nikema williams and john lewis

Georgia Senator Nikema Williams was chosen to replace the late U.S. Representative John Lewis. Credit: Nikema Williams/Facebook

Legislative Leaders in the News | August 2020

By State Legislatures Staff | Aug. 10, 2020 | State Legislatures Magazine

Alaska Representative Among 7 Killed in Plane Crash

Alaska Representative Gary Knopp (R) and six other people were killed in a two-plane, midair collision July 31 over Soldotna, Alaska, about 150 miles southwest of Anchorage. Knopp was piloting one of the planes, The New York Times reports. The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating. Knopp, a moderate who was elected in 2016, left the Republican caucus to form a bipartisan coalition with House Democrats. “Gary was a one-of-a-kind leader and a true Alaskan who worked tirelessly for his district in the legislature. He will be missed by many,” House Speaker Bryce Edgmon (D) said in a news release.

Georgia Senator to Replace John Lewis on Ballot

Georgia Senator Nikema Williams (D) has been chosen to replace the late U.S. Representative John Lewis, the civil rights icon, on November’s ballot. Georgia Democrats overwhelmingly selected Williams, who is the state party’s first Black chairwoman, from a group of five finalists during a virtual public meeting July 30. A total of 131 people had applied for the role.

What They’re Saying …

“There’s not going to be one solution. We have an obligation to protect the institution, the process and the people—we have to do that.” —Indiana Representative Matt Lehman (R) on the decision of a six-member bipartisan panel that conducting legislative business as usual—including cramming dozens of people in tiny committee rooms to hash out proposals—won’t do during the pandemic, from the Northwest Indiana Times.

Former Indiana Speaker Retires

Former Indiana House Speaker Brian C. Bosma (R) brought his 34-year career in the legislature to a close at the end of July. Bosma, who announced last fall that he would retire at the end of this year’s legislature, was the state’s longest-serving speaker, being first elected to the position in 2004, the Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly Reports. “I am leaving with many friendships, experiences and memories—but even greater than all of those is my optimism for Indiana’s future,” he said in a statement. 

Former Louisiana Senate President Treated for Virus

Former Louisiana Senate President John Alario (D) was hospitalized with coronavirus at the end of July. “I’m grateful for the medical personnel on the front lines,” Alario told The Advocate, noting that he received care from nurses who came to Louisiana from Kentucky and New York state. “I encourage everyone to wear a mask and practice social distancing.” Alario was first elected to the legislature in 1972 and is the only person in Louisiana history to have served two terms each as House speaker and Senate president.

Ohio House Elects New Speaker

Ohio House Republicans elected Representative Bob Cupp (R) as the chamber’s new speaker following the unanimous removal of the sitting speaker, Larry Householder (R), who was indicted with four others July 30 by a federal grand jury in what the Toledo Blade described as a bribery and racketeering scandal. Cupp is a former Ohio Supreme Court justice, state senator, Allen County commissioner and 3rd District Court of Appeals judge. Householder has said he will not resign and, unless he is convicted in the next few months, could be on the ballot in November.

What They’re Saying …

“I have seen the success of Breakfast After the Bell in my own community, and I am confident that this policy will help to ensure every child in the Commonwealth has access to a stigma-free and nutritious breakfast.” —Massachusetts Senator Sal DiDomenico (D) on his anti-hunger bill requiring all public K-12 schools with 60% or more students eligible for free or reduced-price meals under the federal National School Lunch Program to offer breakfast after the instructional day begins. The bill, which the legislature passed with bipartisan support, was signed into law this week, from the Chelsea Record.

Longest-Serving Alabama Representative Dies

The longest-serving member of the Alabama House of Representatives, Ron Johnson (R), died in July of complications from liver cancer, The Telegraph reports. He was 76. “Ron Johnson was one of the most respected members of the Alabama House and he served with distinction since 1978. In my years as a member and speaker, I valued Ron not only for his institutional knowledge that helped guide me but also for his friendship,” House Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R) said in a statement.