People and Politics July August 2014

People and Politics | July-August 2014



WHEN SOUTH CAROLINA LT. GOVERNOR GLENN MCCONNELL ANNOUNCED HE WAS BECOMING PRESIDENT OF THE COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON, the leadership shuffle that ensued led to the resignation of one leader and the election of two more. Senate President Pro Tem John Courson (R) didn’t want to be elevated to McConnell’s spot, as required by the state constitution, so he resigned his powerful post. Then the GOP-led chamber elected Democrat Yancey McGill Senate president, but only for a few minutes. Once McConnell resigned, McGill was sworn in. That’s when 83-year-old Republican Finance Chairman Hugh Leatherman (R) was elected Senate president, but not before a speech accusing him of masterminding a coup with McConnell to oust Courson. McGill, who is the first Democratic lieutenant governor since 1995, will serve seven months until a replacement is elected and takes office.

Elephant and Donkey party symbolsA RESIGNATION IN THE VIRGINIA SENATE TIPPED PARTY CONTROL BY ONE VOTE TO THE GOP. Democratic Senator Phillip Puckett resigned his seat in June, allegedly to take a position with the state tobacco commission and to clear the way for a judicial appointment for his daughter. That gave the GOP a 20-19 edge and the ability to break a budget stalemate without on Medicaid, a provision Democrats and the governor had wanted. Then Puckett said there had never been a firm offer from the commission, and withdrew his name from consideration. That prompted an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice seeking documents and testimony from commission staff connected to Puckett’s resignation. In the meantime, Senator Emmett Hanger Jr. (R) said he plans to introduce legislation in special session to give the governor authority to spend federal funds to expand health care to uninsured Virginians.

CALIFORNIA DEMOCRAT TONI ATKINS WAS SWORN IN AS THE 69TH SPEAKER OF THE STATE ASSEMBLY WITH HER WIFE BY HER SIDE, becoming the first open lesbian to lead either chamber. Atkins, 51, is a child of Appalachia raised by a coal miner father and seamstress mother in a house with no indoor plumbing or running water. She succeeds California’s first openly gay speaker, John Perez (D), and was sworn in by California Congresswoman Karen Bass, who was the first Democratic woman to hold the speakership.

NEW HAMPSHIRE SENATE DEMOCRATIC LEADER SYLVIA LARSEN IS RETIRING from the legislature after 20 years. The former Senate president is the chamber’s longest serving member, first elected in 1994. She was president of the Senate from 2006-2010, and for two years, her chamber was the only one in the nation with a majority of women—13 female members in the 24-seat Senate. She became minority leader 
when Republicans took control of the chamber in the 2010 election.

RAMONA KENADY LINE, CHIEF CLERK OF THE OREGON HOUSE FOR 29 YEARS, RESIGNED IN MAY. Line, whose father served as speaker of the Oregon House, began her career with the Legislative Assembly in 1972 and worked with some 450 members during her tenure. She is a nationally recognized expert on Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure and was staff chair of NCSL in 2000-2001. As the “holder of enormous institutional knowledge,” her resignation is a huge loss to the House, said Representative Vicki Berger (R), who served as Republican whip.

TONY BEARD, CHIEF SERGEANT-AT-ARMS FOR THE CALIFORNIA SENATE FOR 34 YEARS, RESIGNED HIS POST after it became public that a Capitol peace officer had tested positive for cocaine during an investigation of a fatal shooting at his home in 2012. The officer was fired by Senate President Pro Tem Darrel Steinberg (D), and Beard, who thought the information was part of a confidential investigation, had kept the information private. Beard was widely respected inside the Capitol and across the nation, having designed new security measures following the 9/11 attacks and after an incident in which a driver crashed into the south side of the building. “Tony Beard has served California’s Legislature with great distinction and honor for more than four decades,” Steinberg said. “His exemplary service deserves recognition and celebration.” Beard had worked for the Senate for 47 years, following his father as chief sergeant. Together they served the Senate more than 100 years.

IDAHO VETERAN STAFFER ERIC MILSTEAD WAS NAMED DIRECTOR OF THE LEGISLATIVE SERVICES OFFICE IN JUNE. Milstead, who has worked for the agency 16 years and was deputy director of the research and legislative division, was the unanimous choice of the Legislative Council. He succeeds Jeff Youtz, who retired after 36 years with the agency. Milstead will supervise 64 employees who, among other things, provide bill drafting, budget analysis, information technology and auditing services. 

JASON HANCOCK IS THE NEW DIRECTOR OF THE SOUTH DAKOTA LEGISLATIVE RESEARCH COUNCIL. Hancock was the deputy chief of staff to the Idaho Department of Education when he was selected for the $125,000 a year job to replace former director Jim Fry. The press noted that Hancock’s salary is more than the governor’s salary of $104,000, and, according to Senator Ryan Maher, party chairman of the legislative executive board, that was the plan. “It’s been the philosophy of the E-Board that we want to have someone who is able to compete with the executive branch, and this is the first step to accomplishing this plan.”

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