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People and Politics June 2014

People and Politics | June 2014

6/1/2014

STATE LEGISLATURES MAGAZINE

WASHINGTON SENATE MAJORITY LEADER RODNEY TOM (D) WILL NOT SEEK RE-ELECTION due to family and health considerations. Tom, a fiscal conservative and a Democrat, crossed party lines last year to help Republicans take control of the Senate. Tom, along with Democratic Senator Tim Sheldon, joined with the GOP to create the Majority Coalition Caucus. As a result, the two-term senator was a major target of the other Democrats, who hold 23 seats in the 49-member chamber. Tom began his career as a Republican in the House in 2002, but switched parties four years later. He said his time as majority leader was “historic for Washington and an opportunity of a lifetime for me personally.”

Elephant and Donkey party symbols

WHEN SHE TOOK THE NEW HAMPSHIRE SPEAKER’S ROSTRUM IN 2006 TERIE NORELLI (D) MADE HISTORY before she even pounded the gavel. She had become the first Democrat in 84 years to lead the House. In April, Norelli announced she is not seeking re-election after 18 years as a lawmaker and three terms as speaker. In 2010, Norelli lost the leadership post she had held for four years when Republicans took control of the chamber, but won it back in 2012 when Democrats gained the majority in the 400-member chamber by a margin of 220-179. During her terms as speaker, Norelli, a former high school math teacher, was lauded for her leadership skills and accomplishments and for a legacy that will live on in  New Hampshire. “This woman has done simply a spectacular job,” said Peter Burling, Democratic National Committeeman. Norelli served as NCSL president in 2012-13.

ARKANSAS SENATOR JOHNNY KEY (R) HAS BEEN NAMED ASSOCIATED VICE PRESIDENT OF UNIVERSITY RELATIONS by the University of Arkansas System. He will help coordinate government relations for the school’s 18 campuses. Chair of the Senate Education Committee, Key was elected to the Senate in 2008 and also served as NCSL’s Education Standing Committee vice chair.

IN GERRY COHEN’S 37 YEARS WORKING FOR THE 170-MEMBER NORTH CAROLINA GENERAL ASSEMBLY, he figured he served some 1,000 lawmakers as staff attorney, director of bill drafting and finally as special counsel. Nicknamed the “encyclopedia,” for his knowledge of history and the state, Cohen announced in April he is retiring. Cohen started his public career on the Chapel Hill Town Council as a second-year law student, and left in his second term to work for the General Assembly. During his career he chaired NCSL’s Redistricting Task Force and Legal Services staff section. “I quickly came to realize Gerry Cohen was the smartest man around. I don’t know what they’re going to do” without him, said Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin, a former representative. A die-hard Tar Heels fan, Cohen said, “I’m 98 percent sure that Roy Williams [basketball coach] lived in my dorm my freshman year.”

THE MISSOURI SENATE CONDUCTED A SPECIAL COMMEMORATION SERVICE for 60 deceased members in April to pay tribute to their distinguished service. Current members celebrated the lives and legacies of the members who came before them. Each former member was recognized in a roll call and with a rose, and family members attended a reception following the memorial. “Our Senate has a 200-year history. We consider ourselves a family and we want to honor the members of our family who have passed away,” said Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey (R). April’s event was the first time in some 30 years that the Senate has hosted a similar event. Majority Floor Leader Ron Richard (R) said the Senate wanted to “share our profound appreciation for these families’ willingness to sacrifice time with their loved ones while they served to make this state a greater place to live and work.”

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