State Legislative Tracker: Interesting Controversies Creep Up
As of today, 48 states have kicked off 2013 sessions. A number of interesting news stories emerged from state legislatures in the last two weeks covering a wide variety of subjects. Here are some of the events that made state headlines recently:
- Colorado: Joseph Salazar (D) came under fire for comments made on February 15, 2013 during a debate over gun control in the Colorado House of Representatives. He made the following remarks on House Bill 1226: “That’s why we have call boxes, that’s why we have safe zones, that’s why we have whistles, because you just don’t know who you’re going to be shooting at, and you don’t know, if you feel like you’re going to be raped, or if you feel like someone’s been following you around, or if you feel like you’re in trouble, and when you may actually not be, that you pop out that gun and you pop around that somebody." This statement drew severe criticism from across the aisle, with fellow Representative Polly Lawrence (R) claiming on Twitter that “Rep. Salazar says women may not know when they’re being raped. …” Salazar apologized on February 19: "I’m sorry if I offended anyone. That was absolutely not my intention. We were having a public policy debate on whether or not guns makes people safer on campus. I don’t believe they do. That was the point I was trying to make. If anyone thinks I’m not sensitive to the dangers women face, they’re wrong."
- Georgia: On February 13, 2013, Earnest Smith (D) introduced a bill in the Georgia House of Representatives that would make "the electronic imposing of the facial image of a person onto an obscene depiction" illegal and carry a $1,000 fine. The legislation is the result of an incident where one of Smith's critics, Andre Walker of Georgia Unfiltered, photoshopped his head onto the body of a male porn star. Critics of Smith's response say that his proposed legislation is at odds with the First Amendment's free speech protections. Images like this may be considered "parodies," a type of free speech already protected by the First Amendment.
- Missouri: Continuing with news about gun legislation from February 11's State Legislative Tracker, Representative Mike Leara (R) introduced a bill that would make "propos[ing] a piece of legislation that further restricts the right of an individual to bear arms, as set forth under the second amendment of the Constitution of the United States" a Class D Felony. Leara already admits, however, that he does not expect this piece of legislation to pass. Instead, he asserted that he "filed HB 633 as a matter of principle and as a statement in defense of the Second Amendment rights of all Missourians."
- See also: Dates of 2013 state legislative sessions
- Click here to see a chart of each state's 2013 session information.
Currently 47 out of 50 state legislatures are meeting in regular session. One state, California, is meeting in special session concurrent with their regular session. Two states have yet to begin their 2013 sessions. Florida will get under way on March 5, while Louisiana will convene April 8.
The following states have convened their 2013 legislative sessions:
- December 3: California
- December 5: Maine
- January 1: Rhode Island, Pennsylvania
- January 2: Massachusetts, New Hampshire
- January 7: Idaho, Indiana, Montana, Ohio, Wisconsin
- January 8: Delaware, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Wyoming
- January 9: Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia
- February 5: Alabama
| Snapshot of State Legislatures: |
Monday, February 25, 2013
|There are 7,384 Total State Legislators|
|Total Democratic state legislators||3,463 (47%)|
|Total Republican state legislators||3,815 (52%)|
|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||16|
|Total Special Sessions||1|
There is one special session ongoing this week in California. No additional special sessions have been scheduled.
During his State of the State address on January 24, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) called for the Legislature to hold a special session concurrent with the regular session in order to bring the state in compliance with the federal Affordable Care Act. The special session began January 28 and is expected to last for several months.
As of today, February 11, 1 state's session is currently in recess:
|Maps submitted for vote: 138 out of 142 (97.2%)**||No votes on initial maps in the following: ME (2), MT (2)|
|States that have completed Congressional Maps||42/43 (Maps ordered redrawn: TX)|
|States that have completed State Legislative Maps||45/50 (Maps unfinished: ME, MT; Maps ordered redrawn: AK, KY, 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, Kentucky and Texas, however, saw their maps rejected for legal reasons and will have to take up the drawing of maps once again.
Redistricting in Kentucky
- See also: Redistricting in Kentucky
Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo (R) filed a redistricting bill on February 19. The piece of legislation itself has no specific redistricting plans attached to it, but would allow for lawmakers to add a finalized plan later in the session. Stumbo has been taking submissions for redistricting plans and has narrowed it down to ten. Redistricting is a major issue in northern Kentucky, where a population growth of 38 percent in the last decade necessitates more representation. Boone County's current Representative Sal Santoro (R) represents nearly 65,000 people, around 50 percent more than the state law-mandated size of 43,000.
Redistricting in New Mexico
- See also: Redistricting in New Mexico
On February 22, 2013, Senator Bill O'Neill (D) proposed Senate Joint Resolution 4, a constitutional amendment that would create an independent redistricting committee to draw new maps every ten years. This would eliminate the legislature and the governor's veto power from the redistricting process. To create the committee, the state board that nominates appeals judges would select a pool of twenty qualified candidates. The majority and minority leaders of the House and Senate would then appoint four of the members of the redistricting board. The fifth member, by default the chairperson of the committee, would be chosen by the four appointees. The legislation has other stipulation, such as not allowing more than two members of any political party to be on the board at once, along with the exclusion of recent elected officials, lobbyists, campaign officials, and political consultants.
- 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 are 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 is $352.80.
The state primaries are as follows:
- New Jersey:
- June 4, 2013
- June 11, 2013
Yvonne Kennedy (D) died on December 8, 2012. Gov. Robert Bentley (R) scheduled a special election to fill the vacancy, with a primary on February 26, 2013. However, since no Republican candidates filed, the primary becomes the general election.
- Democratic candidates:
Alice Harden (D) died on December 6, 2012. A special election to fill her District 28 seat in the Mississippi State Senate took place on February 5, 2013. Candidates had until January 7 to file. special elections in Mississippi are nonpartisan. As no candidate took over 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote-getters - Marshand Crisler and Sollie B. Norwood - will meet in a runoff on February 26.
- General Election Candidates:
February 19, 2013
New Hampshire House of Representatives Hillsborough District 31 Rep-elect Stacie Laughton (D), the state's first openly transgendered lawmaker, resigned her seat after it came out that she committed several felonies under the name of Barry Charles Laughton Jr. A special election to fill the seat will take place on February 19, 2013. Candidates had until December 28, 2012 to file.
Laughton attempted to run in the special election, but was disqualified on January 2, 2013. As this left one Democrat (Pam Brown) and one Republican (Elizabeth Van Twuyver) in the running, the general election was moved up from April 9 to February 19, which Brown won.
Upcoming special elections include:
- February 26: Alabama House of Representatives District 97
- February 26: Mississippi State Senate District 28 (runoff)
- March 2: Louisiana House of Representatives Districts 65 and 79
- March 5: Georgia House of Representatives Districts 71 (runoff)
- March 12: Alabama State Senate District 35 (runoff)
- March 12: California State Senate Districts 32 and 40
- March 12: Mississippi House of Representatives District 36
- March 12: South Carolina House of Representatives District 17
- March 16: New Hampshire House of Representatives Hillsborough 9
- 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
- Denver Post, "Colorado lawmaker Joe Salazar issues apology over rape remark," February 19, 2013
- Washington Times, "Colorado state Rep. Joe Salazar's comments on rape and guns draw backlash," February 19, 2013
- LegiScan, "Georgia House Bill 39," February 5, 2013
- Ars Technica, "Georgia bill would ban photoshopping legislator’s head on porn star’s body," February 13, 2013
- Fox News, "Georgia pol wants to make lewd photoshopping a crime after being mocked in porn star pic," February 13, 2013
- Talking Points Memo, "Missouri Republican Wants To Make It A Felony For His Fellow Lawmakers To Propose Gun Laws," February 19, 2013
- Stateside Associates, " Session Calendar 2013," accessed February 11, 2013
- Los Angeles Times, "Gov. Jerry Brown calls for special session of Legislature on healthcare," January 24, 2013
- Sacramento Business Journal, " Healthcare reform special session starts," January 28, 2013
- State Scape, "Session schedules," accessed February 25, 2013
- NKY.com, "Redistricting moves along slowly but remains a priority," February 20, 2013
- Las Cruces Sun-News, "Senate resolution would take redistricting out of lawmakers' hands," February 22, 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
- AL.com, "Gov. Bentley sets special election for House District 97 seat," December 18, 2012
- Alabama Secretary of State, " Certification of candidates for District 97," accessed January 17, 2013
- Clarion Ledger, "State Sen. Alice Harden dies at 64," December 6, 2012
- Clarion Ledger, "Bryant sets Senate 28 special election," December 18, 2012
- Mississippi Secretary of State, " 2013 candidate qualifying list," accessed January 11, 2013
- Fox 10tv.com, "Runoff scheduled in Senate District 28," February 6, 2013
- Boston.com, " Special election requested to replace lawmaker," December 19, 2012
- New Hampshire Secretary of State, " Special Election," accessed December 21, 2012
- Nashua Patch, "Laughton Told She's Not Eligible, Drops Out of Special Election," January 2, 2013. accessed January 2, 2013