People and Politics: June 2009
Renaissance woman. The Colorado Senate paid tribute in April to a “Renaissance woman who has left her mark on our hearts and on this state.” After the adjournment, senators stood in honor of Elaine Calzolari, a sergeant-at-arms in 2001 and 2002, and the calendar clerk from 2006 until April 2009. Calzolari, a noted artist whose public works can be found throughout Colorado, resigned when tests revealed that her ovarian cancer, which had been in remission, was now stage IV. The legislature threw a lunch for her after the session, and the House presented her with money collected from custodians to legislators to help her travel the world while she can. Although her tenure in the legislature was relatively short, her impression was lasting. Chief Sergeant-at-Arms Philip Brown said Calzolari’s voice is the one on the office voice mail. “We never changed it, and we’re never going to change it,” he said.
Finishing his term. Nancy Munoz, widow of New Jersey Assemblyman Eric Munoz, will serve out the rest of her husband’s term after defeating two others in a special county Republican convention to fill his seat. Eric Munoz, a trauma physician and professor of surgery, was first elected to the Assembly in 2001. He died in March of complications from a ruptured aorta in University Hospital where he had worked since 1988. Munoz, who did his surgical training at Yale, was instrumental in passing legislation banning smoking in most indoor public places and giving greater protection to victims of traumatic brain injuries and those with developmental disabilities. He was 61.
New role for Groff. Colorado Senate President Peter Groff left his post at the end of the session in May to join the U.S. Department of Education as director of its Faith-Based and Community Initiatives Center. A long-time champion of education reform, Groff has served in the legislature since 2001. He filled the seat once held by his father, former Senator Regis Groff. He is the first African American in Colorado history to lead the Senate. House Speaker Terrance Carroll, Colorado’s first African-American speaker, praised the appointment: “It has been a true privilege and honor to serve with my partner in history, my dear friend and colleague,” Carroll said.
Heave-ho in V.I. Virgin Islands Senate President Adlah Donastorg was ousted by his colleagues in April when ruling party members were frustrated by the slow pace of work. “Ninety-five days and we have nothing to show. We have nothing at all,” said Senator Samuel Sanes, who is also secretary of the Senate. Donastorg disputed that, and said removal “breeds a sense of instability that is unhealthy, given the challenges we face as a community.” Senator Louis Patrick Hill is the new president.
Longest serving New Yorker. John Marchi, whose 50 years in the New York Legislature made him that state’s longest serving lawmaker and one of the longest serving in the nation, died in April at age 87. Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee for decades, he is credited with helping write the laws that saved New York City from financial collapse in the 1970s. A popular Republican who often ran unopposed at election time, Marchi was best known for trying to let Staten Island secede from New York City. His bill passed the Senate in 1995, but Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat representing Manhattan, opposed it and it never came up for a vote. “He was one of the true giants of our public life,” said New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who “guided our city through troubled waters.”
Cops vs legislator. Pennsylvania Representative Jewell Williams came to the aid of a constituent stopped by police and wound up handcuffed in the back seat of a cruiser. Williams, an ex-policeman, stepped to the aid of a frail, elderly man who had been stopped and frisked and was handcuffed when he tried to retrieve the money placed on the hood of his car as it was blowing away. The man’s car matched the description of a car involved in a drug buy several blocks away. When it was all sorted out, the man and Williams were released and the department launched an investigation of the two officers involved in the incident. Both have been at the center of similar situations in the past.
Remembering Art Palmer. The former director of the Nevada Legislative Counsel Bureau and founding member of the National Legislative Services and Security Association died in February. Art Palmer began his career with the Nevada Legislature in 1968 and rose from research assistant to director in 1972, where he worked until his retirement in 1984. Palmer served as staff chair for the National Conference of State Legislatures in 1978-79. He was the recipient of NLSSA’s John Everhardt Trooper Award in 1994 and NCSL’s Legislative Staff Achievement Award in 1998 for his many years of service. He loved travel and political geography and had visited every county in all 50 states.