Newsmakers: What Legislators Are Doing and Saying




TWO OF OREGON’S TOP SENATE LEADERS HAVE SWAPPED JOBS. Senator Ginny Burdick (D) is the new majority leader. Senator Diane Rosenbaum (D) is the new Senate president pro tem. Burdick had been pro tem, and Rosenbaum was majority leader. Burdick, first elected to the Senate in 1996, will continue as co-chair of the joint committee on marijuana legalization. Rosembaum served as majority leader since 2010 and will continue chairing the Senate rules committee. She was elected to the Senate in 2008 after serving five terms in the House. The Democratic caucus met privately to vote on the leadership changes.


“We use it too frequently. It’s harmful, and it’s costly.”

—Washington Senator Jeannie Darneille (D) on allowing judges to jail juveniles for “status offenses,” such as truancy or running away, in the Olympian.


HOUSE SPEAKER ROBIN VOS (R) IS MARCO RUBIO’S WISCONSIN CAMPAIGN CO-CHAIR. Vos announced his acceptance of the job and the endorsement of Rubio by 19 other statehouse members in October. “He celebrates what is great about America’s past, but provides a new generation’s leadership to help our nation face its many challenges and opportunities,” Vos said of Rubio.


CALIFORNIA SPEAKER TONI ATKINS (D) HAS HER EYE ON THE SENATE. The term-limited House leader is challenging incumbent Democratic Senator Marty Block for his San Diego seat in 2016 in a move Sacramento observers say is highly unusual. “Absolutely it makes me uncomfortable,” Atkins said. “Will I be prepared to do it? Absolutely.” Atkins says Block, who was elected in 2012, told her he would serve only one term. Block says there was no commitment on his part. Block and Atkins both represent San Diego, and their voting records are similar. In the meantime, Democrats have selected Assemblyman Anthony Rendon to succeed Atkins as speaker.


“We have been guilty of putting them on a pedestal, and that’s always a dangerous thing to do.”

—Tennessee Senator Bo Watson (R), on the Volkswagen emissions scandal and the fate of the automaker’s Chattanooga plant, in which the state invested heavily, on National Public Radio.


“There are many benefits to allowing electronic proof of insurance.”

—Michigan Representative Aric Nesbitt (R), sponsor of a bill allowing drivers to present proof of insurance on their smartphones and other devices, in the Detroit Free Press.


THE INDIANA GOP CAUCUS SELECTED REPRESENTATIVE MATTHEW LEHMAN (R) the new majority leader of the House. Lehman won on the first ballot. He replaces former House Majority Leader Jud McMillin, who resigned abruptly in October. Lehman is chair of the House Insurance Committee and was first elected to the General Assembly in 2008. He is an insurance agent by profession and a Civil War re-enactor. “He seeks to find solutions. He’s not a flashy person and that’s what our caucus needs right now,” said Speaker Brian Bosma (R).

Rhode Island

TAKE A FLYING LEAP. THAT WAS THE INVITATION Rhode Island Representative Robert Nardolillo (R) offered the entire General Assembly: Skydive to raise money for the Rhode Island Community Food Bank. Ten adventurers rose to the occasion, including Representatives Robert Lancia (R), James McLaughlin (D), Jean Philippe Barros (D), Doreen Costa (R), Karen MacBeth (D), the wife of Representative Robert Phillips (D) and Corporation Committee legal counsel Charles Knowles. "Going up there, I just had to keep focusing: The wind was angels’ wings and we were going to land safely," MacBeth told the Providence Journal. With her feet back on the ground she described the jump as peaceful and quiet—much easier than being a legislator. The skydivers descended 10,000 feet and raised about $2,000 for the cause. Nardolillo would like to make it an annual event.


“State legislators have long been active in finding local solutions to immigration challenges, but this issue ultimately requires reform at the federal level.”

—Virginia Senator John Watkins (R), co-chair of NCSL’s Task Force on Immigration and the States, in The Washington Post.


“SO, COLONEL, YOU ARE NOW AN OFFICIAL KENTUCKIAN,” House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D) told the Legislature’s new Legislative Research Commission director. “We are a hospitable people and we look forward to working with you.” David Byerman was selected to oversee the 320-person nonpartisan agency, and comes with experience as secretary of the Nevada Senate. He plans to restructure the agency and help it get its “swagger back.” The 16 lawmakers who govern the LRC presented Byerman with a Kentucky Colonel certificate a week into his job. “We have the right workforce, we just need for the level of leadership to rise to the level of performance we’re already getting from our employees,” Byerman said.

North Carolina

“It’s important that we educate our future leaders on the importance of state government.”

North Carolina Representative Garland Pierce (D), who is scheduling class visits to the Capitol as part of NCSL’s America’s Legislators Back-to-School Program, in the Richmond County Daily Journal.

Additional Resources