Legislative Leaders in the News | July 2020

By State Legislatures Staff | July 10, 2020 | State Legislatures Magazine

Pennsylvania | House Elects New Leaders

Pennsylvania Representative Bryan Cutler (R) was elected June 22 to be the chamber’s 141st speaker. Cutler, who has previously served as majority whip and majority leader, prevailed 110-91 over Minority Leader Frank Dermody (D) for the speaker’s position. After the vote, Dermody asked that the record show Cutler was elected unanimously. Republicans elected Representatives Kerry Benninghoff (R) and Donna Oberlander (R) as the new majority leader and majority whip, respectively. The speaker’s election was necessitated by the resignation of former Speaker Mike Turzai (R), just months before the end of his term. Another election for speaker will be held in January at the beginning of the next session.

West Virginia | Senate President Loses Primary

West Virginia Senate President Mitch Carmichael (R) lost in his bid in early June for a third term in office. Amy Nichole Grady, a teacher endorsed by the American Federation of Teachers West Virginia chapter, defeated Carmichael, who clashed with educators over his proposal to create the state’s first charter schools. Carmichael pledged to support Grady’s campaign in the fall.

What They’re Saying …

An incredible role model of how to live your life with dignity. His legacy will live well past his earthly life. — Hawaii Senate President Ron Kouchi (D) describing Senator Breene Harimoto (D), 66, who died June 18 after a five-year fight with pancreatic cancer.

New York | Senate Republicans Name New Minority Leader

New York Senate Republicans named Rob Ortt their next conference leader. Ortt will replace former Minority Leader John Flanagan, who resigned his office, effective June 28, to take a job with a health care network. Two other Republicans, Senators Patrick Gallivan and Andrew Lanza, expressed interest in the minority leader’s role but bowed out to back Ortt.

New Mexico | Senate Pro Tem Out as Progressives Notch Primary Wins

Progressive candidates unseated two long-serving New Mexico Democrats in primary elections last month. Carrie Hamblen defeated 20-year Senate veteran Mary Kay Papen (D), who is currently serving as the chamber’s president pro tem, and Neomi Martinez-Parra defeated Senator John Arthur Smith (D), who has held his seat for 32 years.

Mississippi | Lawmakers Change State Flag in Historic Bipartisan Vote

Mississippi lawmakers voted June 30 to retire the nation’s last state flag to display the Confederate battle emblem. House Speaker Philip Gunn (R) and Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann (R), who presides over the Senate, were among those leading the bipartisan effort. Within hours of the House passing the bill 91-23, the Senate followed suit, 37-14. “How sweet it is to celebrate this on the Lord’s day,” Gunn told The Associated Press. Governor Tate Reeves (R) signed the bill two days later. The Museum of Mississippi History, located near the Capitol, will create an exhibit for the retired flag. Since the historic vote, Gunn and at least 25 Mississippi lawmakers have tested positive for the coronavirus. Other House members have been warned to get tested and to quarantine for 14 days.

Delaware | Longest-Serving Lawmaker Retires

Having completed its legislative work early, the Delaware General Assembly gaveled into a special session at midnight July 1 to say farewell to Senator Harris McDowell (D), the legislature’s longest-serving member. McDowell, who served in the Senate for 44 years, was co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee. The other co-chair, Representative Quinn Johnson (D), announced that he won’t seek re-election this year. The Senate also recognized the retirement of the chamber’s secretary, Joy Bower.