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Incoming Senate Already Rife with Drama

Sen. Celestino A. White Sr. announced the composition of the Senate's new majority, which he will head as incoming majority leader.While Sen. Celestino A. White Sr. took to the radio airwaves Tuesday to announce who’s who in the Senate’s incoming majority, what many are saying went on behind the scenes as the organizational process unfolded sounds like a TV drama—with secret meetings, feuding factions, and even a last-minute ousting.

Last month, incumbent Sens. Terrence "Positive" Nelson, Neville James and Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly beat their colleagues to the punch by announcing they were pulling together to form what they’ve called the "Next Generation Leadership Team," which looked, at the time, to be the incoming minority block.

Speaking after the Senate’s Nov. 22 session, Nelson told the Source that the doors were still open for others to join, and said the group was looking to begin talks with Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone, who appeared to be the odd man out after various internet posts pinpointed an incoming majority caucus made up: of Sens. Craig W. Barshinger, Carlton "Ital" Dowe, Louis P. Hill, Sammuel Sanes, Patrick Simeon Sprauve, White, Alvin L. Williams and Usie R. Richards, along with newly elected Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, Janette Millin-Young and Ronald Russell, who was reported to be the incoming Senate president.

A press release issued by Hill’s office Tuesday confirmed Russell’s presidency and offered congratulations. White, meanwhile, announced on the radio the composition of the rest of the majority — which has him taking over the post of majority leader, while Hill fills in as vice president and Sanes as secretary.

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The only change from what was first detailed by the Source last month was that the caucus has now switched Malone in for Barshinger as chair of the newly formed Committee on Economic Development, Energy and Agriculture.

Speaking Wednesday, Barshinger said he wasn’t sure about the change-up until Tuesday morning but had suspected what was cooking after receiving a message from White telling him to "disregard" a message left Sunday about an upcoming caucus meeting.

While Barshinger said he’s comfortable with the change, it does leave his energy agenda up in the air, along with some of the other initiatives he was able to push through in the 28th Legislature.

"That’s really the concern for me," he said. "These issues, like the GPS bill we passed, are things that I know about, and putting someone in place that maybe isn’t that familiar with them doesn’t do the people any good."

Barshinger said he was also concerned about some of the new majority’s agenda items, such as "getting rid" of all central staff employees at the Legislature without tenure.

"I’m not a softy — if they’re not doing their job, it’s maybe not a bad thing; but if they are, then just getting rid of them just sounds completely wrong to me," he said.

Barshinger said he’s going to take a stab at organizing a Democratic majority and putting together an agenda that includes items such as doing away with pre-emption rules that keep secret the identity of senators when they put in bill requests — an issue that stirred public controversy after no one would say who was holding onto a bill to repeal government pay raises approved for senators, the governor and various commissioners at the end of the Charles W. Turnbull administration.

Speaking Wednesday, Nelson said the Next Generation team hasn’t had any conversations with Barshinger at this point, and was not, over the past month or so, able to pin down Malone. He said the group was still open for anyone who wanted to join, but made clear that the team intended to serve as a "system of checks and balances" for the new 11-member majority as it moves forward, exposing any attempts to rubber stamp legislation that comes down from Government House.

He did note, however, that most of the players in the incoming majority are the ones holding the power now, despite what the paperwork says.

"The real majority that’s existed in the 28th Legislature is finally showing its face," Nelson said.

And at the head of the table is White, who was candid with the Source Wednesday when he explained that he wanted the new majority to be a mix of party affiliations, which is exactly what he put together.

"We feel strongly that this coalition that touches each political persuasion is a reflection of the people and how they voted," he said during a sit-down in his office. "It is a majority that was formed from the inside out, not the outside in, where party bosses are calling the shots."

Barshinger’s move to assemble a Democratic coalition, therefore, left some key players out of the mix, and White said Wednesday that he made a move to do something about it.

"While he was doing that, I was also busy trying to organize; and it looks like I was successful," White said.

He added that the senators included in the new majority are sealed together "with gorilla glue," so there won’t be any deletions; but there might be some additions down the road.

In the meantime, the incoming caucus is busy trying to pull its separate campaign platforms into one cohesive agenda, which he said Wednesday has included discussions on pre-emption and untenured Senate employees.

White explained that what many people don’t realize is that any employee that’s worked less than four years at the Senate is subject to re-appointment at the end of every legislative term, much like what happens in the central government after a new governor is elected.

White said he’s "positive" there’s not going to be a mass firing of untenured employees but repeated that things are subject to change each time a new Senate comes in.

He had more details about the Senate’s plans to change pre-emption, saying the caucus plans to include in the Legislature’s rules that drafting requests are no longer "privileged information." Requests will be published on the Legislature’s website so that everyone "gets all the same information at the same time," White said.

White said he will be offering a resolution to set the 29th Legislature’s committees and officers at the first session next year.

Committee chairs are as follows:
Committee on Rules and Judiciary: Usie R. Richards
Committee on Finance: Carlton "Ital" Dowe
Committee on Health and Hospitals: Patrick Simeon Sprauve
Committee on Education, Youth and Culture: Janette Millin-Young
Committee on Government Operations and Veterans Affairs: Alicia "Chucky" Hansen
Committee on Housing and Labor: Celestino A. White Sr.
Committee on Human Services, Recreation and Sports: Alvin L. Williams Jr.
Committee on Economic Development, Energy and Agriculture: Shawn-Michael Malone
Committee on Planning and Environmental Protection: Louis P. Hill

Williams will also serve as the Senate’s secretary of intergovernmental and territorial affairs, while Richards will serve as the liaison to the U.S. Congress, and Malone will serve as the liaison to the U.S. Interior Department’s Office of Insular Affairs. Hansen, meanwhile, will also serve as the Senate’s liaison to the White House.

The Senate will adopt its rules and formalize the organization during its first session next month.

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Sen. Celestino A. White Sr. announced the composition of the Senate's new majority, which he will head as incoming majority leader.While Sen. Celestino A. White Sr. took to the radio airwaves Tuesday to announce who's who in the Senate's incoming majority, what many are saying went on behind the scenes as the organizational process unfolded sounds like a TV drama—with secret meetings, feuding factions, and even a last-minute ousting.

Last month, incumbent Sens. Terrence "Positive" Nelson, Neville James and Nereida Rivera-O'Reilly beat their colleagues to the punch by announcing they were pulling together to form what they've called the "Next Generation Leadership Team," which looked, at the time, to be the incoming minority block.

Speaking after the Senate's Nov. 22 session, Nelson told the Source that the doors were still open for others to join, and said the group was looking to begin talks with Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone, who appeared to be the odd man out after various internet posts pinpointed an incoming majority caucus made up: of Sens. Craig W. Barshinger, Carlton "Ital" Dowe, Louis P. Hill, Sammuel Sanes, Patrick Simeon Sprauve, White, Alvin L. Williams and Usie R. Richards, along with newly elected Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, Janette Millin-Young and Ronald Russell, who was reported to be the incoming Senate president.

A press release issued by Hill's office Tuesday confirmed Russell's presidency and offered congratulations. White, meanwhile, announced on the radio the composition of the rest of the majority -- which has him taking over the post of majority leader, while Hill fills in as vice president and Sanes as secretary.

The only change from what was first detailed by the Source last month was that the caucus has now switched Malone in for Barshinger as chair of the newly formed Committee on Economic Development, Energy and Agriculture.

Speaking Wednesday, Barshinger said he wasn't sure about the change-up until Tuesday morning but had suspected what was cooking after receiving a message from White telling him to "disregard" a message left Sunday about an upcoming caucus meeting.

While Barshinger said he's comfortable with the change, it does leave his energy agenda up in the air, along with some of the other initiatives he was able to push through in the 28th Legislature.

"That's really the concern for me," he said. "These issues, like the GPS bill we passed, are things that I know about, and putting someone in place that maybe isn't that familiar with them doesn't do the people any good."

Barshinger said he was also concerned about some of the new majority's agenda items, such as "getting rid" of all central staff employees at the Legislature without tenure.

"I'm not a softy -- if they're not doing their job, it's maybe not a bad thing; but if they are, then just getting rid of them just sounds completely wrong to me," he said.

Barshinger said he's going to take a stab at organizing a Democratic majority and putting together an agenda that includes items such as doing away with pre-emption rules that keep secret the identity of senators when they put in bill requests -- an issue that stirred public controversy after no one would say who was holding onto a bill to repeal government pay raises approved for senators, the governor and various commissioners at the end of the Charles W. Turnbull administration.

Speaking Wednesday, Nelson said the Next Generation team hasn't had any conversations with Barshinger at this point, and was not, over the past month or so, able to pin down Malone. He said the group was still open for anyone who wanted to join, but made clear that the team intended to serve as a "system of checks and balances" for the new 11-member majority as it moves forward, exposing any attempts to rubber stamp legislation that comes down from Government House.

He did note, however, that most of the players in the incoming majority are the ones holding the power now, despite what the paperwork says.

"The real majority that's existed in the 28th Legislature is finally showing its face," Nelson said.

And at the head of the table is White, who was candid with the Source Wednesday when he explained that he wanted the new majority to be a mix of party affiliations, which is exactly what he put together.

"We feel strongly that this coalition that touches each political persuasion is a reflection of the people and how they voted," he said during a sit-down in his office. "It is a majority that was formed from the inside out, not the outside in, where party bosses are calling the shots."

Barshinger's move to assemble a Democratic coalition, therefore, left some key players out of the mix, and White said Wednesday that he made a move to do something about it.

"While he was doing that, I was also busy trying to organize; and it looks like I was successful," White said.

He added that the senators included in the new majority are sealed together "with gorilla glue," so there won't be any deletions; but there might be some additions down the road.

In the meantime, the incoming caucus is busy trying to pull its separate campaign platforms into one cohesive agenda, which he said Wednesday has included discussions on pre-emption and untenured Senate employees.

White explained that what many people don't realize is that any employee that's worked less than four years at the Senate is subject to re-appointment at the end of every legislative term, much like what happens in the central government after a new governor is elected.

White said he's "positive" there's not going to be a mass firing of untenured employees but repeated that things are subject to change each time a new Senate comes in.

He had more details about the Senate's plans to change pre-emption, saying the caucus plans to include in the Legislature's rules that drafting requests are no longer "privileged information." Requests will be published on the Legislature's website so that everyone "gets all the same information at the same time," White said.

White said he will be offering a resolution to set the 29th Legislature's committees and officers at the first session next year.

Committee chairs are as follows:
Committee on Rules and Judiciary: Usie R. Richards
Committee on Finance: Carlton "Ital" Dowe
Committee on Health and Hospitals: Patrick Simeon Sprauve
Committee on Education, Youth and Culture: Janette Millin-Young
Committee on Government Operations and Veterans Affairs: Alicia "Chucky" Hansen
Committee on Housing and Labor: Celestino A. White Sr.
Committee on Human Services, Recreation and Sports: Alvin L. Williams Jr.
Committee on Economic Development, Energy and Agriculture: Shawn-Michael Malone
Committee on Planning and Environmental Protection: Louis P. Hill

Williams will also serve as the Senate's secretary of intergovernmental and territorial affairs, while Richards will serve as the liaison to the U.S. Congress, and Malone will serve as the liaison to the U.S. Interior Department's Office of Insular Affairs. Hansen, meanwhile, will also serve as the Senate's liaison to the White House.

The Senate will adopt its rules and formalize the organization during its first session next month.