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opinion | Noah Guiney

‘Roadrunner’ and how the Legislature fails

Joyce Linehan (left) filed a petition with then-state Representative Marty Walsh to have “Roadrunner” recognized as the official rock song of Massachusetts. Barry Chin/Globe staff/file 2013

This piece was updated Jan. 15 at 2:25 p.m.

Last session, the Legislature missed its opportunity to make “Roadrunner” the official state rock song of Massachusetts. The good news, for ’70s punk rock fans, is that the bill is coming back. Even better, for everyone in the state, is the reason the measure has better prospects this time: Senate President Stanley Rosenberg has indicated that he might loosen his control over committee chairs.

The original “Roadrunner” bill was a case study on how good legislation can get lost in the system. The measure enjoyed bipartisan support — its sponsors were then-Democratic Representative Marty Walsh and Senate Assistant Minority leader Robert Hedlund, a Republican from Weymouth. It was revenue-neutral. It was one sentence long. It was high-profile; Rolling Stone and Time wrote about it, and comedian John Hodgman, a Brookline native, voiced his support. But the bill still died in the House, without ever receiving a floor vote.

One problem, as Hodgman noted, was that “Roadrunner” had competition: A separate effort to make the state rock song “Dream On,” a lesser (and depressing) tune by Aerosmith. But another problem was structural. In recent years, some have complained that it’s difficult to get a bill passed in the State House without support from the speaker of the House and Senate president, who tend to set the agendas for their respective chambers. Because committee chairs have less autonomy than their titles would suggest, even bills that are voted favorably out of committee often don’t find their way to the floor.


In the case of “Roadrunner,” one could guess that the leaders decided they had bigger fish to fry. On the other hand, the rock-song bill engaged people who don’t usually pay much attention to state government. It might have been nice to show them that, on Beacon Hill, small tasks can get accomplished.


It’s possible that, this session, the culture will change. Rosenberg took time in his swearing-in speech to encourage committees to “generate new ideas, vigorously debate them, and bring them to this floor for consideration.” If that policy actually comes to fruition, “Roadrunner” stands a real shot. At last. It’s a damned good song.

Watch: “Roadrunner”


2013 | Editorial: ‘Roadrunner,’ hands-down, for state rock song

2013 | Letter: Don’t forget the state’s other official tunes

2013: Modern Lovers’ ‘Roadrunner’ could soon be a state song

Noah Guiney can be reached at noah.guiney@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @noahguiney.