People and Politics | December 2013



WISCONSIN ASSEMBLYMAN BILL KRAMER (R) WAS ELECTED MAJORITY LEADER this fall after Representative Scott Suder (R) stepped down to take a job with the Public Service Commission. Kramer had been speaker pro tem, which will now be filled by a former Assembly aide, Representative Tyler August (R), who was elected to office in 2010 at the age of 27. Suder eventually decided against the Public Service Commission job, choosing instead to become a lobbyist for the Wisconsin Paper Council. The commission job will now go to Representative Jeff Stone (R).

IT TOOK TWO YEARS—90 MINUTES OF DEBATE—BUT EVENTUALLY THE ALASKA LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL VOTED TO ALLOW LAWMAKERS TO UPDATE THEIR FACEBOOK PAGES on state computers and to grant Facebook access to certain staff for business purposes. The council—a joint House-Senate committee—decided, however, not to continue the Facebook restrictions for legislative aides. The social media policy expired a couple of years ago, and next only to oil taxes, would become the issue’s hot patato. Concerned whether postings are public records or count as politicking, the Legislature sought advice from NCSL.

Elephant and Donkey party symbolsTHE LONGEST-SERVING LEGISLATOR IN INDIANA HISTORY DIED THIS FALL AT THE AGE OF 82. PHYLLIS POND (R), a kindergarten teacher before being elected to the House of Representatives in 1978, focused her career on improving education. One of her major bills lowered class sizes. Pond was the first woman lawmaker to sit in the first row on the Republican side of the House—the row reserved for those with the most seniority. “Phyllis was a revered colleague, a strong voice for her district and a compassionate conservative who always stood by her principles,” Speaker Brian Bosma said. Calling her “an historic leader for the people of Indiana,” Senate President Pro Tem David Long said Pond “never lost her zeal for the job, nor her focus on improving the lives of the people of our state…We will miss her greatly.”

THE OHIO SUPREME COURT HAS FAST-TRACKED A SUIT CONTESTING THE EXPANSION OF MEDICAID BROUGHT BY SIX REPUBLICAN LAWMAKERS. The suit contends that the Governor’s administration’s decision to accept federal money to extend Medicaid coverage to those earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level is illegal because it violates the intentions of the General Assembly. Since the court did not place a stay on preparations, the state is proceeding with expansion plans. The legislators bringing suit are Representatives Ron Young, Matt Lynch, Ron Hood, John Becker, Andy Thompson, and Ron Maag, as well as Cleveland and Cincinnati Right to Life organizations.

NEW YORK SENATE REPUBLICANS FILED A MOTION TO QUASH A SUBPOENA ISSUED BY THE STATE’S NEW ANTI-CORRUPTION COMMISSION in the latest and escalating conflict with Governor Andrew Cuomo (D). They argued the commission’s demand for the details of their “housekeeping accounts,” (campaign committee funds with few limits and regulations) suggests “partisan bias” and is “overbroad.” The GOP’s attorney, Michael Chertoff, said the commission is seeking “sensitive internal political communications” that violate the GOP’s “right to free speech and political association.” Cuomo formed the panel after his anti corruption legislation failed. He had proposed it after three Democrats—two senators and an assemblyman-—were arrested last spring.

IN ALABAMA, A LEGISLATOR CAN RESIGN FROM ONE HOUSE TO TAKE A JOB LOBBYING THE OTHER HOUSE. This summer, when three lawmakers ended their terms early to do just that, Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R) decided it was time to end the practice. He’s introduced a bill to extend the current two-year ban on lobbying your former chamber to include both houses of the Legislature. “When someone is elected to office, they owe it to the voters to finish their terms,” Marsh says. “Leaving office early to become a lobbyist ultimately casts a bad light on the majority of lawmakers who have a genuine interest in serving their constituents.” Marsh’s proposal would carry a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a $30,000 fine.

MISSOURI’S REPUBLICAN SUPERMAJORITY OVERRODE A RECORD 10 VETOES by Governor Jan Nixon (D)—the highest number in a single session in 180 years. The bills covered a variety of issues, from farmland to foster care to liability protections. The governor vetoed 29 bills and four line items, but the legislature failed to get the two-thirds majority needed to override a couple of them—one on nullifying federal gun restrictions and another on reducing income tax rates. Speaker Tim Jones (R) said losing those two high-profile bills was only a “temporary setback.”

DEMOCRATS CONTROL THE VERMONT HOUSE BY A WIDE MARGIN, and now the majority caucus is majority female. Marjorie Ryerson, a poet, writer and professor, became the 49th female member of the House Democratic Caucus when she was appointed to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Larry Townsend, tipping the scale for the first time in Vermont history. It also increases the tally of caucuses with female majorities to seven: the Arizona, Colorado and New Hampshire senates; and the Idaho, Montana, Utah and Vermont house chambers. All the majority female caucuses are Democrat.

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