directed toward cities and towns for roadwork to $300 million a year, a $100 million increase compared to a normal year. It was the most significant transportation legislation considered by the chamber since the coronavirus hit the state, though is much smaller than the large-scale transportation initiatives the Legislature was considering before the pandemic that included a gas tax increase.