When legislative leaders resign midterm, things can get messy.
In Ohio, a speaker’s departure has led to a stalemate that’s brought lawmaking to a standstill. In Kentucky, lawmakers face a lawsuit over a bill they passed while a No. 2 leader was in charge. And, in Massachusetts, more than 40,000 residents were left without representation at the Statehouse after the Senate president resigned.
Such sudden resignations at inconvenient times can gum up the vast systems of government that surround statehouses, affecting key bills, vexing planned protests and distressing powerful interest groups.
Ohio’s six largest business groups got together last week to plead for the Ohio House to get back to business.
Groups including the Ohio Manufacturers’ Council and Chamber of Commerce claimed in a joint letter that the Republicans’ impasse over who should replace former Republican Speaker Cliff Rosenberger was threatening to harm Ohio’s economy. Rosenberger resigned in April amid an FBI probe into his international travel and rental of a condo owned by a wealthy GOP donor.
Kentucky lawmakers decided just to plow forward under the leadership of David Osborne, the House’s No. 2, after a sexual harassment scandal ensnared then- Speaker Jeff Hoover, who resigned as speaker in January.
That didn’t go entirely smoothly, either.
Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear asked a judge in April to throw out a new law that makes changes to one of the country’s worst-funded public pension systems.
Among Beshear’s legal arguments is that the law is invalid because the House speaker did not sign it. He argued that Kentucky’s Constitution requires all bills to be signed by the chamber’s “presiding officer,” which Beshear says is the speaker — not Osborne, the speaker pro tempore who acted as speaker in Hoover’s absence and signed all the bills.
Hoover left the speakership but kept his House seat, a choice that can avoid other tricky issues brought on when a seat is vacated.
In Massachusetts, then-Senate President Stanley Rosenberg resigned May 4 after an ethics report found he failed to protect the Senate from his husband, who faces sexual misconduct charges.
The Republican left both his leadership post and his seat. That wound up leaving more than 40,000 residents in Northampton and the small town of Hatfield with no representation in the Legislature for the remainder of the year.
The region’s state representative, Rep. Peter Kocut, died in February, and it’s too late to hold special elections for the seats.
Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz tried to get state officials to extend the May 1 filing deadline so that more candidates could run for Rosenberg’s seat, but that effort was unsuccessful.
Rosenberger’s seat in Ohio also remains vacant, though Republicans have agreed to seat the winner of May’s primary as soon as a voting session can happen.