[Ed. note: We have fallen woefully behind in keeping readers of The Thicket up to date on leadership changes in legislatures across the country. So today we are playing catch-up. Bakur Kvaratskhelia comes from the country of Georgia and is a LEAP Fellow working at NCSL and the Colorado Senate.]
by Bakur Kvaratskhelia
Peter Groff (photo) is the first African-American to be elected President of the Colorado Senate. He replaced the first woman Senate President, Joan Fitz-Gerald, who resigned to devote full-time to a campaign for Congress. Groff's father, Regis Groff, previously served in the Senate from 1974 to 1994 including many years as minority leader.
Four states had elections in November 2007, leading to a few leadership changes:
- Republican representative Jim Tucker is the first Republican to become Speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives since Reconstruction. Sen. Joel Chaisson (D) was elected senate president. Tucker and Chaisson replaced leaders who were forced out by term limits.
- In Mississippi Republican Phil Bryant was elected lieutenant governor and will preside over the Senate. Bryant replaced Amy Tuck, the second woman elected to statewide office in Mississippi.
- New Jersey Senate Democrats elected Stephen Sweeney as Senate majority leader. He replaced retiring Sen. Bernard F. Kenny. Republicans also chose a new leader, tapping Sen. Thomas Kean, Jr., to head the Senate minority, replacing Sen. Leonard Lance.
- Sen. Richard Saslaw (D) moved from minority to majority leader in the Virginia Senate. Now in the minority, Virginia Republicans named Senator Tommy Norment as their leader replacing Sen. Walter Stosch.
New Mexico Senate President Pro Tem Ben Altamirano (photo) died on December 27, 2007 after having served in the State Senate since 1971. He was the top Senate leader since 2005 and before that was the longtime chair of the finance committee. Democrat Tim Jennings was elected to fill the Senate's top job on January 15 when the New Mexico Senate started its 30-day session.
Other changes in presiding officers, majority and minority leaders since the end of 2007 sessions include:
- Oregon House Republicans elected Representative Bruce Hanna as minority leader replacing Wayne Scott who left the legislature.
- Democratic Representative Brad King of Price became the new minority leader in the Utah House of Representatives in November 2007 after Ralph Becker was elected mayor of Salt Lake City.
- In Wisconsin Sen. Russ Decker replaced Sen. Judy Robson as Senate Majority Leader in a surprise move in the Democratic caucus in October 2007 as a result of dissatisfaction with the budget negotiation process.