Edited by Greg Janetka
This week’s tracker features an update on the current special sessions in Florida, Virginia and Washington and a look at legislators who have recently had a brush with the law.
This week 32 out of 50 state legislatures are meeting in regular session. No states are scheduled to convene or adjourn this week.
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.
The court cited problems with eight of the 40 senate districts and 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 March 17, which makes changes to two dozen districts. The Senate passed the map 31-6 on March 22, sending it to the House, who is expected to pass it tomorrow. Democrats objected to the new map, saying it is likely to be rejected by the court. Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich stated, “This map still has the effect of protecting incumbents. I don’t want the Supreme Court to finish the job we were supposed to do.”
The session is slated to run through Wednesday.
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 last Wednesday.
Democrats are seeking changes to spending priorities, as well as a power sharing agreement in the equally divided Senate. The Senate Finance Committee unanimously adopted an amended budget plan last week and leaders are hoping to take a vote on it today.
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.
Gregoire put forth her own budget alternative last week that would keep sales-tax revenue collected by the state on behalf of local government’s in the state’s general fund for a longer period of time. The move, which assistant state treasurer Wolfgang Opitz described as “a permanent process change, not a one-time change,” would free up $238 million in spending.
The special session can last up to 30 days
As of today, March 26, 3 states’ sessions are currently in recess:
- New Jersey – In recess for budget hearings from March 16, 2012 through May 15, 2012
- North Carolina – Mid-term recess June 18, 2011 through May 12, 2012
- Wisconsin – In recess from March 17, 2012 through April 23, 2012. Will only return to conduct limited business.
|Snapshot of State Legislatures:
Monday, March 26, 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
This week we take a look at state legislators who have recently had issues with the law.
- Illinois state Rep. Derrick Smith was arrested on March 13 after allegedly accepting a $7,000 cash bribe during an undercover FBI operation and saying he wanted “no trace” of the money. According to the criminal complaint filed by the U.S. attorney’s office, Smith accepted the money in exchange for his official support of a state grant for a day care center. A week later Smith easily defeated Tom Swiss in the Democratic primary for Smith’s current District 10 seat.
- Last week Michigan state Rep. Bob Genetski‘s driver’s license was suspended for one year beginning on April 9. The decision stems from Genetski’s arrest on January 19 for allegedly refusing to take a breathalyzer test after begin stopped by a Michigan State University police officer.
- Ohio state Rep. W. Carlton Weddington surrendered to the FBI on March 13 after being indicted on a bribery charge. According to Edward Hanko, FBI special agent in charge of the Cincinnati field office, the Bureau set up an undercover sting, creating a fake business entity that spent over $16,000 to send Weddington to Miami and California as well as giving him cash and campaign contributions. In exchange, Weddington allegedly agreed to introduce legislation on behalf of the business. He is charged with one count of bribery, one count of election falsification and one count of filing a false financial-disclosure form.
- The campaign corruption trial of Pennsylvania state Rep. Jane Orie continued today as jurors held their fifth day of deliberations. She is accused of illegal use of state-funded staff to do campaign work, as well as perjury, forgery and evidence tampering in connection with her defense against the charges in what resulted in a mistrial last year. Meanwhile, former Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives John Perzel (R) was sentenced to up to five years in prison on March 21 after admitting he used public funds for a computerized election system in order to help Republicans win elections. He served from 1979 to 2010.
- South Carolina state Rep. Thad Viers resigned effective immediately last Wednesday, a day before he was indicted by a grand jury for stalking and harassment in the first degree. The charges stem from his arrest in January when an ex-girlfriend accused him of continuing to call, text, email and show up at her home and work despite having been broken up for over five months.
- Tennessee state Rep. David Hawk was arrested on March 18 on a domestic assault charge. According to the police report Hawk hit his wife in the face while she was holding their 11-month-old daughter. Hawk, who was released on bond, said he was innocent of the charge, explaining that during the incident “my wife had a gun and told me she was gonna put a bullet in my head while I was holding my baby. At that time, I escaped to safety with my daughter.”
- 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
Three states – Missouri, South Dakota and South Carolina – have signature filing deadlines this week.
So far, deadlines have passed in 19 states:
States with upcoming deadlines:
- See also: 2012 election dates
There are no states holding primaries this week.
So far, primaries have taken place in two states:
Thus far, a total of five state legislative incumbents have been defeated in a primary.
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.
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. 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.
Following Pam Galloway‘s resignation on March 17, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board announced the recall would continue as scheduled, leaving Republicans without a candidate. This past week state Rep. Jerry Petrowski stepped up to fill that void. He will face fellow state Rep. Donna Seidel (D) in the race. GAB has a meeting scheduled for Friday to take final action on recall petitions against the governor and lt. governor.
- See also: State legislative special elections, 2012
There are no special elections are scheduled to take place this week.
Upcoming special elections include:
- 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