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State Legislative Tracker: Lawmakers continue contentious debate over gun laws

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February 11, 2013

Edited by Greg Janetka
This week's tracker features a partisan count update and looks at recent action on gun laws.

Weekly highlight

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As of today, 47 states have kicked off 2013 sessions. West Virginia's legislature returns on the 13th after a month of recess. The January 21 edition of the Tracker took a look at the status of gun-control measures around the country, here's an update on recent action:

  • New Mexico: Although New Mexico has long been a Democratic stronghold, particularly in the state legislature, it has comparatively loose gun control laws. Pat Davis, leader of a liberal group seeking tighter gun control laws in the state, went so far as to say " The N.R.A. has always been the only game in town." Times could be changing, however, as Democratic Rep. Miguel Garcia introduced a bill in January requiring background checks for both gun shop and private sales, which are currently unregulated. Should this bill and others like it down the line pass, New Mexico may find itself removed from the list of states where it is legal to carry a weapon in the Capitol.[1]
  • Oklahoma: Following the formation of a school safety commission following the Sandy Hook Massacre, Oklahoma state legislators are considering a bill that would allow for armed teachers and more guns on campus. A House committee has already passed a law allowing teachers with law enforcement training to carry weapons on school property, and several other bills are being considered that would allow handgun license holders to bring guns on campus. On the other hand, the commission is creating its own set of recommendations for school safety regulations that do not include provisions for more guns. It will be interesting to see if the commission's findings will prevent the strong pro-gun legislative considerations from passing.[2]
  • Washington: A new universal background check bill has shockingly picked up bi-partisan support from the Washington Legislature. Although laws currently require background checks for gun shop sales, it would expand the requirement to sales between private parties as well. A bill once thought to have no chance by the gun-control group Washington Ceasefire now has the support of Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom and other Senate Republicans.[3]

As of today, February 11, 2013, the following figures represent the cumulative partisan breakdown of the 50 state senates and 49 state houses. In the 50 states, Republicans currently control 52% of all seats while Democrats hold 47%. All told, Republicans control 57 chambers while Democrats are the majority in 40 chambers. Two chambers are tied, while one is nonpartisan.

Representation in 50 State Legislatures
Party Number of Percentage
Democratic state legislators 3,474 47%
Republican state legislators 3,836 52%
Independent state legislators 64 0.86%
Third party (and non-voting) legislators 9 0.12%
Vacancies 32 0.43%

State Senates

The partisan composition of state senates refers to which political party holds the majority of seats in the state senate. Altogether, in the 50 state senates, there are 1,971 state senators.

As of February 11, 2013, the breakdown of chamber control by party is as follows:

See also: Partisan composition of state houses

Cumulative numbers

As of February 11, 2013, 1,908 state senators are affiliated with either the Republican or Democratic parties.

Party Number of Percentage
Democratic state senators 882 44.7%
Republican state senators 1,026 52.1%
Nonpartisan state senators 49 2.49%
Independent state senators 4 0.2%
Third Party state senators 2 0.1%
Vacancies 10 0.50%


There are 10 state senate vacancies in 8 states as of February 11, 2013.

State Vacancies
Alabama 1
California 2
Georgia 1
Massachusetts 1
Michigan 1
Mississippi 1
Nevada 2


There are 6 state senators in 5 states identifying as independents or parties other than Democratic and Representative as of February 11, 2013. They are as follows:

State Independents/Third Party
Alabama 1 (Independent)
Kentucky 1 (Independent)
Maine 1 (Independent)
Rhode Island 1 (Independent)
Vermont 2 (Vermont Progressive Party)

State Houses

The partisan composition of state houses refers to which party holds the majority of seats in the state house or the lower level of each state legislature. Altogether, in the 49 state houses, there are 5,413 state representatives.

As of February 11, 2013, the breakdown of chamber control by party is as follows:

  • Democratic Party 20 chambers
  • Republican Party 29 chambers

Cumulative numbers

As of February 11, 2013, 5,402 state representatives are affiliated with either the Republican or Democratic parties.

Party Number of Percentage
Democratic state representatives 2,592 47.9%
Republican state representatives 2,810 51.9%
Independent state representatives 11 0.20%
Third party (and non-voting) representatives 7 0.13%
Vacancies 22 0.40%


There are 21 state house vacancies in 12 different states as of February 11, 2013. They are as follows:

State Vacancies
Alabama 2
Georgia 2
Kentucky 1
Massachusetts 2
Minnesota 2
Mississippi 1
Missouri 2
New Hampshire 2
Oklahoma 2
Pennsylvania 3
Vermont 1
Wisconsin 1


There are 21 state representatives in 8 states identifying as independents or parties other than Democratic and Representative as of February 11, 2013. They are as follows:

State Independents/Third Party
Arizona 1 (Independent)
Arkansas 1 (Green)
Georgia 1 (Independent)
Louisiana 2 (Independent)
Maine 6 (2 non-voting Native American representatives, 4 Independent)
Tennessee 1 (Carter County Republican)
Vermont 8 (4 Vermont Progressive Party, 4 Independent)
Virginia 1 (Independent)

Regular sessions

Current sessions capture for the week of February 11, 2013
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:[4]

Special sessions

Snapshot of State Legislatures:
Monday, February 11, 2013
There are 7,383 Total State Legislators
Total Democratic state legislators 3,474 (47%)
Total Republican state legislators 3,836 (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 12
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.[5][6]

In recess

As of today, February 11, 1 state's session is currently in recess:

Redistricting Roundup.jpg

State news

Redistricting Facts
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)
See also: Status of redistricting maps after the 2010 census

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 Alaska

See also: Redistricting in Alaska

The Alaska Redistricting Board is expected to meet tomorrow to address the recent order by the Alaska Supreme Court that the state's redistricting plan be redrawn for the 2014 elections. The court ruled that the redistricting board did not follow the process as was instructed by the court.[8]

Early in January 2013, the Alaska Redistricting Board filed a petition with the state Supreme Court, asking them to reconsider their decision. According to attorneys for the board, the court overlooked or misunderstood important facts in the case and also violated the separation of powers doctrine.[9]

Redistricting in Arizona

See also: Redistricting in Arizona

Wasting no time, the Arizona Republican Party announced the formation of a committee of “experts and stakeholders" on February 5 to prepare for the next round of redistricting, which will take place in 2022. State GOP Chairman Robert Graham explained, “Arizona’s political landscape today reflects a flawed process where election districts were drawn up based on a one-sided political agenda and too much secrecy, and I’m taking action now to make sure that doesn’t happen again."[10]

Redistricting in Virginia

See also: Redistricting in Virginia

And just like that, the redistricting drama in Virginia is over. On February 6, Speaker of the House William Howell (R) ruled a new plan for state Senate districts was "not germane" to the original House of Delegates measure that it was attached to, effectively killing the measure. While many on both sides of the aisle were happy with the move, Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R) was not among them. Norment vowed that the new map passed in his chamber would be the one used in the 2015 state Senate elections. He did not, however, explain how Republicans would accomplish this.[11]

Republicans in the Virginia State Senate passed a new redistricting map on January 18 on a 20-19 party-line vote. The measure, which Democrats tried to get referred to committee, did not go through the normal process and was passed in about 30 minutes. Onlookers, including the governor and lt. governor, were surprised to see an entirely revamped map passed by the senate. With the senate tied 20-20, the lt. governor serves as the tie-breaking vote but he did not have that chance as Republicans chose to act on the day that Democratic Sen. Henry L. Marsh was in Washington attending the inauguration of President Barack Obama.[12]

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:

Louisiana and Mississippi also typically hold elections in odd years. However, legislators are elected to 4-year terms in those states and those will not be up for election again until 2015.

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

See also: Signature requirements and deadlines for 2013 state legislative elections

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.[13]

  • Virginia:
  • 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.[14]


The state primaries are as follows:

  • New Jersey:
  • June 4, 2013
  • Virginia:
  • June 11, 2013
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See also: State legislative special elections, 2013

There are three special elections taking place this week - one in Kentucky and two in Minnesota.

Kentucky House of Representatives District 52

Sara Beth Gregory (R) won election to the Kentucky State Senate in a special election in December 2012. A few weeks earlier she won re-election to the Kentucky House of Representatives on November 6, 2012. A special election will be held on February 12, 2013 to fill the vacant District 52 House seat.[15][16]

Republican Party Republican Candidates:
Democratic Party Democratic candidates:

Minnesota House of Representatives District 14A

Steve Gottwalt (R) resigned his District 14A House seat, which he won re-election to on November 6, 2012, on January 7, 2013. A special election will be held on February 12 to fill the vacancy. While three Republicans had initially filed, Tama Theis won the nod at a GOP convention and the other candidate dropped out. Thus, with only one candidate from each party, a primary did not take place.[17] Gottwalt resigned to take a job as director of state legislative policy for an imaging-scan provider firm.[18][19]

Republican Party Republican Candidates:
  • Tama Theis Endorsed by GOP at convention
  • John Severson
  • Scott MacHardy
Democratic Party Democratic candidates:
Independence Party of America Independence Party candidates:

Minnesota House of Representatives District 19A

Terry Morrow (D) announced that he would be resigning his seat, which he won re-election to on November 6, 2012, on January 7, 2013. A special election will be held on February 12 to fill the vacancy. A Democratic primary was held on January 29. While two Republicans were running, Allen Quist was chosen by a GOP convention and Jim Golgart suspended his campaign, leaving Quist without a primary opponent.[17][20][21] On the Democratic side, Clark Johnson was endorsed by the party convention, but due to the late timing of the convention, all four candidates were in the primary on January 29, which Johnson won.[22][23]

Republican Party Republican Candidates:
Democratic Party Democratic candidates:
Independence Party of America Independence Party candidates:
General election candidates:
Republican Party Allen Quist
Democratic Party Clark Johnson
Independence Party of America Tim Gieseke

Recent results

February 5, 2013

RunoffArrow.jpg Georgia House of Representatives District 71
Robert Stokely (R) won election to Georgia House of Representatives District 71 on November 6, 2012. However, on December 14, he stated he would not be accepting the position in order to serve as a Coweta County Magistrate Judge instead. A special election to fill the seat was held February 5. Candidates had until January 9 to qualify. As no candidate won 50 percent of the vote, the top two-vote-getters - Thomas G. Crymes and David J. Stover - will face off in a runoff on March 5.[25][26][27]

CheckedBoxOffset.jpgRunoffArrow.jpg Georgia State Senate District 11
John Bulloch (R) resigned his District 11 seat in the Georgia State Senate on December 6, 2012. While he did not initially provide a reason, Bulloch had been hospitalized with meningitis the previous October. Bulloch was re-elected on November 6, 2012 unopposed. The election took place on January 8, 2013.[28][29] As no candidate won more than 51 percent in the election, the top two vote-getters, Burke and Keown, headed to a runoff on February 5, which Burke won.[30][31]

CheckedBoxOffset.jpgRunoffArrow.jpg Georgia House of Representatives District 21
State Rep. Sean Jerguson (R) ran for the District 21 state senate seat left vacant when Chip Rogers (R) resigned in December 2012. Once his candidacy was certified, Jerguson had to resign his seat in the House in order to run for the senate. A special election for Jerguson's seat took place on January 8, 2013.[32][33][34] As no candidate took more than 51 percent of the vote, a runoff between the top two vote-getters, Laurens and Turner, took place on February 5, which Turner won.[35][31]

RunoffArrow.jpg Mississippi State Senate District 28
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.[36][37][38][39]

Looking ahead

Upcoming special elections include:

  • February 12: Kentucky House of Representatives District 52
  • February 12: Minnesota House of Representatives Districts 14A and 19A
  • February 19: New Hampshire House of Representatives Hillsborough District 31
  • 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

See also


  1. New York Times, "New Mexico Inches Toward Stricter Gun Controls," February 10, 2013
  2. Enid News, "Arming teachers: State legislators moving ahead with bills to put guns in schools," February 9, 2013 (dead link)
  3. The Olympian, "State lawmakers show support for gun measure," February 11, 2013
  4. Stateside Associates, " Session Calendar 2013," accessed February 11, 2013
  5. Los Angeles Times, "Gov. Jerry Brown calls for special session of Legislature on healthcare," January 24, 2013
  6. Sacramento Business Journal, " Healthcare reform special session starts," January 28, 2013
  7. State Scape, "Session schedules," accessed February 11, 2013
  8. Anchorage Daily News, "Alaska Redistricting Board to meet," February 5, 2013
  9. Alaska Dispatch, "Alaska Redistricting Board asks state Supreme Court to reconsider ruling," January 10, 2013
  10. Roll Call, "Arizona: State GOP Prepares for Redistricting — in 2022," February 5, 2013
  11. Virginia Gazette, "House speaker kills Senate redistricting plan," February 8, 2013
  12. Washington Post, "Va. Republicans push re-drawn district map through Senate," January 21, 2013
  13. New Jersey Department of State, "Petition filing instruction sheet," accessed January 14, 2013 (dead link)
  14. Virginia State Board of Elections, "Candidacy Requirements for House of Delegates," accessed January 16, 2013
  15., "Beshear sets Feb. 12 election for vacant House seat in southern Kentucky," January 7, 2013
  16. McCreary Record, "Upchurch runs to regain House seat," January 16, 2013
  17. 17.0 17.1 CBS Minnesota, "Dayton Sets February Special Elections For House," January 8, 2013
  18. SCTimes, "3 Republicans declare run for House 14A seat," January 7, 2013
  19. SC Times, "Independence candidate files for seat," January 15, 2013
  20. The Journal, "Mankato teacher, union leader to run for Morrow seat in House," December 27, 2012
  21. The Journal, "Clark Johnson, Jim Golgart enter 19A race," January 4, 2013
  22. Minnesota Post, "DFLers endorse candidates for special elections in House Districts 14A, 19A," January 21, 2013
  23. St. Peter Herald, "Johnson wins House District 19A special primary election," January 29, 2013
  24. Minnesota Post, "Allen Quist gets GOP endorsement for special election in House 19A," January 11, 2013
  25. The Citizen, "Stokely turns down House seat for local appointment," December 23, 2012
  27. Times Herald, "State Representative Special Election: Stover, Crymes set for runoff," February 6, 2013
  28. Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Senator from southwest Georgia to step down," December 6, 2012
  29. Albany Herald, "Two officially qualify for special election to fill Bulloch's seat," December 10, 2012
  30. Moultrie Observer, "Burke, Keown in Senate runoff," January 8, 2013 (dead link)
  31. 31.0 31.1 GPB, "Republicans Win Special Elections," February 6, 2013
  32. Cherokee Ledger News, "Sean Jerguson to run for State Senate 21 seat," December 5, 2012
  33. Cherokee Ledger News, "Special Senate and House elections set," December 6, 2012
  34. Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Qualifying ends for open legislative seats, including Rogers’," December 12, 2012
  35. Canton-Sixes Patch, "Unofficial Vote Count Complete, Runoff Looms for House Race ," January 8, 2013
  36. Clarion Ledger, "State Sen. Alice Harden dies at 64," December 6, 2012
  37. Clarion Ledger, "Bryant sets Senate 28 special election," December 18, 2012
  38. Mississippi Secretary of State, " 2013 candidate qualifying list," accessed January 11, 2013
  39. Fox, "Runoff scheduled in Senate District 28," February 6, 2013 (dead link)