State Legislative Tracker: Connecticut legislator faces fraud charges
Last week, no state ended its legislative session. Here is a brief look at issues making headlines across the country:
- Connecticut: An alleged phony address has Rep. Christina Ayala (D-Bridgeport) facing five potential criminal charges, including the felony charges of fabricating evidence and fraud. The State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC) announced the referral for criminal prosecution last week, recommending also that Christina Ayala’s mother, Democratic Registrar of Voters Santa Ayala, face investigation on the grounds of “criminal negligence” for allegedly allowing her daughter to use the false address. The investigation by the SEEC into the first-term legislator was spurred by a Hearst Connecticut Newspapers report in December 2012 that noted a discrepancy between the address under which Christina Ayala had registered to vote and a police report regarding a domestic incident listing her residence outside of her legislative district. Christina Ayala reportedly listed the false address as her own from 2009 to 2013, using it to vote in a number of primary and general elections — including the 2012 race in which she was elected. In light of the charges, Connecticut Democratic Party Chair Nancy DiNardo has called for Christina Ayala's resignation and Speaker of the House J. Brendan Sharkey (D) has stripped Ayala of her membership on the Appropriations, Children and Housing committees stating that for an elected official, “maintaining the public trust is paramount.” “The fact that this case has moved to a different level calls into question whether that trust has been breached,” he said. “Until this matter is resolved, I have relieved Representative Ayala of her membership from her assigned legislative committees.” The allegations are not Christina Ayala’s first run-in with the law. In June, she pleaded no contest to charges stemming from a 2012 hit-and-run accident in Bridgeport that left a 26-year-old woman injured.
- Florida: Representative Dennis Baxley is being pushed by Equality Florida's CEO, Nadine Smith, to apologize for his remarks at the House K-12 subcommittee meeting on October 8. Smith accused Baxley of grouping gay parents with alcoholics and drug abusers, calling them "dysfunctional, atypical" family dynamics. His perceived attack on gay parents was directly from a conversation that he had with a teacher, who was informing him of the struggles that the students are encountering due to various family dynamics. Baxley repeated the teacher listing the challenges that some of the students were facing: "this child has got serial men coming through the house, this one has two mommies, this one has an abusive father…" When this comment was made, Baxley was addressing the fact that students are "coming from a lot of different home situations" has to be considered with their education. Baxley expressed concern that students are not receiving a substantial amount of parental support and questioned whether the school systems should be responsible for providing a surrogacy for parental gaps that "are in the way of a kid having a chance to learn." Baxley said that he would be "happy to meet with [Equality Florida]" after they requested a meeting. The K-12 subcommittee meeting can be viewed here; Baxley's brief speech starts at 2:24.
- Michigan: The Michigan State Senate has passed a bill requiring job applicants to pass a drug test or risk losing unemployment benefits. By a near-party-line vote of 28-10 last Thursday, the Republican-controlled chamber approved its version of House Bill 4952, which was introduced by Rep. Ken Goike (R). Under the legislation, businesses would not be required to report test results to the state, but in the event of a failed test being reported, unemployment benefits would be revoked. Refusal to take a drug test would also be grounds for revocation. Opponents are skeptical of the bill's motives, arguing that it does not solve problems with drug use. Sen. Coleman Young II (D) said that the bill "demoniz[es] a group of citizens and starting a witch hunt to score political points," and that drug rehabilitation would be more conducive to filling job vacancies. Proponents, including Sen. Rick Jones (R), argue that drug users should not expect to be covered by taxes paid by employers who would not hire them. The bill is one of several regarding public benefits that would need to signed before changes in federal law go into effect. The House passed its version of the bill last month and is expected to pass the Senate's revisions; Michigan is a Republican state government trifecta. Also in the public assistance package is a restriction on where those on public assistance can use EBT cards, known in the state as Bridge cards, for cash withdrawals. Recipients would be barred from making cash withdrawals at strip clubs, gambling establishments, and liquor stores, though they would still be able to pay for food with the cards at convenience stores that sell liquor. Sen. Rick Jones (R) says the state could lose $40 million without the restrictions, but Rep. Marcia Hovey-Wright (D) argues that without grocery stores in parts of her district, her constituents would be disadvantaged by the restriction on convenience stores.
- Wisconsin: The Wisconsin State Senate and Assembly have approved Gov. Scott Walker's (R) $100 million property tax cut proposal just four days after the bill was first introduced. The senate passed the bill 28 to 5, while the assembly passed it 82 to 12. On average, the tax cut will reduce taxes on a home by $13 this year and $20 next year, though the exact amount will be determined by where a person lives and the value of their home. Even with the tax cut, property taxes are still projected to increase on average by $11 in those two years for a median-valued home. Democratic opponents of the bill have said that a $100 million tax cut may sound good, but the cut will provide little relief to most families. Sen. Cullen and other Democrats believe that Gov. Walker's tax cut is little more than a political smoke screen to ensure Walker's re-election next year. Cullen said on the tax cut that "[a]t the end of the day is what this is all about — $100 million of property tax relief. Nice headline." It was only a couple days after Mary Burke (D) announced her 2014 candidacy for Governor of Wisconsin that Walker proposed his property tax cut. According to a new report from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the state's projected budget shortfall in 2015 will grow by 33 percent with passage of the property tax cut and other bills that Walker supports. The bill will now be handed over to the governor, who is expected to sign it. If the bill is signed by the governor, residents will begin to see a reflection of the cut in their property tax bills mailed this December.
- See also: Dates of 2013 state legislative sessions
- Click here to see a chart of each state's 2013 session information.
Currently five out of 50 state legislatures are meeting in regular session.
As of April 8, all states states have convened their 2013 legislative sessions.
The following states have ended their regular session:
- April 5: Idaho
- April 5: Mississippi
- April 8: Maryland
- April 14: West Virginia
- April 14: Alaska
- April 19: Tennessee
- April 25: Montana
- April 29: Indiana
- April 29: Washington
- May 3: Florida
- May 3: Hawaii
- May 6: North Dakota
- May 9: Colorado
- May 14: Vermont
- May 17: Arkansas
- May 20: Alabama
- May 20: Minnesota
- May 23: Iowa
- May 27: Texas
- May 30: Missouri
- May 31: Oklahoma
- June 3: Nevada
- June 5: Connecticut
- June 5: Nebraska
- June 6: Louisiana
- June 14: Arizona
- June 20: Kansas
- June 20: South Carolina
- July 1: Delaware
- July 1: New Hampshire
- July 5: Rhode Island
- July 9: Oregon
- July 10: Maine
- July 26: North Carolina
- September 13: California
| Snapshot of State Legislatures: |
Sunday, September 21, 2014
|There are 7,387 Total State Legislators|
|Total Democratic state legislators||3,440 (46.6%)|
|Total Republican state legislators||3,817 (51.7%)|
|There are 99 Total State Legislative Chambers|
|Total Democratic Party-controlled chambers||40|
|Total Republican Party-controlled chambers||57|
|Total tied or nonpartisan chambers||2|
|2013 Session Information|
|Total Special Elections||55|
|Total Special Sessions||20|
The Arkansas legislature held a three-day special session to discuss a package of bills "designed to stabilize health insurance premiums for teachers and public school employees." The legislation received ample support in both chambers and heads to Gov. Mike Beebe (D) for his signature on Monday.
The Utah legislature held a one-day special session to vote on funding eight national parks and monuments in the state until December 1, even during the government shutdown. The legislators approved the funding bill mere hours before the government shutdown ended, rendering the legislation unnecessary. Other bills approved in this session along the same line were pay for 200 furloughed Utah National Guard and Utah Health Department employees (who are typically paid with federal funds) and funding a school lunch program through the federal shutdown.
The Utah legislature met in a special session last week to discuss Gov. Scott Walker's (R) proposal to lower property taxes. Passed by the senate with a 28-5 vote and the house 82-12, the legislation is projected to lower the average property tax bill this year by $13. Walker signed the bill into law on Sunday.
As of today, October 21, there are 3 state legislatures currently in recess:
|Maps submitted for vote: 140 out of 142 (98.6%)**||No votes on initial maps in the following: MT (2)|
|States that have completed Congressional Maps||42/43 (Maps ordered redrawn: TX)|
|States that have completed State Legislative Maps||46/50 (Maps unfinished: ME, MT; Maps ordered redrawn: AK, TX)|
|**With 50 states, there are 142 possible maps. 50 State Senate, 49 State House (No House in Nebraska), and 43 Congressional (7 states have 1 seat)|
While the great majority of states have completed their redistricting following the 2010 census, the issue still remains for a handful of states. Maine and Montana are not required to have their maps completed until 2014. Alaska and Texas, however, saw their maps rejected for legal reasons and will have to take up the drawing of maps once again.
- See also: State legislative elections, 2013
A total of 3 of the 99 chambers will hold state legislative elections on November 5, 2013.
The 3 chambers with elections in 2013 are in 2 states. They are:
40 of the country's 1,972 state senate seats are up for re-election in November 2013, and 180 of the country's 5,411 state house seats are up for re-election. Altogether, 220 of the country's 7,383 state legislative seats are up for re-election on November 5, 2013.
Signature filing deadlines
The state legislative filing deadlines were as follows:
- New Jersey:
- April 1, 2013 (Major party)
- June 4, 2013 (Independent)
Nomination petitions must contain the signatures of at least 100 voters in the legislative district. Candidates are required to disclose any criminal convictions.
- March 28, 2013 (Major party)
- June 11, 2013 (Independent)
Nomination petitions must contain the signatures of at least 125 qualified voters in the legislative district. Major party candidates are required to submit a primary filing fee equal to 2% of the annual salary for the office sought in effect in the year in which the candidate files. In 2013, the primary filing fee was $352.80.
The state primaries were as follows:
- New Jersey:
- June 4, 2013
- June 11, 2013
New Jersey had a quiet election, with all competing incumbents winning their primaries.
There were only three hotly contested races, all in the Senate, but none resulted in the ousting of an incumbent:
- District 13: Incumbent Joe Kyrillos, Jr. defeated challenger Leigh-Ann Bellew.
- District 20: Incumbent Raymond Lesniak defeated challenger Donna Obe.
- District 34: Incumbent Nia H. Gill defeated challengers Mark C. Alexander and Vernon Pullins, Jr..
Virginia's legislative primaries yielded a pair of defeats for incumbent legislators. The defeated incumbents were supporters of a recently passed transportation bill that increases sales and gas taxes to improve roadways. The successful challengers lodged primary challenges in part to protest the bill's passage, which they called the biggest tax increase in the state's history.
- Mark J. Berg defeated Beverly Sherwood in District 29.
- Dave A. LaRock defeated Joe T. May in District 33.
Five incumbents were able to fend off primary challenges in the June 11 primaries:
Rep. Mark Honadel (R) resigned on September 16, 2013, to take a job in the private sector. A special election has been called for November 19, with a primary on October 22 if necessary. Candidates had until September 24 to file certified nomination papers.
- October 22 Democratic Primary:
Rep. Scott Suder (R) resigned on September 2, 2013, to take a job as an administrator with the state Public Service Commission. A special election has been called for November 19, with a primary on October 22 if necessary. Candidates had until September 24 to file certified nomination papers.
- October 22 Democratic Primary:
- Third-party candidates:
- Tim Swiggum (Putting People Ahead of Politics)
Recent election results
October 15, 2013
Florida House of Representatives District 36
Rep. Mike Fasano (R) resigned on August 15, 2013, following his appointment as Pasco County Tax Collector. A special election was called for October 15, with a primary on September 17. The filing period ended on August 27.
- September 17 Democratic Primary:
Alabama House of Representatives District 104
Rep. Jim Barton (R) resigned on August 7, 2013, to work for the Kinney Capitol Group. A special election was called for December 3, but pushed back to January 28, 2014. A primary took place on October 15, with a runoff on December 3.
- October 8 Democratic primary:
Upcoming special elections include:
- October 29: South Carolina House of Representatives District 93
- November 5: Fifteen special elections in various states. List available here.
- November 16: Louisiana House of Representatives District 87
- November 19: California State Assembly District 45 (Runoff)
- November 19: Iowa State Senate District 13
- November 19: Wisconsin State Assembly District 21
- November 19: Wisconsin State Assembly District 69
- November 21: Tennessee House of Representatives District 91
- December 3: Alabama House of Representatives District 74
- December 3: California State Assembly District 54
- State legislative elections, 2013
- 2013 state legislative calendar
- Signature requirements and deadlines for 2013 state government elections
- State legislative special elections, 2013
- State legislative recalls
- “CT Post”, “Possible felonies cited for Rep. Christina Ayala”, Accessed October 17, 2013
- “The CT Mirror”, “SEEC seeks criminal investigation of Rep. Christina Ayala of Bridgeport”, Accessed October 17, 2013
- "The Register Citizen," "Connecticut Democratic Party chairwoman calls on Rep. Christina Ayala to resign amid recent allegations," accessed October 18, 2013
- Tampa Bay Times, Equality Florida wants Rep. Baxley to apologize for statement regarding gay parents, October 11, 2013
- Huffpost Miami, Florida Republican Likens Lesbian Mothers To Drug Abusers, October 11, 2013
- Miami Herald, Equality Florida wants Rep. Baxley to apologize for statement regarding gay parents, October 11, 2013
- Associated Press, "Senate votes to end jobless checks to drug users," October 17, 2013
- MLive, "Michigan Senate OK's plan to cut off benefits for unemployed residents who fail drug tests," October 17, 2013
- Gannett Michigan, "Legislation would stiffen rules for public assistance," October 17, 2013
- Michigan Radio, "Unemployment drug testing bill clears state Senate," October 17, 2013
- Detroit Free Press, "State Senate bills would set tougher rules for people on public assistance," October 17, 2013
- www.jsonline.com, "State Senate votes for property tax cuts in bipartisan fashion," accessed October 17, 2013
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- www.jsonline.com, "Assembly expected to pass Scott Walker's $100 million tax cut bill," accessed October 17, 2013
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- Stateside Associates, " Session Calendar 2013," accessed October 21, 2013
- Stateside Associates, " Session Calendar 2013," accessed October 21, 2013
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- sltrib.com, "Legislators pledge funds for parks, health benefits," October 16, 2013
- fox6now.com, "Governor Walker signs $100 million Property Tax Bill into law," October 20, 2013
- Statenet.com, "Daily Session Summary," accessed October 21, 2013
- New Jersey Department of State, "Petition filing instruction sheet," accessed January 14, 2013
- Virginia State Board of Elections, "Candidacy Requirements for House of Delegates," accessed January 16, 2013
- NJ.com, "Polls close in 2013 N.J. primary elections as votes are tallied," June 4, 2013
- Washington Post, "Voter turnout sparse for down-ticket races in Virginia," June 11, 2013
- CBS DC, "Virginia Primary Results Roll In," June 11, 2013
- Fredericksburg.com, "Howell’s transportation PAC helping candidates," June 7, 2013
- WRIC, "Virginia Primary Round Up," June 11, 2013
- sos.iowa.gov, "State House District 33 - 10/22/2013 Special Election," accessed August 19, 2013
- sos.iowa.gov, "Official candidate list," accessed October 1, 2013
- wrn.com, "Special election called for 21st Assembly District," September 18, 2013
- "Official candidate list," accessed September 25, 2013
- gab.wi.gov, "2013 Assembly District 69 Special Election," accessed September 5, 2013
- "Official candidate list," accessed September 25, 2013
- pascovotes.com, "Special Election 2013, House District 36," accessed August 19, 2013
- election.dos.state.fl.us, "Candidate Listing for 2013 Special Election - House 36," accessed August 27, 2013
- thefloridacurrent.com, "Gunter romps in GOP primary for District 36 special election," September 17, 2013
- timesdaily.com, " Special elections set for Ala. House districts," August 8, 2013
- blog.al.com, "Hightower, Wilcox to face off in GOP primary for state House seat (updated, photos)," October 15, 2013