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State Legislative Tracker: Lobbyist food and drink causes concern in Washington

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July 29, 2013

Edited by Joel Williams
This week’s tracker includes a look at an ethics investigation in Washington over lobbyist-supplied food and drink.

Weekly highlight

Last week, North Carolina ended its legislative session. Here is a brief look at issues making headlines across the country:

  • Massachusetts: After striking down a proposed amendment by Gov. Deval Patrick (D) to increase the state gasoline tax to account for the loss of toll road revenues, the Massachusetts state legislature overrode Patrick's veto of the transportation finance bill it was meant to accompany. Patrick vetoed the bill after the legislature denied his request to add an automatic 3-cent increase to the gasoline tax in the event that tolls on a section of the Massachusetts Turnpike expire in 2017. Last Wednesday, the house voted 123-33 to overturn the veto, with the Senate voting 35-5. The votes were mostly along party lines with all 30 House Republicans voting to sustain the veto. Tax increases, including a 3-cent per gallon increase in the gasoline tax and a $1 per pack increase in the cigarette tax, are due to take effect this week. Also, computer software and services companies are now subject to the state sales tax of 6.25 percent. House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D) said the fate of the tolls is still in question, but that he did not expect them to change. Despite his veto, Patrick called the legislation a "good bill," leading Transportation Committee co-chair William Straus (D) to note that most bills could be better, and that it was no argument to send the transportation bill back. House Republicans decried the bill, with Viriato deMacedo and Marc Lombardo arguing that the software sales tax would make the state less attractive to the tech industry, and George Peterson voicing skepticism over the amount of revenue to be brought in; and Minority Leader Brad Jones predicting that higher taxes on increasing gas prices will have a negative effect at the polls in 2014. The legislation is expected to introduce $500 million in new taxes for use in expanding and revitalizing the state's transit network, as well as closing the budget deficit at the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority.[1][2][3]
  • North Carolina: The North Carolina Senate and House approved House Bill 937, which changes existing laws for concealed weapon permit holders. The Senate gave final approval on the bill with a vote of 37 to 11. The Republican-backed bill will allow concealed permit holders to bring handguns into bars and restaurants where alcohol is sold. The bill also allows permit holders to have guns at parades, greenways, playgrounds, public recreation areas, and stored in their locked cars on public school and university campuses. The approved bill kept in a provision, which Republicans were trying to repeal, that makes background checks and permits issued by the sheriffs departments mandatory for handgun purchases. There are differing opinions on the new gun law. Sheriff Bill Schatzman of Forsyth County agrees with the new bill, saying that "I believe in the Second Amendment, and these will be law-abiding citizens who will comply with this law." Mayor Allen Joines of Winston-Salem does not believe that guns and alcohol mix well. According to the new law, bar and restaurant owners have the option to deny permit holders entry, but as one owner has said, .".. I don't think we're going to (forbid guns) because there's something about having a big gun or a sticker on your door that has an x through it." Business owners may be wary about mixing guns with alcohol, but most owners will allow permit holders into their businesses because they cannot afford to alienate them. The next step for this bill is for Governor Pat McCrory (R) to sign it into law.[4][5][6][7]
  • Washington: The Washington Legislative Ethics Board has begun collecting data on five state senators who have accepted a substantial amount of food and drink paid for by lobbyists. The lawmakers allegedly continued to accept per diem payments of taxpayer dollars on nights that their meals were being paid for by lobbyists, according to reports. Lawmakers may not accept gifts from lobbyists, according to Washington state law, but may accept free food and drink related to their official duties as long as those free items are provided on an "infrequent" basis. An investigation by the NW News Network of public radio stations and The Associated Press has revealed that the 50 most active lobbyists paid for approximately $65,000 worth of food and drink for legislators in the first four months of 2013. The investigation produced a list of legislators who were the most egregious free-meal consumers. The top five individuals on that list, Republican Senators Doug Ericksen, Joe Fain, Mike Hewitt, Steve Litzow, and Mark Schoesler, are the focus of this ethics probe, prompted by a complaint from a Seattle salesman. Some legislators, including State Speaker of the House Frank Chopp (D), were surprised to find themselves on the longer list compiled by the media investigation, and the staff of State Senate Majority Floor Leader Joe Fain (R) noted that some of the events Fain was counted as attending were group events where he may not have even consumed any food.[8][9][10][11][12]
  • Wyoming: Senate Majority Leader Phil Nicholas (R) has come under scrutiny for a $4 million appropriation he supported for a charter school in Laramie. The school in question is the Snowy Range Academy, a client of Nicholas' law firm, which was given the money for a building. Wyoming statutes do not currently lay out a path for charter schools to acquire funding from the state, which has rarely been an issue since there are less than five in the state. The accusations stem from Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill (R), who claims that Nicholas' inclusion of the appropriation while he was Co-Chair of the Joint Appropriations Committee was a conflict of interest. Nicholas argues that Hill has "bad facts," and that he was in fact not co-chair of the committee when the bill was passed, though Hill claims the planning process began much earlier even if the bill was only passed in 2013. Critics also point out that a representative from the academy was present in an executive budget meeting with Gov. Matt Mead (R) and select legislators, which are closed to the public. Mead himself responded to that point, saying that "the commission needs to exercise more caution when it goes into executive session." It is not clear at this time whether an official investigation will occur.[13][14][15]
[edit]

Regular sessions

Current sessions capture for the week of July 29, 2013
See also: Dates of 2013 state legislative sessions
Click here to see a chart of each state's 2013 session information.

Currently 3 out of 50 state legislatures are meeting in regular session. One state, Texas, is meeting in special session.

As of April 8, all states states have convened their 2013 legislative sessions.[16]

The following states have ended their regular session:[17]

Special sessions

Snapshot of State Legislatures:
Saturday, April 19, 2014
There are 7,383 Total State Legislators
Total Democratic state legislators 3,439 (46.6%)
Total Republican state legislators 3,833 (51.9%)
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 44
Total Special Sessions 10

There is one special session ongoing this week in Texas. The West Virginia State Legislature held a one-day special session on April 17 to finish remaining business from the regular session.[18] The Mississippi State Legislature held a one-day special session on April 26 to approve incentives for a foreign tire maker to open a plant in the state.[19] The Arizona State Legislature held a brief special session this week concurrently with the end of their regular session, primarily to pass a budget that included Medicaid expansion.[20][21] Mississippi held a two-day special session to approve Medicaid funding and reauthorization.[22] Utah held a one-day special session to consider technical legislation related to the investigation of Utah Attorney General John Swallow (R).[23]

Texas

Governor Rick Perry (R) called the legislature back into special session to work on an abortion bill after Sen. Wendy Davis (D) led an 11-hour filibuster to prevent its passing in time for the close of the first special session. Also affected by the filibuster and expected to be discussed are bills relating to transportation and juvenile justice.[24]

In recess

As of today, July 22, there are 6 state legislatures currently in recess:[25]

Redistricting Roundup.jpg

State news

Redistricting Facts
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 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.












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 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.[26]

  • 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 was $352.80.[27]

Primaries

The state primaries were as follows:

  • New Jersey:
  • June 4, 2013
  • Virginia:
  • June 11, 2013

Results

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:[28]

Republican PartyDistrict 13: Incumbent Joe Kyrillos, Jr. defeated challenger Leigh-Ann Bellew.
Democratic PartyDistrict 20: Incumbent Raymond Lesniak defeated challenger Donna Obe.
Democratic PartyDistrict 34: Incumbent Nia H. Gill defeated challengers Mark C. Alexander and Vernon Pullins, Jr..

Virginia experienced two upsets in an otherwise quiet day of primaries for the House of Delegates. Voter turnout was expected to fall below 5 percent based on projections at polling locations.[29]

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.[30][31] 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.[32]

Republican Party Mark J. Berg defeated Beverly Sherwood in District 29.
Republican Party Dave A. LaRock defeated Joe T. May in District 33.

Five incumbents were able to fend off primary challenges in Tuesday's primaries:

Republican Party C. Todd Gilbert defeated Mark W. Prince in District 15.
Republican Party Bill Howell defeated Craig E. Ennis in District 28.
Republican Party Bobby Orrock defeated Dustin R. Curtis in District 54.
Democratic Party Roz Dance defeated Evandra D. Thompson in District 63.
Democratic Party Algie Howell defeated Richard James in District 90.

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See also: State legislative special elections, 2013

There are no special elections scheduled for this week. The next one will take place on August 6.

Recent results

July 23, 2013

CheckedBoxOffset.jpg RunoffArrow.jpg California State Senate District 16
Michael J. Rubio (D) resigned his seat on February 22, 2013, to take a job with Chevron. A special election was called for May 21, 2013. While Andy Vidak appeared to be the outright winner in the initial vote tally, after absentee ballots were counted he fell below the 50 percent threshold. A runoff election between the top two vote-getters - Leticia Perez and Andy Vidak - took place on July 23, which Vidak won. Although the district boundaries changed due to redistricting, because Rubio resigned midway through his term, the old boundaries were used.[33] Candidates had until March 29 to file nomination papers.[34][35][36][37]

July 23 runoff election candidates:
Democratic Party Leticia Perez
Republican Party Andy Vidak Green check mark transparent.png

RunoffArrow.jpgCalifornia 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. Since no candidate received more than fifty percent of the vote a runoff between the top two vote-getters - Freddie Rodriguez (D) and Paul Leon (I) - will take place on September 24.[38][39][40]

July 23 blanket primary candidates:
Democratic Party Paul Vincent Avila
Democratic Party Tom Haughey
Democratic Party Freddie Rodriguez Approveda
Democratic Party Jason Rothman
Democratic Party Manuel Saucedo
Democratic Party Danielle Soto
Democratic Party Doris Louise Wallace
Republican Party Dorothy Pineda
Independent Paul Leon Approveda

Looking ahead

Upcoming special elections include:

  • August 6: Virginia State Senate District 14
  • August 6: New York House of Representatives District 86
  • September 10: Massachusetts House of Representatives 6th Bristol District
  • September 10: Massachusetts House of Representatives 12th Suffolk District
  • September 10: Massachusetts House of Representatives 16th Worcester District

See also

References

  1. State House News Service, "UPDATE: Mass. Legislature enacts tax-raising bill," July 24, 2013
  2. Associated Press, "Mass. Legislature overrides Patrick veto; gas, tobacco taxes going up next week," July 24, 2013
  3. Associated Press, "Mass. lawmakers override transportation veto," July 24, 2013
  4. "ABC News 11," "North Carolina lawmakers changes to gun laws, fracking," July 23, 2013
  5. "CBS News," "N.C. lawmakers pass sweeping changes to gun laws," July 23, 2013
  6. "Winston-Salem Journal," "North Carolina lawmakers pass sweeping changes to gun laws," July 24, 2013
  7. "WNCT 9," "Community reacts to sweeping changes to gun laws," July 24, 2013
  8. NW News Network, "Several Washington Lawmakers Eat Frequently On Lobbyists' Dime," May 29, 2013
  9. The Associated Press, "Wash. ethics panel examining free lobbyist meals," July 23, 2013
  10. NW News Network, "Washington Lawmakers Defend Frequent Dinners With Lobbyists," May 2, 2013
  11. NW News Network, "Lawmakers Respond To Free Meals Investigation," May 31, 2013
  12. NW News Network, "Washington's Legislative Ethics Board To Investigate Lobbyist-Paid Meals," July 23, 2013
  13. trib.com, "Hill accuses Wyo state senator of $4 million conflict of interest," July 22, 2013
  14. laramieboomerang.com, "Sen. Nicholas: Hill spreading ‘bad facts’," July 24, 2013
  15. examiner.com, "Senator Phil Nicholas denies conflict of interest, Matt Mead knew about it," July 22, 2013
  16. Stateside Associates, " Session Calendar 2013," accessed July 29, 2013
  17. Stateside Associates, " Session Calendar 2013," accessed July 29, 2013
  18. West Virginia Legislature, "2013 1st Special Session," accessed June 1, 2013
  19. sunherald.com, "Mississippi lawmakers pass incentives for tire maker," April 26, 2013
  20. Arizona Capitol Times, "Lawmakers prepare to adjourn as Medicaid expansion moves toward approval," June 11, 2013
  21. The Associated Press, "Arizona Senate ends special session after passing GOP Gov. Brewer’s budget, Medicaid expansion," June 12, 2013
  22. clarionledger.com, "Bryant calls Medicaid special session for Thursday (updated)," June 24, 2013
  23. heraldextra.com, "Herbert calls special session for Legislature," July 13, 2013
  24. star-telegram.com, "Perry calls lawmakers back to work on abortion bill," June 27, 2013
  25. Statenet.com, "Daily Session Summary," accessed July 29, 2013
  26. New Jersey Department of State, "Petition filing instruction sheet," accessed January 14, 2013
  27. Virginia State Board of Elections, "Candidacy Requirements for House of Delegates," accessed January 16, 2013
  28. NJ.com "Polls close in 2013 N.J. primary elections as votes are tallied," June 4, 2013
  29. Washington Post, "Voter turnout sparse for down-ticket races in Virginia," June 11, 2013
  30. CBS DC, "Virginia Primary Results Roll In," June 11, 2013
  31. Fredericksburg.com, "Howell’s transportation PAC helping candidates," June 7, 2013
  32. WRIC, "Virginia Primary Round Up," June 11, 2013
  33. KBPS.org, "Special Election Set To Fill State Senate Vacancy," March 8, 2013
  34. sos.ca.gov, "Senate District 16 Special Primary Election - May 21, 2013," accessed April 8, 2013
  35. turnto23.com, "Andy Vidak wins 16th State Senate district special election," May 22, 2013
  36. bakersfieldnow.com, "Dramatic turn in special election as Vidak falls below 50 percent of vote," May 24, 2013
  37. visaliatimesdelta.com, "Perez concedes state Senate election to Vidak," July 25, 2013
  38. dailybulletin.com, "Gov. Brown announces special election to fill 52nd District," May 21, 2013
  39. dailybulletin.com, "Nine candidates seek to replace Torres in Assembly," June 2, 2013
  40. latimes.com, "Republican Andy Vidak leading in Central Valley state Senate vote," July 24, 2013