Newsmakers | NCSL Members in the News

5/7/2020

The Louisiana Capitol in Baton Rouge, built in 1930 while Huey P. Long was governor. Inset, Long on the cover of Time magazine in 1935.

Lead Stories

Era Ender: Last in a Long Line

In Louisiana politics, Huey P. “The Kingfish” Long was larger than life. But let’s not forget the others in the colorful Long family political dynasty—namely Russell, “Uncle” Earl, Gillis, Speedy, Jimmy and Gerald. They’re all part of a line that began with Long’s election to the Public Service Commission in 1918. After that a succession of Longs served in the state legislature, the governor’s office and Congress.

But, when Louisiana Senate President Pro Tem Gerald Long (R), left, departed the legislature in January, it marked the first time in a century there wasn’t someone with his family’s name serving in elective office. Long was term-limited after serving 12 years in the Senate.

“It’s the end of an era,” he told thenewsstar.com. Long, 75, of Natchitoches (where “Steel Magnolias” was filmed), was a rare Republican in a famously Democratic family. “I don’t have a child or a grandchild or a cousin who is even talking about running for elective office.”

NCSL’s Child Welfare Program Picks Up National Award

When the National Foundation to End Child Abuse and Neglect announced a contest calling for ideas to transform training in the field of child abuse and neglect, NCSL’s Child Welfare team responded. In a paper produced with Florida State University and Prevent Child Abuse America, the team argues that child welfare policy would benefit from greater use of state-specific data and structured collaboration among researchers, policymakers and practitioners. All of that, they write, requires training that breaks down silos in the field.

EndCAN, as the foundation is known, selected the team’s paper, “Bridging the Gaps Between Research, Policy and Practice in the Field of Child Maltreatment Through Cross-Sector Training and Innovation,” as the winner in the education and training category. The award comes with a cash prize to help put the idea to work, along with publication in the International Journal on Child Maltreatment.

Among the paper’s authors were NCSL’s Donna Wilson, Nina Williams-Mbengue and Wade Fickler.

‘Legislative Icon’ Fred Risser Announces Retirement

Wisconsin Senator Fred Risser (D), the nation’s longest-serving state lawmaker, announced he will retire after his current term ends. Once elected to the Assembly in 1956, then to the Senate in 1962, Risser never looked back. His historic 64-year tenure spanned the terms of 13 different governors, and he proudly claims never to have missed a legislative roll call.

Risser, 92, is also the last World War II veteran remaining in either a state legislature or Congress.

“I’ve always enjoyed representing people,” Risser told the Wisconsin State Journal. “I always knew from the time that I was born that I would be involved in some type of political service. I was honored that the people of this district allowed me to serve that long.”

Risser “is a legislative icon,” said Assembly Speaker and NCSL President Robin Vos (R). “He has inspired generations of current and future lawmakers and, undoubtedly, made a lasting impact on our state.”

Leaders on the Move

Arkansas Senators Elect New Pro Tempore

The Arkansas Senate elected Jimmy Hickey (R) over Senator Bart Hester (R) to be the next president pro tempore, from 2021-23. Assuming his party retains control of the chamber, Hickey will succeed Jim Hendren (R), the current pro tem. Both Hickey, 53, and Hester, 42, have served in the Senate since 2013.

Connecticut Senate Minority Leader to Retire

Len Fasano (R) announced he would not seek a 10th term. Fasano, 61, won his Senate seat with an upset victory in 2002. He succeeded John P. McKinney as caucus leader after the 2014 election cycle. A centrist, Fasano earned a reputation for working across the aisle. “Len and I have worked together countless times to solve problems, help people in need and get vital things done,” Senate President Martin M. Looney (D) told ctmirror.org.

Florida Republicans Choose New Leaders

Senator Wilton Simpson (R) was selected to succeed Senator Bill Galvano (R) as the upper chamber’s next president. Simpson was first elected to his seat in 2012. Assuming Republicans maintain control of the chamber, he will have a hand in the next redistricting with Representative Chris Sprowls (R), who is in line to become speaker.

Wisconsin’s Longest Serving Female Leader to Retire

Senator Jennifer Shilling (D) announced she will not seek reelection, after 20 years in state politics. Shilling joined the Assembly in 2000 and was elected to the Senate in a special election in 2011. She was elected to serve as minority leader in 2014 and is the longest serving female leader in state history.

What Lawmakers Are Saying

“These are the times that perhaps you want to call someone that you once had a conflict with and say, let’s put it behind us and move forward.”

—Indiana Senator Ron Alting (R) in a message to his constituents in early April, from wlfi.com.

“I feel like I’m living in extrovert hell. It’s not the most important issue at this time, but it’s been enlightening to examine how I get my energy. And what it feels like—emotionally and physically—to be distant from others.”

—Vermont Senate Majority Leader Becca Balint (D) on the forced isolation of working from home during the pandemic, from her column in the Brattleboro Reformer.

“I can’t think of a better use for a rainy day fund.”

—West Virginia Senate President Mitch Carmichael (R) on allocating money to cover projected revenue shortages caused by pushing back the state tax return filing deadline, from wvnews.com.

“We can come out of this pandemic stronger than ever if we look out for our neighbors.”

—Maine Senate President Troy Jackson (D) in a letter to constituents, from thecounty.me.

“You’ve created civility in this chamber. You walk the walk, and I’m grateful for that.”

—Florida Senator Tom Lee (R), during a farewell tribute to outgoing Senate President Bill Galvano (R), from floridapolitics.com.

“You have an 86-year-old on a ventilator and you also have a 26-year-old in the ER. Who gets the ventilator?”

—Tennessee Senator Katrina Robinson (D), an intensive care nurse who went to work in a New York hospital after her state ended its session early due to the coronavirus, from wate.com.

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