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October 27, 2011


Karl Kurtz

Washington Senate staff sent this comment:

"Washington State has had two Speakers later elected to preside over the Senate. In the case of J. G. Megler, it was reversed. He was elected President Pro Tempore in 1901 and later elected to the House and became Speaker in 1905. Howard Taylor was President Pro Tempore in 1913 after serving as Speaker in 1911 & 1913.

"The caveats: Speakers in Washington prior to the 1930s and 40s were essentially ceremonial and power was wielded from the floor by what we now call the majority/floor leader. Rarely did the Speaker hold the gavel for more than one session as it was passed around to whomever was deemed next most deserving of the honorific. The majority leader began assuming the Speaker’s chair in the 1950s and, unless a compromise candidate was elected, leadership has since been consolidated with the office.

"The history of legislative power on the Senate side is remarkably reversed. While our Lt. Governors serve as Presidents of the Senate, the President Pro Tempore prior to the 1950s was the recognized leader of whatever faction controlled the Senate. The Presidents Pro Tempore in this era were apparently, like LA in present time, named by the Governor to serve as the voice of the Senate - the history of this process is a little vague - to his (we only had male governors to this point) office and then elected to the office by the body. In the 1950s we began recognizing Majority Leaders and the President Pro Tempore, while still part of the leadership team, the office became ceremonial much like the Speakership had been in our early history.

"So, technically, not a strike three. More a long foul, you’re still in the box."

I agree with the “long foul” analogy on the basis of these cases being pre-1970 and my careful use of “top senate leader” instead of senate president because of the variation in senate leadership positions from state to state and from time to time within states. And, as this comment points out, the position of speaker has not always been the top spot in houses of representatives.

Karl Kurtz

This note came from Jerry Bassett, director of the Alabama Legislative Reference Service:

"Hello from Alabama. Pre-1970, Albert Brewer was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives in Alabama at age 34 in 1962 and served from 1962 until 1966, when he was elected Lt. Governor. The Lt. Governor is President of the Senate (which back then was the real leader of the Senate, ie. appointed committee members and chairs, assigned bills, presided, etc.). He became Governor when Lurleen Wallace died in 1968."

Great info, Jerry. It's another foul ball for me, though, because it's a pre-1970 case. I'm still at bat until the next reader proves me wrong.

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