People and Politics: January 2013 | STATE LEGISLATURES MAGAZINE
CALIFORNIA REPUBLICAN RON SMITH WON HIS ELECTION FOR THE STATE ASSEMBLY—OR AT LEAST THOUGHT HE DID—by 2,000 votes. He planned to introduce two bills, was ready to hang pictures in his new office and had picked out most of his staff. But two days before the start of session in Sacramento, he learned that his opponent, Democrat Steve Fox, had won enough of the absentee and provisional ballots to take the election. Smith plans to ask for a recount.
THE KANSAS SENATE CHOSE A WOMAN FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER TO LEAD THE CHAMBER. Republican Senator Susan Wagle was elected Senate president, succeeding former Senator Steve Morris who lost his primary. Wagle, a cancer survivor who underwent chemotherapy in the summer for treatment of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, sees her victory is an inspiration to others. “It brings hope and encouragement to an awful lot of people who want a reason to get out of bed in the morning. That’s the big message we were able to share: There’s life after cancer.” Republicans in the Senate hold a 32-8 majority.
IN THE KANSAS HOUSE, RAY MERRICK (R) WAS ELECTED SPEAKER. He served in the Senate for two years, filling the seat of Jeff Coyler who was elected lieutenant governor with Sam Brownback in 2010. He resigned that seat to run for the House with the intention of becoming speaker. Merrick had been majority leader in the House before his stint in the Senate. He wants his committee chairs to work with their Senate counterparts early in the session to deal with difficult issues. Merrick leads a chamber with a Republican majority of 92-33.
GEORGIA SENATOR DAVID SHAFER (R) HAS BEEN SELECTED THE NEW PRESIDENT PRO TEM OF THE SENATE. The post opened up when former Senate President Tommie Williams (R) announced in June he would not seek another leadership term. Shafer, first elected in 2002, is the 68th president pro tem in the state’s history. Senator Ronnie Chance (R) is the new majority leader, succeeding Senator Chip Rogers, who announced he would not run again for the post. He resigned from the Senate in December to take a position at Georgia Public Broadcasting.
VOTERS IN ALABAMA DECIDED OVERWHELMINGLY TO CUT LAWMAKERS’ PAY by passing a constitutional amendment preventing the Legislature from setting its own compensation and linking it to the state’s median household income. In 2007, the Legislature voted itself a 61 percent pay raise and annual cost of living increases, which last year equaled $55,022. When Republicans took control of both chambers in 2010, they tried to repeal the pay raise and drop the salary to $36,660, but didn’t have enough votes. Under the new amendment, lawmakers’ salaries will decrease to $46,921.
FLORIDA’S TWO NEW LEGISLATIVE LEADERS WILL MAKE ETHICS REFORM A TOP PRIORITY THIS SESSION. Incoming Senate President Don Gaetz (R) and House Speaker-designate Will Weatherford (R) want to improve the standing of the Legislature with the people of Florida and endorsed recommendations by the Commission on Ethics as a first step. Their emphasis on ethics follows an apology by former Senate President Mike Haridopolos in February 2011 for failing to file complete financial disclosure forms for five years, and the resignation of former Speaker Ray Sansom in 2009 who was under investigation for guiding millions of dollars to a college in his district that later offered him a job.