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Pennsylvania’s House chamber. The state’s voters became the nation’s first to curb their governor’s emergency powers, approving a constitutional amendment sought by the legislature in response to the governor’s handling of the pandemic.

Legislative Headlines, Week of May 17, 2021

By Gene Rose | May 21, 2021 | State Legislatures News | Print

First Branch News is NCSL’s weekly roundup of legislative headlines from news sources across the country and throughout the territories.

For the first time, a state’s voters have restricted a governor’s emergency powers. Tennessee lawmakers lost a colleague to cancer this week. Sessions ended in four states with another hoping to end today. Here’s a summary of activities in state legislatures this week.

Authority of Legislatures

In a historic election, Pennsylvania voters limited the governor’s emergency powers. Wisconsin lawmakers said they would immediately gavel out of a special session called by the governor. Massachusetts lawmakers have requested copies of all executive orders and emergency resolutions from the governor’s office as it weighs the balance of powers. Indiana’s governor derided the state attorney general, who is defending a new law that limits the governor’s authority in emergencies. West Virginia’s governor has indicated he will reach out to legislative leaders on how to spend the latest stimulus funds from the federal government.

Legislative Operations

A number of legislatures, including those in Alabama, Iowa, Missouri and South Carolina, ended their 2021 sessions this week. Vermont lawmakers are hoping to end their session today. The Minnesota Legislature reached a budget deal with the governor, but lawmakers will have to resume their work in a special session in June. When the Legislature reconvenes, the fence that has surrounded the Capitol since the George Floyd protests last summer will be gone.


Alaska lawmakers started a special session focusing on the budget. A mask mandate was lifted, but the Capitol remains closed to the public. The Utah Legislature met in special session this week. Some Mississippi lawmakers are asking the governor to call a special session to revive the state’s initiative process. Maine legislators held their last meeting at the Augusta Civic Center, with plans to go back to the Statehouse. The Maryland Statehouse is being reopened to the public. Virginia House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D) announced that legislators will return to the Capitol when the chamber next convenes. A political fight over masks is brewing in the Nevada Assembly. While still requiring masks, the New York Legislature will ease restrictions at the Capitol. The digital news publication Route Fifty did a summary of states that are opening their legislative buildings. A panel of North Dakota legislators selected key issues to study for the 2023 legislative session.

Legislators and Staff in the News

Tennessee Representative Mike Carter (R) lost his battle with pancreatic cancer this week.


An aide to Arizona Senate President Karen Fann (R) opened a letter this week that contained a white powder, which was tested but not identified, and a suspicious package was found outside the Senate building in Phoenix. Martin Flynn (D) won a special election in Pennsylvania’s Senate District 22. Alabama Senator Jim McClendon (R) and Kentucky Senator Wil Schroder (R) said they will not seek reelection in 2022. Former Mississippi House Speaker Pro Tempore Greg Snowden (R) was named director of the state’s Administrative Office of Courts.

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.

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