wide-angle view of the interior of the NH Sportsplex in bedford, mass.

Splendor in the (fake) grass: As a health precaution, the 400-member New Hampshire House will meet next week at the NH Sportsplex, above, a 50,000-square-foot facility in Bedford, about a half hour from the statehouse. (Photo from Facebook)

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

By Gene Rose | Feb. 19, 2021 | State Legislatures Magazine

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

Legislative Operations

New Hampshire House Speaker Sherm Packard (R) announced the House will meet next week at the NH Sportsplex in Bedford, about a half hour south of the statehouse. The chamber previously held sessions at the University of New Hampshire’s ice arena. Eight lawmakers in South Dakota tested positive for COVID-19, and legislators are now able to participate remotely in legislative proceedings. A second Idaho state senator tested positive for the virus, as did two House staffers. Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R) announced relaxed access in the Capitol for lobbyists. The North Carolina General Assembly is closing its program evaluation division and will replace its function with other bipartisan oversight methods.

Authority of Legislatures

The ongoing tension between executive branches and legislatures remained in the spotlight this week. The Idaho House passed a bill that shifts some emergency powers from the governor to the legislature. Utah Senate leaders unveiled a proposal addressing emergency powers of the governor and local health departments. And Hawaii lawmakers are considering restrictions on the governor’s emergency powers.

Legislators in the News

The career path of new Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson (R) included successfully working at his father’s egg farm in the rural town of Trilby, about 55 miles west of Orlando. Hawaii House Speaker Scott Saiki (D) formed a working group to “audit the auditor’s office.” Seven new state legislators were named to NCSL’s Executive Committee. Massachusetts Representative Claire Cronin (D) has become the chamber’s first female majority leader. Former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (D) has resigned the legislative seat he has held since 1971.

Legislative Staff in the News

Stephen Iannazzi, chief of staff to Rhode Island Senate President Dominick Ruggerio (D), has resigned to take a job with Cox Communications and will be replaced by Jake Bissaillon, the Senate majority leader’s legal counsel. Several other staff changes were announced. Georgia House Speaker David Ralston (R) announced a plan to give $1,000 bonuses to state employees earning less than $80,000 per year. Two legislative staff members from New Mexico and Colorado were named to NCSL’s Executive Committee. Amber McCann, deputy chief of staff and press secretary for Michigan Senate President Mike Shirkey (R), will become special projects director for the attorney general’s office. Several staff promotions in the New Jersey Assembly Majority Office were announced this week.

New 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.

Additional Resources