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First Branch News: NCSL’s Weekly Roundup of Legislative Headlines

Compiled by Gene Rose | Jan. 15, 2021 | State Legislatures Magazine

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

Power Struggle Between Legislative and Executive Branches

State Legislatures magazine reported this week on the growing tension between legislative and executive branches across the country. The story was timely, as conflict has arisen in the last several days in Arizona, Idaho, Kentucky and Montana.

Concern Over Protests at State Capitols

Recent protests at state capitols have caused some legislatures to adjust how they operate. Many reacted to FBI warnings about potential attacks next week. Oklahoma urged legislators and staff to stay off the Capitol campus, and Michigan banned open carry of guns inside the Capitol.

State Legislatures Adapt Schedules and Public Access

COVID-19 has caused some legislatures to announce changes for their 2021 sessions. For example, we learned this week: the Arizona Senate will require masks for members; the Georgia General Assembly may adjust its schedule for the year; Maryland legislative leaders adopted new procedures; the Minnesota Senate will not have a mask mandate for members; the Missouri House will allow committee chairs to decide on remote testimony; New Mexico is closing the Capitol to the public and lobbyists during its legislative session; Oregon adopted a safety plan for its legislative sessions; the South Dakota House and Senate developed protocols for the legislative sessions; and Tennessee adopted COVID-19 precautions.

Historic Change in Illinois House Leadership

Illinois Representative Michael Madigan (D), the nation’s longest-serving house speaker, has stepped aside. Representative Emanuel “Chris” Welch (D) was sworn in as the new speaker Wednesday. He is the first African American to hold the position.

Gavel Alert!

The West Virginia House of Delegates’ session started with a bang when a piece of the gavel used by Clerk of the House Steve Harrison, right, sheared off as he brought the chamber to order. (Look for the errant chunk in the upper left corner of the photo.)

Other stories of note this week:

Gene Rose is NCSL’s communications director.

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