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    State of Play

    Spirit of Collaboration In N.H., Wash. Legislatures

    State Capital Strategies
    Monday, Nov. 23, 1998

    Clesson "Junie" Blaisdell (D), the longest serving member of the New Hampshire state Senate, has become president of the 24-member chamber. Democrat Sylvia Larsen won the Senate president pro tempore post with enhanced powers as part of a new "collaborative" leadership team that may include Republicans. Democratic Sen. John King will become Senate vice president. Blaisdell has enjoyed a ceremonial "dean of the Senate" post for years and won reelection to a 15th two-year term by better than a 2-to-1 margin.

    Sen. Beverly Hollingworth (D) was Blaisdell's most loyal supporter and privately defended his strong support among GOP senators. A special panel will assign members to committees, and is expected to tap Republicans for major roles. Retired surgeon and two-term Sen. Jim Squires (R) reportedly is the leading candidate to head the Senate Public Institutions, Health and Human Services Committee. Sen. Leo Fraser (R) has run the Senate Banking Committee for years and may keep the position. Sen. Fred King (R) was Blaisdell's right-hand man while writing the last biennial state budget and will play an important role.


    Meanwhile, a political partnership – at least for the moment – will rule the Washington State House. After final counts in state legislative balloting, each party holds 49 seats. Party switchers could shift the outcome, but whether or how that would happen is far from clear.

    One conservative Democrat could give Republicans nominal control by voting for GOP House Speaker Clyde Ballard. If Democrats remain unified, they will nominate Minority Leader Frank Chopp (D) for speaker. The state has no official rules to guide a deadlocked legislature, but there is some precedent on procedure. The 1979-80 session was ruled by a shared power arrangement that included two elected speakers and separate committee chairs for each party. If that precedent is followed, Chopp and Ballard may form a committee to determine procedures regarding House rules and committee positions. Democrats have control of the Senate.

    More State Political News From:
    Florida | Kentucky | Massachusetts | Mississippi | New York

    Florida: GOP Control Clear During 'Organizational Day'


    Florida state Rep. John Thrasher won the House speakership and state Sen. Toni Jennings returned as Senate President as Republican members were sworn in and chairmanships announced. The GOP controls both legislative chambers and the governorship; Jeb Bush (R) will assume office on Jan. 5, 1999. Observers predict Republicans will immediately tackle several issues that Gov. Chiles (R) vetoed last session, including tort reform and school vouchers. Thrasher is expected to focus committee work on tort reform to prepare for the session, and has signaled a desire for a special session in January to review Chiles's vetoes.

    Kentucky: Saunders Coalition Intact, But Battles Loom


    Democratic State Sen. Larry Saunders is confident he will preserve the leadership faction he built in 1997, but minority Republicans face a looming leadership battle. Saunders became president in 1997 when he formed a coalition with minority Republicans and five Democrats. Key members of Saunders's slate as the session begins: Joey Pendleton (D), president pro tem; David Karem (D), majority floor leader; Gary Johnson (D), Democratic caucus chairman and Walter Blevins Jr. (D), majority whip.

    A new group of moderates may oust Senate Minority Leader Dan Kelly (R) – a staunch abortion opponent and favorite of the Christian Right – and other Senate Republican leaders in January. Kelly, who was instrumental in pushing out Democrat John "Eck" Rose as Senate President and ushering in the Saunders coalition, said he will not seek reelection as minority leader, a post he has held since 1994. Kelly and other GOP Senate Republican sources say Kelly is stepping down voluntarily after Republicans failed to take control of the Senate. As it was, dissension within the party during the 1998 session almost cost Kelly his position. Republican Sen. David Williams is a potential replacement for Kelly as minority leader. Sen. Elizabeth Tori will run again for minority whip. Sen. Charlie Borders of Russell is likely to become minority caucus chairman, replacing Sen. Dick Roeding of Fort Mitchell, who is not seeking reelection.

    Massachusetts: Governor's Race Sets Spending Record


    The Massachusetts gubernatorial race turned out to be the most expensive race for a statewide office. The two contenders spent more than $18 million – breaking the $14.8 million record set in 1990, when five candidates ran for governor. And the numbers aren't final yet.

    Challengers to Republican governor-elect Paul Cellucci spent nearly $9 million in the contest: Democratic nominee Scott Harshbarger spent about $5.5 million, and state Treasurer Joseph D. Malone (R) spent $3.3 million in the GOP nomination battle. Two other candidates, Democrats Patricia McGovern and Brian Donnelly, spent a combined $2.8 million on their primary campaigns. The Office of Campaign and Political Finance compiled the numbers, which are based on reports through Oct. 31, the last filing deadline. But since a host of bills remain outstanding for each candidate, the final figures will be higher.

    Mississippi: Moore Says Yes to 1999, Sets Up Musgrove Battle


    Attorney General Mike Moore (D) notified his staff that he intends to run for governor next year. At the same time, Lt. Gov. Ronnie Musgrove (D) has sent extremely strong signals that he also will run. On the Republican side, House Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Charlie Williams may try to qualify for the gubernatorial nomination. U.S. Rep. Mike Parker, who is retiring from Congress, and former lieutenant governor Eddie Briggs (R) also will likely run.

    New York: Lawmakers Want California Pay Rate


    After the intensive scrutiny of the election, state lawmakers will examine a matter they prefer to avoid: legislative pay. While some members have pushed for an increase into the $70,000 range, hikes in the existing $57,500 salary could reach higher than $90,000 – near the $99,000 salary commanded by California legislators. The issue will be on the agenda when a special session convenes in Albany Nov. 30.

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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