First Branch News is NCSL’s weekly roundup of legislative headlines from news sources across the country and throughout the territories.
In this issue, states continue to look at restricting executive power, two states consider ways to block federal directives, and Washington state legislators might be banned from taking selfies on chamber floors.
States continue to be innovative in ways to share legislative proceedings with the public. (See NCSL’s chart on legislative broadcasts and webcasts.) Although five cases of COVID-19 were found in the Alaska Capitol, legislative proceedings will continue. Arizona has installed a system that lets residents testify at committee hearings via Zoom. The Delaware General Assembly will continue to meet remotely when the session resumes next week. The Idaho Senate approved sending a constitutional amendment to voters allowing the legislature to call itself into special session. The Washington Legislative Ethics Board has requested an ethics alert reprimanding lawmakers for taking selfies on the House or Senate floor.
Authority of Legislatures
Challenges by legislatures to executive branch continued this week. (See NCSL’s update of legislative oversight of emergency executive powers webpage, which chronicles activities in more than 40 states.) The New York Legislature reached an agreement to strip the governor of his emergency powers. The Oklahoma Senate will consider a bill confronting the governor’s authority in pandemic emergencies. Bills continue to be debated in Alaska, Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky and Montana. In Washington, however, attempts to reduce the governor’s powers appear to be dead.
At least two states are looking at ways to block any federal executive order, agency rule or other federal action if found unconstitutional by the state’s legislatures. The Oklahoma House sent a bill to the Senate this week, and Missouri Senate Pro Tem Dave Schatz (R) has introduced a similar bill.
The Wyoming Senate Revenue Committee rejected a bill that some say would have moved the state more toward direct democracy rather than representative democracy.
Legislators and Staff in the News
Women have gained record power in state legislatures this year, including the top four leadership posts in the Vermont General Assembly. Rhode Island Lieutenant Governor Daniel J. McKee (D) took the oath of office as governor, following Gina Raimondo’s resignation to take a post in the Biden administration. California Assemblywoman Sydney Kamlager (D) won a special election for a state Senate seat. The North Dakota Assembly, for the first time ever, expelled a member. Candidates are lining up to fill the vacancy of an Oregon state representative who recently resigned.
A few legislative leaders were profiled in the media this week. Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls (R) was named the most powerful politician in Tampa by Florida Politics. Nevada Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson (D) recalled his Compton roots in a TV profile. Louisiana House Speaker Clay Schexnayder (R) noted he was the “first mechanic and first race car driver to be elected” to the Louisiana House.
Colorado House Minority Leader Hugh McKean (R) hired a former Trump administration official as chief of staff for the House Republican caucus. The Rhode Island Senate Minority Office named former state Republican Party chair Brandon Bell as chief of staff.
Today, the U.S. Senate is debating the latest stimulus package, which could see some funds being directed to states. The delayed release of data from the U.S. Census Bureau could have an effect on the 2022 elections. Meanwhile, the U.S. House passed election reform legislation that, if approved by the Senate, would require states to turn redrawing congressional districts over to independent commissions.
A bill in Texas would allow state legislators to conduct marriage ceremonies.
This Week From NCSL’s State Legislatures News
Articles from news sources curated in First Branch News are provided for information purposes only and do not reflect NCSL views.
Gene Rose is NCSL’s communications director.