STATE LEGISLATURES MAGAZINE
REPRESENTATIVE JEFF HICKMAN (R) IS THE NEW SPEAKER OF THE OKLAHOMA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES. Hickman and Speaker Pro Tem Mike Jackson (R) vied for the leadership post, which Hickman won by a caucus vote of 39-30. The full House elected him on a party-line vote of 69-29. Hickman succeeds former Speaker T.W. Shannon who is running for the seat being vacated early by U.S. Senator Tom Coburn. “Speaker Hickman is a man of integrity. … I look forward to working side by side with him in a bipartisan manner to address the issues facing our great state,” said House Minority Leader Scott Inman (D), who had been nominated by his caucus. Jackson will remain pro tem.
SENATOR THERESE MURRAY (D), MASSACHUSETTS’ FIRST FEMALE SENATE PRESIDENT, HAS ANNOUNCED SHE WILL NOT SEEK RE-ELECTION to the legislature. Murray, who was first elected to the Senate in 1992, became president in 2007. Murray’s decision was not unexpected. Senate rules would have allowed her to serve only through March 2015 in her leadership position. Senator Stanley C. Rosenberg (D), current majority leader, said he has the votes to succeed Murray as president. He said Murray effectively balanced policy and politics as leader. Former Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei, who is running for Congress, lauded Murray for her bipartisanship, saying, “She took great pains to make sure the atmosphere in the Senate was one in which everyone could work together … Democrat or Republican, everyone looks forward to going to work, and that’s a great legacy to leave behind.”
A FORMER CONNECTICUT SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE WHO AUTHORED THE NATION’S SECOND “MEGAN’S LAW” IN 1995 IS PRODUCING A 13-PART SERIES ON CHILD SEX TRAFFICKING called “Turnpike Chronicles.” As a lawmaker, Jim Amann (D)—who was elected in 1991 and served as speaker from 2005 to 2009—worked to change domestic sex trafficking laws. As a filmmaker, he hopes his series will “get some more advocates to stand up to fight for these kids.” Amann, founder of L.A. Productions and Entertainment, is basing his film on a book by Raymond Bechard, “The Berlin Turnpike: A Story of Human Trafficking in America.” “Most people think this is an issue related to overseas—something in Mexico, Asia—it not an American problem,” Amann said. The documentary series will be released in the summer.
PARTISAN POWER SHIFTED IN THE VIRGINIA SENATE IN EARLY FEBRUARY, WHEN DEMOCRAT LYNWOOD W. LEWIS JR. WON A RECOUNT BY JUST 11 VOTES to fill the seat vacated by Lt. Governor Ralph Northam. Northam was the running mate of Terry McAuliffe, who won the governorship from the GOP in November. The 20-20 tied chamber, which had been under Republican control since 2012, now has a Democratic lieutenant governor in place as the tie-breaking vote. The Democrats shoved through a new rule giving the chair of the Senate Rules Committee—now a Democrat—the right to kill any bill the House has “substantially” amended. The Democrats used parliamentary procedures from the time of Thomas Jefferson to solidify their control of committees and give the Rules chair extraordinary power. The outcome of the power play resulted in a new leadership team. Senator Charles Colgan is the new Senate president pro tempore, Senator Richard Saslaw is now the Senate Democratic leader, and Senator Thomas Norment is now the Senate Republican leader.
WYOMING REPRESENTATIVE SUE WALLIS (R), A CATTLE RANCHER who wrote cowboy poetry and was one the nation’s most outspoken proponents of horse slaughter, died unexpectedly in January. She was 56. Wallis was first elected to the legislature in 2006 and ran at the urging of her high school friend, Wyoming Speaker Thomas Lubnau (R). Although she gained notoriety because of her stand on horse slaughter, Lubnau said that one issue was “just a fraction” of the good work she did. “She was tenacious in her defense of what she believed in—and very articulate,” he said. Governor Matt Mead (R) said, “Wyoming has lost a great voice. … The strength of her convictions was clear, as was her commitment to the West and our way of life. I will miss her.”
CALIFORNIA DEMOCRATS CHOSE ASSEMBLYWOMAN TONI ATKINS AS THEIR NEXT SPEAKER. She won the post with unanimous support, and her selection promises a seamless transition into the leadership post. Atkins, the daughter of a Virginia coal miner who grew up in a house with no running water, is currently the majority floor leader. Before her election to the Assembly in 2011, she served on the San Diego City Council and was acting mayor for several months. Atkins, who will succeed Speaker John Perez when he leaves office at the end of 2014, is the first openly gay lawmaker to lead either chamber in the California Legislature.