Edited by Greg Janetka
This week’s tracker features an update on special sessions in Florida and Washington as well as a look at continually divided Wisconsin, where recall dates have been set against four incumbent senators.
This week 34 out of 50 state legislatures are meeting in regular session. This week no states are scheduled to convene, while South Dakota adjourns today.
Twelve states have adjourned for the year, while four states – Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, and Texas – will not hold regular sessions in 2012.
- See also: Dates of 2012 state legislative sessions
The following states convened their regular legislative sessions:
The following states have ended their regular session:
- Click here to see a chart of each state’s 2012 session information.
Special sessions were a widespread occurrence in the state legislatures in 2011, in particular due to the necessity of states to conduct the redistricting of state legislative and congressional districts. Overall, in 2011 there were 45 special sessions in 28 states.
Following the Florida Supreme Court’s 5-2 decision on March 9 to reject the state’s new Senate maps, the Senate reconvened in special session on March 14 in order to redraw its map.
According to Senate leaders the court only cited problems with 8 of the 40 senate districts and they plan to focus solely on those areas. Critics, however, point out that any minor changes will affect neighboring districts. “There is no such thing as tweaking the map,” said state Democratic Party chair Rod Smith.
The court also noted potential problems with how the districts are numbered. With all 40 districts up for election this year, some legislators will be elected to two-year terms while others will be elected to four-year terms. Thus, depending how the districts are numbered, some senators could end up serving 10 years, two years longer than the eight-year term limit.
Senate Reapportionment Chairman Don Gaetz (R) released a plan on Saturday which makes changes to two dozen districts. It will be considered by the full Committee tomorrow and go to the Senate floor later this week. The session is slated to run through March 28.
The Virginia General Assembly ended its regular session on March 10. The 60-day session was full of heated debate over bills regarding abortion restrictions and gun laws, but never included passing a new state budget. Thus, the same day that the Legislature adjourned, they also formally started a special session then adjourned until March 21.
Washington is currently in special session. Gov. Chris Gregoire (D) called for the session on March 8 after it was clear the Legislature was going to end its 60-day regular session without passing a supplemental budget plan. House Democrats passed a budget agreement by a 53-45 vote, but it included a delayed payment for schools, something that has previously failed in the Senate. While Democrats hold the majority in the Senate, three members broke from the party ranks to vote for a Republican plan that got rid of the delayed payment and focused instead on more spending cuts.
Senate Republicans unveiled a new plan on March 15 that Gregoire said she had no knowledge of despite meetings between the governor and senate leaders of both parties. Angered at being kept in the dark, she said she will not sign most of the bills awaiting her signature and threatened to veto some of them in order to force lawmakers to break their stalemate. The special session can last up to 30 days.
As of today, March 19, 1 states’ session is currently in recess:
|Snapshot of State Legislatures:
Monday, March 19, 2012
|There are 7,384 Total State Legislators
|Total Democratic state legislators
|Total Republican state legislators
|There are 99 Total State Legislative Chambers
|Total Democratic Party-controlled chambers
|Total Republican Party-controlled chambers
|Total tied or non-partisan chambers
|2012 Session Information
|Total Special Elections
|Total Special Sessions
Counting South Dakota’s adjournment today, a total of 12 states have ended their regular session for the year. Here is an update on major topics that were addressed in those that adjourned in the past week:
Legislators returned to the state capitol today to consider two vetoes and wrap up their business. Sen. Tim Rave (R) summed up the session’s work, stating, “Obviously education, education, education and then we talked about education.”
Race said HB 1234, which narrowly passed, is the most comprehensive reform bill he’s ever worked on. It will dedicate millions of dollars to teacher bonuses, set up a scholarship program for future teachers and end tenure. Of the over 470 bills considered by the Legislature this session, 54 percent were passed. The two bills vetoed by Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R) that they will consider today concern carrying concealed handguns without a permit and prohibiting cities from banning digital billboards.
The Wisconsin State Senate finished its work for the year on Thursday, the last day scheduled for passing bills, after meeting for less than an hour. The Assembly, however, did not adjourn until late Friday after Democrats held a 30-hour long filibuster over a bill that would have dissolved the Milwaukee Area Technical College board. Democrats returned to the floor at 3 a.m. on Friday, giving speeches and interrupting GOP attempts to adjourn until Republicans finally agreed late in the afternoon to reappoint the current members of the MATC board.
The contentious end of the two-year long session was just the latest in a long line of partisan fighting that began in February 2011 when Gov. Scott Walker (R) introduced his budget repair bill which limited collective bargaining rights, compensation and fringe benefits of public employees. Also noteworthy was the passage of a bill allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons and one to require photo ID at the polls, which Democrats argued was unconstitutional. Last week a circuit court judge agreed with Democrats, issuing a permanent injunction against the Voter ID measure.
The end of the session saw a firestorm over a mining reform bill aimed at getting Florida-based Gogebic Taconite to open an iron mine in northwester Wisconsin, creating hundreds of jobs. Republicans were unable to amass the necessary number of votes when Sen. Dale Schultz (R) sided with Democrats against the bill. Schultz and Democrat Bob Jauch are being targeted for possible recall over their opposition to the bill, while Republican leaders are said to be considering a special session to try and get the measure passed.
- See also: State legislative elections, 2012 and State legislative elections results, 2012
A total of 86 of the 99 chambers will hold state legislative elections on November 6, 2012.
1,267 (64.3%) of the country’s 1,971 state senate seats are up for re-election in November 2012, and 4,712 (87.05%) of the country’s 5,413 state house seats are up for re-election. Altogether, 5,979 (81.0%) of the country’s 7,384 state legislative seats will be up for re-election during the presidential election year.
- 43 of the 50 state senates are holding elections.
- 43 of the 49 state houses are holding elections.
The 5,979 seats up for election is 146 fewer than the 6,125 that were contested in 2010.
- See also: Signature requirements and deadlines for 2012 state government elections and 2012 Elections preview: Comparing state legislative filing deadlines
New Mexico is the only state this week with a signature filing deadline.
So far, deadlines have passed in 18 states:
States with upcoming deadlines:
- See also: 2012 election dates
Illinois holds its primary elections tomorrow – all 59 Senate seats and 118 House seats will be on the ballot. The first state legislative primary elections of 2012 took place earlier this month in Ohio.
States with upcoming primaries:
- Note: Texas was originally scheduled to hold their primary on March 6. However, with newly drawn state legislative maps being fought in the courts, the date was moved to May 29.
- Currently, 18 states permit the recall of state officials. Between 1913 and 2008, there were just 20 state legislative recall elections in five states. Of the 20 state legislative recall elections, 13 out of 20 resulted in the state legislator being recalled. In 2011, there were 11 state legislative recalls in three states, 4 of which resulted in the legislator being recalled.
Former state Sen. Russell Pearce (R) became the first legislator to be removed in state history when voters recalled him from office last November. Up till now he has not made his future plans clear, but that could change today – Pearce is speaking at an event where many expect him to announce a campaign for state Senate. Following redistricting, Pearce was moved from the 18th to the 25th District – if he does chose to run that could set up a primary between Pearce and current Republican incumbent Rich Crandall.
2011 saw a wave of recall attempts in Michigan. While most of those efforts dried up, at least two campaigns are continuing on (the recall of Paul Scott was successful on November 8, 2011). Organizers of the campaigns to recall Bruce Caswell (R) and Phil Pavlov (R) are aiming for the August 2012 ballot.
Democrats in Wisconsin filed recall petitions on November 15, 2011 against four Republican state senators – Pam Galloway, Scott Fitzgerald, Terry Moulton and Van Wanggaard. Campaign organizers turned in more than the necessary number of signatures in each of the four races on January 17, 2012.
Last week was a busy one – on Monday the board dismissed all of the challenges submitted by the senators against the petitions, voting unanimously to order recalls against all four. On Tuesday, GAB received an extension on their deadline to certify the results, giving them until March 30. The following day Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess signed an agreement scheduling primaries for May 8 with general elections on June 5. If there is no primary the general election takes place on May 8.
The Senate wrapped up their 2012 session on Thursday, and on Friday Sen. Galloway announced she was resigning her seat, effective the following day, but said it had to do with her family and not the recall. GAB said the recall will continue as scheduled and Republicans are now seeking a candidate to take Galloway’s place.
Meanwhile, conservative group Citizens for Responsible Government said they are going forward with plans to recall senators Dale Schultz (R) and Bob Jauch (D) who both worked to reject a compromise on a bill aiming to increase the speed of the state’s approval for iron ore mines. CRG is expected to announce more details about their plans today.
- See also: State legislative special elections, 2012
Five special elections are scheduled to take place this week in New York – four seats are in the Assembly and one is in the Senate.
Mike Spano (D) resigned in 2011 after being elected Mayor of Yonkers.
- General election candidates:
- Shelley Mayer – Mayer is also running on the Independence and Working Family Party tickets.
- Donnamarie Nolan
Thomas Kirwan (R) passed away in 2011 at the age of 78.
- General election candidates:
- Frank Skartados – Skartados is also running on the Working Family Party ticket.
- John Forman – Forma is also running on the Independence and Conservative Party tickets.
Marcus Molinaro (R) resigned after being elected Dutchess County executive.
- General election candidates:
- Didi Barrett – Barrett is also running on the Working Family Party ticket.
- Richard Wager – Wager is also running on the Independence and Conservative Party tickets.
Mark Schroeder (D) resigned after being elected Buffalo City comptroller.
- General election candidates:
- Christopher Fahey – Fahey is also running on the Working Family and Conservative Party tickets.
- Michael Kearns – Kearns is also running on the Independence Party ticket.
Carl Kruger (D) resigned in 2011 after pleading guilty to corruption charges.
- General election candidates:
- Lewis Fidler – Fidler is also running on the Independence Party ticket.
- David Storobin – Storobin is also running on the Conservative Party ticket.
Upcoming special elections include:
- March 20: New York Assembly District 93
- March 20: New York Assembly District 100
- March 20: New York Assembly District 103
- March 20: New York Assembly District 145
- March 20: New York Senate District 27
- April 3: Oklahoma House of Representatives District 71
- April 3: Oklahoma Senate District 20
- April 10: Minnesota Senate District 20
- April 24: Pennsylvania House District 22
- April 24: Pennsylvania House District 134
- April 24: Pennsylvania House District 153
- April 24: Pennsylvania House District 169
- April 24: Pennsylvania House District 186
- April 24: Pennsylvania House District 197