State Legislative Tracker: Florida house gets new Minority Leader
Last week, no state ended its legislative session. Here is a brief look at issues making headlines across the country:
- Florida: Following months of intra-party debate, Rep. Mark Pafford emerged this week as the minority leader of the Florida House of Representatives. Pafford beat out Rep. Alan Williams, the current Minority Whip, in a 29-12 vote on Wednesday to win the Democratic House Leader post formerly held by Rep. Darryl Rouson. The Democratic caucus voted to replace Rouson earlier in the week after the 57-year-old failed to inform party leaders of the creation of a fundraising committee that only he could control. Two staff members were fired as a result of the incident. Moving into the 2014 election cycle, House Democrats are hoping that Pafford will be up to the job of unifying the divided caucus in order to cut into the Republican majority. With 75 members, the Republican caucus outnumbers the 44-member House Democratic caucus.
- Massachusetts: Last week the Massachusetts House and Senate voted to repeal a new technology tax that had been in place for less than two months. The Massachusetts State Senate voted unanimously to repeal the tax and the House voted 156 to 1 to repeal the tech tax. The tax was repealed in response to complaints by business owners who said that the tax was too expensive and too confusing to understand. The tech tax applied the state's 6.25 percent sales tax to computer and software services. The tax was expected to raise about $160 million dollars a year in revenue which would have been applied to fund statewide transportation projects. Sen Stephen Brewer (D), Chief of the Ways and Means Committee, hopes to make up for the lost revenue by dipping into the state's surplus of last year, which exceeded $600 million dollars. The tech tax was voted into law on July 24th as part of an $800 million transportation finance bill that the Massachusetts Legislature passed by overriding Governor Deval Patrick's (D) veto. Senate President Therese Murray (D) said on the tech repeal that, "Through ongoing conversations with industry experts, it became clear that this sales tax was having an unanticipated negative effect on our technology industry." The legislation will now head to Governor Deval Patrick for his signature. The governor has supported the legislature's repeal efforts, but has not outright stated that he would sign the repeal bill.
- Nevada: The minority leader of the Nevada Assembly drew outrage from both parties last week after suggesting that Republicans stand to benefit from a lower turnout of youth and minority voters next year. During a Tuesday appearance on The Dan Mason Show on Reno radio station KKOH, Pat Hickey (R) commented that 2014 would be "a great year for Republicans" because "a lot of minorities, a lot of younger people will not turn out in a nonpresidential year." Democrats were quick to capitalize on Hickey's comments as indicative of an intent on voter suppression. State party spokesman Zach Hudson replied, "[Republicans] want to make it harder to vote but make it easier for people to obtain a deadly weapon," and chairwoman Roberta Lange submitted a fundraising email accusing Hickey of "cheerfulness at the prospect of minorities and young voters not voting." Republican leaders, including Gov. Brian Sandoval, U.S. Senator Dean Heller and State Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, issued similar statements in disapproval of Hickey's comments. The following day, Hickey told The Huffington Post that he was merely noting a historical trend of "lower turnout models" in years without a presidential election, and cited his support of bills regarding comprehensive immigration reform and driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants, as well as Sandoval, the first Hispanic governor in state history. Hickey ultimately apologized on Thursday, saying that he did not intend "to alienate anyone," but "[misspoke], plain and simple." He then appeared on the television program Ralston Reports, explaining that his Asian wife is "yellow," and his four children are of "olive" complexion. The host of the program, Jon Ralston, later wrote in defense of Hickey, calling Hickey's comments "just foolish" rather than racist.
- South Dakota: The director of South Dakota's Legislative Research Council (LRC), which provides legislators with information and analysis, resigned ahead of an audit report concerning the LRC and its relationship with legislators. James Fry had tendered his resignation and was asked to leave by the LRC's Executive Board the morning of the audit report's release. The report, which was completed by staff from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), highlighted the lack of trust between legislative leaders and the LRC staff. The Republican legislative leadership had recently complained that LRC staff would not come to Republican legislative caucuses to provide analysis. Fry, who was the LRC's director for 13 years and a state employee for 38 years in total, considered having LRC staffers attend closed-door party caucus meetings a breach of the LRC's requirements to be nonpartisan. The NCSL report recommended that the LRC hire additional staff to improve analytical quality, that the LRC Executive Board or a majority vote in both chambers of the legislature be able to remove a director, and that the chairman of the Executive Board be a rotating position filled by the House Speaker and the Senate President Pro Tempore. Fry said that the Republican leadership envisioned "a Legislative Research Council that I don’t see, that I can’t see." House Majority Whip Charles Hoffman (R) noted that legislators want LRC staff to "give advice about the process, policy and sometimes politics." Fry contended that having LRC staff working closely with legislators would be "a very slippery slope" in terms of preserving the LRC's nonpartisan mission, especially in Republican-dominated South Dakota. Senator Larry Lucas (D) said that he believed Fry had been pushed out. Observers noted that the relationship between the LRC and state legislators had strained partially because of higher legislator turnover resulting from term limits.
- 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: |
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
|There are 7,387 Total State Legislators|
|Total Democratic state legislators||3,442 (46.6%)|
|Total Republican state legislators||3,820 (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||53|
|Total Special Sessions||17|
On September 30, 2013, the Oregon legislature will hold a one-day special session to consider an education funding package. Both caucuses expressed support for the legislative framework, but neither were confident of having enough votes to actually pass the laws. Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) said he is optimistic that a "real" special session, rather than just unofficial talks with party leaders, will help produce the votes needed to support the legislation.
As of today, September 30, 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:
There is one special election scheduled for this week in South Carolina.
Sen. Robert Ford (D) resigned on May 31, 2013 amidst an ethics investigation. A special election has been called for October 1, with a primary on August 13. The filing period for candidates ran from June 21 to July 1.
Recent election results
September 24, 2013
California State Assembly District 52
Rep. Norma Torres (D) won election to the California State Senate on May 14, 2013. A special election has been called for July 23, with a runoff if necessary on September 24. Candidates had until May 31 to file certified nomination papers with the Secretary of State.
- July 23 blanket primary candidates:
- Paul Vincent Avila
- Tom Haughey
- Freddie Rodriguez
- Jason Rothman
- Manuel Saucedo
- Danielle Soto
- Doris Louise Wallace
- Dorothy Pineda
- Paul Leon
Upcoming special elections include:
- October 1: South Carolina State Senate District 42
- October 15: Florida House of Representatives District 36
- October 22: Iowa House of Representatives District 33
- October 29: South Carolina House of Representatives District 93
- November 5: Fifteen special elections in various states. List available here.
- 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
- “Miami Herald”, “House Democrats dump Darryl Rouson as next leader”, Accessed September 27, 2013
- “Tampa Bay Times”, “Race to replace Rouson gets complcated for Democrats”, Accessed September 27, 2013
- “Tampa Bay Times”, “Hoping to leave squabbles behind, House Dems pick Pafford as minority leader”, Accessed September 27, 2013
- “Sunshine State News”, “Mark Pafford could haunt House Democrats in 2014”, Accessed September 27, 2013
- www.wwlp.com, "Senate repeals unpopular tech tax," accessed September 26, 2013
- www.crn.com, "A Victory For Tech: Mass. Legislature Votes to Repeal Tech Tax," accessed September 26, 2013
- www.seattlepi.com, "Mass. Senate joins House to repeal new 'tech tax'," accessed September 26, 2013
- bostonglobe.com, "Senate votes to abolish tech tax'," accessed September 26, 2013
- Associated Press, "Sandoval, Heller distance selves from Reno assemblyman Hickey," September 26, 2013
- Reno Gazette-Journal, "One of Reno's top Republicans tries to fix things after Democrats accuse him of trying to suppress youth, minority voters," September 25, 2013
- The Huffington Post, "Pat Hickey, Nevada Legislator, Explains Minority Voting Comments," September 25, 2013
- The Washington Post, "Nevada GOP leader: 2014 a good year for GOP because minorities won’t vote," September 25, 2013
- Opposing Views, "Republican Nevada Assembly Member Pat Hickey Claims 2014 Will Be "Great Year" For GOP Because Minorities Wont Vote," September 25, 2013
- Argus Leader, "Legislature research leader resigns," September 26, 2013
- Aberdeen News, "Legislature aims to improve staff processes," September 25, 2013
- Yankton Daily Press and Dakotan, "Head of SD Legislative Research Council resigns," September 26, 2013
- KELO, "Longtime LRC Director Resigns," September 26, 2013
- South Dakota Public Broadcasting, "Report Details Legislative Issues," September 26, 2013
- Pure Pierre Politics, "LRC: 'Clean-up on floor three'," September 26, 2013
- Stateside Associates, " Session Calendar 2013," accessed September 30, 2013
- Stateside Associates, " Session Calendar 2013," accessed September 30, 2013
- statesmanjournal.com, "Kitzhaber will call special session on Sept. 30," September 19, 2013
- Statenet.com, "Daily Session Summary," accessed September 30, 2013 (dead link)
- New Jersey Department of State, "Petition filing instruction sheet," accessed January 14, 2013 (dead link)
- 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
- scnow.com, "Special election set for former Sen. Ford's seat," June 5, 2013
- scvotes.org, "State Senate District 42 Special Election," accessed July 2, 2013
- live5news.com, "Marlon Kimpson wins District 42 Senate runoff," August 27, 2013
- dailybulletin.com, "Gov. Brown announces special election to fill 52nd District," May 21, 2013
- dailybulletin.com, "Nine candidates seek to replace Torres in Assembly," June 2, 2013
- latimes.com, "Republican Andy Vidak leading in Central Valley state Senate vote," July 24, 2013
- blog.pe.com, "52ND ASSEMBLY DISTRICT: Rodriguez wins special election," September 25, 2013