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State Legislative Tracker:Minnesota shutdown ends, Massachusetts transportation costs likely to rise

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July 25, 2011

By Jackie Arthur

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Current sessions capture for the week of July 25, 2011

The Minnesota government is back in business after a 20-day shutdown, and Bay State commuters fear talks of transportation cost increases as the Patrick administration considers several options to pay for road and bridge maintenance.


So far this year, 43 out of 50 state legislative sessions have officially adjourned their regular session. This week, no states are scheduled to adjourn their 2011 regular session.

Regular sessions

The following 7 states remain in regular legislative sessions:

Note: California and Wisconsin are both convened in ongoing special sessions, but are still considered to be in regular session. California began its summer recess on July 15 and will adjourn again on August 15.
Click here to see a chart of each state's 2011 session information.

Special sessions

Special sessions are expected to be 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.

This week, California, Virginia and Wisconsin continue their special sessions. North Carolina continues a special redistricting session that began July 13.[1]

Special sessions beginning this week:

Special sessions ending this week:

Sessions spotlight

This week, our spotlight shines on Massachusetts, and features updates on Wisconsin recall elections and primaries, as well as the end of Minnesota's governmental shutdown.[5]

Massachusetts: Last week, Lt. Gov. Tim Murray gave commuters across the state reason to fear when he hinted that a gas tax hike may be on the horizon.[6] The Patrick administration is considering several options to help fund road and bridge maintenance projects, including raising the gas tax and implementing "T" toll and fare increases.[6]

News of a potential price increase hits hard as prices at the pump ticked up again, as oil topped $100 a barrel for the first time since early June. The state's current gas tax is 23 cents per gallon.[6]

Last year, lawmakers instated a 25 percent sales-tax hike, promising that some of the new revenue would go to pay T debt, as well as cover skyrocketing costs for the Big Dig and the Massachusetts Turn-pike.[6]

Wisconsin: In the first recall election of the year, District 30 Incumbent Dave Hansen (D) defeated Republican candidate David VanderLeest by approximately 11,000 votes. Kim Simac and Jonathan Steitz defeated their primary opponents, and will advance to the August recall elections.

Originally, July 19 was scheduled to be the primary election date for VanderLeest and John Nygren, who was removed from the ballot for not having enough valid signatures on his nominating petition. VanderLeest was the organizer behind the "Recall Dave Hansen" campaign.[7]

Below are the July 19 primary results:

District 12

July 19 Republican primary[8]
Candidates Votes Percent
Kim Simac Approveda 11,300 58.53%
Robert Lussow 7,765 40.22%
Scattering 242 1.25%

District 22

July 19 Republican primary[9]
Candidates Votes Percent
Jonathan Steitz Approveda 5,981 61.06%
Fred Ekornaas 3,369 34.39%
Scattering 446 4.55%

District 30

July 19 Recall[10]
Candidates Votes Percent
Dave Hansen (D) Approveda 22,051 65.93%
David VanderLeest (R) 11,054 33.05%
Scattering 340 1.02%
  • John Nygren Note: Nygren's nominating petitions were successfully challenged, removing him from the ballot and doing away with the need for a primary.

Recall campaigns directed against 16 Wisconsin state senators were launched in the wake of events surrounding the introduction of Wisconsin Assembly Bill 11, the "Scott Walker Budget Repair Bill" in February 2011, including the union protests in Madison, Wisconsin over Gov. Scott Walker's Budget Repair Bill.[11][12]

Six Republican and three Democratic state senators have been targeted by active recall campaigns. Recall sponsors filed signatures on petitions targeting the senators. Challenges were filed in all 9 of those campaigns, and the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board approved the six campaigns against Republicans at meetings on May 23 and May 31, and approved the three campaigns against Democrats on June 8.

2011 Wisconsin Recall Campaigns
District State senator Winning % in 2008 Recall papers filed Recall signatures required Recall signatures submitted Recall signatures validated Percentage of signatures validated Opponent Recall primary date Recall election date
Jim Holperin 51.2% February 19 15,960 23,300[13] 19,255[14] 82.63% Kim Simac[15] July 19 August 16
Robert Wirch 66.7% February 24 13,537 18,300[16] 17,138[14] 93.65% Jonathan Steitz[17] July 19 August 16
Dave Hansen 66.1% February 25 13,852 18,872[18] 15,540[14] 82.34% David VanderLeest[19] N/A July 19
Robert Cowles Unopposed March 2 15,960 26,000[20] 23,959[21] 92.15% Nancy Nusbaum[22] July 12 August 9
Alberta Darling 50.5% March 2 20,343 30,000[23] 22,243[21] 74.14% Assemblywoman Sandy Pasch[24] July 12 August 9
Sheila Harsdorf 56.4% March 2 18,816 23,000[25] 23,685[21] 102.97% Shelly Moore[26] July 12 August 9
Luther Olsen Unopposed March 2 14,733 24,000[27] 22,207[21] 92.52% Assemblyman Fred Clark[28] July 12 August 9
Randy Hopper 50.05% March 2 15,269 22,500[29] 22,953[21] 102.01% Jessica King[30] July 12 August 9
Dan Kapanke 51.4% March 2 15,588 30,000[31] 21,776[21] 72.58% Assebmlywoman Jennifer Shilling[32] July 12 August 9

Minnesota: After nearly a month of deadlock, lawmakers reached a deal and the Minnesota government re-opened on Wednesday, July 20. Governor Mark Dayton (DFL) signed nine budget bills and three other spending bills into law last Wednesday morning, following a single day special session to work out the budget.

Despite the fact that the shutdown is over, many Minnesotans including Dayton are unhappy with the new $35.7 billion budget.[33] According to a quote from MPR news Dayton said, "I'm not particularly happy with this budget I've just signed into law. I signed it because otherwise Minnesota wouldn't go back to work."[34] Dayton's plan originally contained tax increases for wealthy Minnesotans, something Republicans were not willing to accept. Republicans wanted a plan that would include no new tax increases, only cuts. The new budget relies on spending cuts, delayed payments to school districts and borrowing against the state's future tobacco settlements.


A total of 578 seats will be up for general election in state legislatures in 2011.

Three state legislative primaries remain in Louisiana, Mississippi and Virginia. New Jersey held statewide primaries on June 7, 2011. The next primary will be in Mississippi on August 2, 2011.

The next state with a signature filing deadline is Louisiana on September 8. Virginia's signature filing deadline was June 15, however a full and comprehensive candidate list has not yet been released. Virginia's primary has been rescheduled to August 23, 2011 instead of its usual date of June 14, 2011[35] after delays and uncertainty in the redistricting process.[36].[37]

Vacancy news

As of this week, there are 29 state legislative vacancies in the state houses and senates.

Bob Stenehjem, North Dakota Senate District 30


There are 3 state senate vacancies as of July 25, 2011.

On July 18, North Dakota senator Bob Stenehjem died in a car accident. According to North Dakota law, a replacement must be named within 21 days of the vacancy, and is filled by the district committee of the political party that held the seat.

State Vacancies
Georgia 1
Mississippi 1
North Dakota State Senate District 30 1


There are 26 state house vacancies in 13 different states as of July 25, 2011. Last week, Utah House District 30 was filled by delegates to the Democratic Party’s state convention. The delegates elected Brian Doughty to replace Jackie Biskupski who resigned last month due to a recent move outside District 30.[38]

State Vacancies
Arkansas 1
Georgia 2
Illinois 3
Maine 1
Missouri 4
New Hampshire 3
New Jersey 1
New York 6
Oklahoma 1
South Carolina 1
Texas 1
Vermont 1
Wisconsin 1

Special elections

There are no special elections taking place this week.

July 19 results

Georgia Senate District 26
Robert Brown (D) announced his resignation in May, 2011 in order to seek the office of Macon Mayor.[39] The special election for State Senate District 26 took place in Twiggs County and portions of Bibb, Houston and Wilkinson Counties. The election was a nonpartisan special election with an open primary. Since no candidate received a majority of the vote, a runoff election will be held on Tuesday, August 16, 2011.[40]

Democratic Party Democratic Candidates:
Republican Party Republican Candidate:

Georgia House District 113, Runoff Election
Hank Huckaby (R) resigned to become the new University of Georgia Chancellor.[42] The special election for State House District 113 took place in Oconee County and portions of Clarke, Morgan and Oglethorpe counties. The election is a nonpartisan special election with an open primary. Candidates Charles Williams (R) and Dan Matthews (D) were the top two vote-getters. Since neither received a majority of the vote, a runoff election was held on Tuesday, July 19, 2011.[43][44]

Democratic Party Democratic Candidate:
Republican Party Republican Candidates:

Georgia House District 139
David Lucas, Sr. (D) resigned in order to run in the special election for Senate District 26.[46] The special election for State House District 139 will took place in a portion of Bibb County. The election is a nonpartisan special election with an open primary. Since only two candidates qualified, a runoff election was not necessary.[47]

Democratic Party Democratic Candidates:
Republican Party Republican Candidates:
  • No Republicans have filed.

Upcoming special elections include:


  1. North Carolina General Assembly, Legislative Calendar, accessed July 11, 2011
  2. The Island Packet, S.C. Senate OKs new congressional districts anchored in Beaufort County, June 29, 2011
  3. StateScape, Session Updates, July 22, 2011
  4. Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau, Wisconsin Legislative Spotlight, accessed July 15, 2011
  5. CBSNews, Pawlenty: Minnesota shutdown could be a good thing, July 1, 2011
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Boston Herald, Officials eye pumping up gas tax, July 22, 2011
  7. WTAQ, "'Recall Dave Hansen' organizer running for Senate," May 22, 2011 (dead link)
  8. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "July 19 primary results District 12," accessed August 11, 2011
  9. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "July 19 Primary Election Results District 22," accessed August 11, 2011
  10. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "July 12 Primary Election Results District 30," accessed August 11, 2011
  11. CNN, "Wisconsin battle shifts to recall votes," June 15, 2011
  12. Wall Street Journal, "Wisconsin Fight Moves to Recalls," June 16, 2011
  13. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "Jim Holperin Recall Committee," accessed on June 9, 2011
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 WisPolitics, "Dem recalls certified," June 8, 2011
  15. Simac defeated Robert Lussow in a primary on July 19
  16. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "Taxpayers to Recall Robert Wirch," accessed on June 9, 2011
  17. Steitz defeated Fred Ekornaas in a primary on July 19
  18. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "Recall Dave Hansen," accessed on June 9, 2011
  19. John Nygren was removed from the ballot by the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board for insufficient signatures, on June 27, 2011
  20. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "Committee to Recall Cowles," accessed on June 9, 2011
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 21.4 21.5 Wisconsin Government Accountability Board Chart detailing recall signatures, accessed on May 23, 2011
  22. Nusbaum defeated Otto Junkermann in a primary on July 12
  23. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "Committee to Recall Darling," accessed on June 9, 2011
  24. Pasch defeated Gladys Huber in a primary on July 12
  25. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "Committee to Recall Harsdorf," accessed on June 9, 2011
  26. Moore defeated Isaac Weix in a primary on July 12
  27. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "Committee to Recall Olsen," accessed on June 9, 2011
  28. Clark defeated Rol Church in a primary on July 12
  29. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "Committee to Recall Hopper," accessed on June 9, 2011
  30. King defeated John Buckstaff in a primary on July 12
  31. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "Committee to Recall Kapanke," accessed on June 9, 2011
  32. Shilling defeated James Smith in a primary on July 12
  33. StarTribune, Budget deal means big changes for schools, health, July 21, 2011
  34. MPRnews, Shutdown ends as Dayton signs budget, July 20, 2011
  35. Ballot Access News, "Virginia House Passes Bill Moving 2011 Primary from June to August," January 20, 2011 (dead link)
  36. Virginia General Assembly, "History of House Bill 1507 (2011)"
  37. Virginia Public Access Project, "Update:Primaries to be held August 23," January 30, 2011
  38. Utah News, Doughty sworn in to fill Biskupski vacancy in Utah House of Representatives, July 20, 2011
  39. Macon Examiner, "James Beverly, Anissa Jones qualify for Macon's House District 139 seat," June 20, 2011
  40. Secretary of State News, "Secretary of State Kemp Sets Qualifying Dates for the Special Elections in State Senate District 26 and State House District 139," June 10, 2011
  41., "Lucas, Paris headed for runoff in state Senate race," July 19, 2011
  42. OnlineAthens, Rep. Huckaby resigns Georgia House, April 29, 2011
  43. Georgia Secretary of State, "Unofficial Results of the Tuesday, June 21, 2011 Special Election," accessed June 22, 2011
  44. Secretary of State News, Secretary Kemp Announces the Close of Qualifying for the Special Election in State House District 113, May 18, 2011
  45. Online Athens, "Williams wins House 113 runoff," July 19, 2011
  46. Macon Examiner, "James Beverly, Anissa Jones qualify for Macon's House District 139 seat," June 20, 2011
  47. Secretary of State News, "Secretary of State Kemp Sets Qualifying Dates for the Special Elections in State Senate District 26 and State House District 139," June 10, 2011
  48., "Beverly handily defeats Jones for House 139 seat," July 20, 2011