State Legislative Tracker: Massachusetts Senator to resign over ethics controversy
Last week, no state ended its legislative session. Here is a brief look at issues making headlines across the country:
- Massachusetts: Earlier this month, the Massachusetts Ethics Commission ruled that Senator Daniel Wolf (D) violated state ethics rules by holding 23 percent ownership in Cape Air, a company with state contracts. Wolf announced that he will resign from the Massachusetts State Senate and suspend his campaign for Governor of Massachusetts in the 2014 election effective August 29, 2013, unless the Massachusetts Ethics Commission changes its ruling. According to the commission, Wolf's ownership in the company creates a conflict of interest because the Hyannis-based regional airline has contracts with Logan Airport in Boston and that airport is ran by the Massachusetts Port Authority. The commission gave Wolf the following choices: sell his stake in the company, end the company's contracts with Logan Airport, or resign from the Senate and end his campaign for governor. Wolf chose not to sell his stake in the company or give up the company's contracts at Logan Airport because he said that he could not, "... pursue either option in good conscience because of the damage it could do to the airline he co-founded in 1989." Wolf's impending resignation will create the need for a special election this fall to fill his empty seat. Rep. Sarah Peake, a Provincetown Democrat, has already expressed interest in running for Wolf's seat.
- Minnesota: As reported in August 12's Tracker, Minnesota's legislature planned to meet in special session to coordinate disaster relief funds following this summer's massive flooding in 18 counties. A firm date was set on Wednesday, but the repeal of an unpopular tax on farm equipment repair will not be considered as had been increasingly likely. The legislature will meet at 10 a.m. local time on September 9 for a one-day session solely to add $5.7 million in state funds to the federal government's disaster relief contribution, as welling as allocating an extra $1 million for an ice storm that hit southwest Minnesota in April. The legislature previously contributed $1.75 million to the latter recovery. The farm equipment tax, which was passed late in the 2013 regular session, brings in $2 million per month, but has recently seen bipartisan opposition. In addition to the farm tax, Republicans had been pushing for the repeal of other taxes, including a sales tax on goods stored in warehouses. Gov. Mark Dayton (D) and GOP leaders could not come to an agreement on how to offset lost revenues from those other cuts, which led them to table the entire issue until the next regular session, which begins on February 25, 2014. By putting off taxes until next year, Dayton may not be able to pursue his idea of making the farm tax retroactive, meaning farmers would not see refunds in the event of a repeal. House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt (R) said afterwards that it was more important to repay schools from the state's general fund than to use it to cover revenues lost from a repeal. Dayton and lawmakers had considered using unused disaster funds in order to avoid a special session, but were ultimately barred by state law.
- Wisconsin: Following a recent trend among state legislatures, Assemblyman Paul Tittl (R) introduced a bill to raise the maximum speed limit in Wisconsin from 65 miles per hour to 70 miles per hour. The bill would allow the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to raise speed limits to 70 miles per hour on roads that it determined suitable for higher speeds. Shortly after Tittl's announcement, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation released a study to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel outlining similar steps taken by other states and the current conditions in Wisconsin. This report suggested speed limits would be increased on Interstate highways outside of the Milwaukee metropolitan area and on U.S. Highway 41, which is being converted to an Interstate. Citing the recent decision by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn (D) to agree with the Illinois State Legislature and raise the speed limit, Tittl suggested that Wisconsin should follow the lead of all of its neighboring states and increase the speed limit. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) announced his support for the bill, as did Assembly Transportation Committee Chair Keith Ripp (R). However, State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) said that the Senate did not plan to take up the issue any time soon, and Governor Scott Walker (R) did not take a position on the bill after the initial proposal. Two Democratic lawmakers expressed concern over the safety risks of increasing the speed limit. This session, legislatures in Illinois, Maine, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Utah all voted to increase speed limits, and the Nevada and North Carolina legislatures seriously considered proposals. Since early 2005, eleven states have raised or decided to raise their speed limits at least once.
- See also: Dates of 2013 state legislative sessions
- Click here to see a chart of each state's 2013 session information.
Currently three 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
| Snapshot of State Legislatures: |
Thursday, January 29, 2015
|There are 7,385 Total State Legislators|
|Total Democratic state legislators||3,445 (46.7%)|
|Total Republican state legislators||3,824 (51.8%)|
|There are 99 Total State Legislative Chambers|
|Total Democratic Party-controlled chambers||41|
|Total Republican Party-controlled chambers||57|
|Total tied or nonpartisan chambers||1|
|2013 Session Information|
|Total Special Elections||45|
|Total Special Sessions||12|
Maine is scheduled to convene a special session on August 29 to consider a $149.5 million bond package and a measure to establish a mental health wing at the state prison in Augusta. The bond package, which requires a two-thirds approval, would require voter ratification in November. The state prison in Augusta faces a $20 million loss in federal funding unless it addresses issues such as overcrowding and under-staffing by September 2. The bill under consideration in this special session would essentially replace that federal funding.
As of today, August 26, there are 6 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||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.
- See also: Redistricting in Kentucky
Kentucky held a week-long legislative session as a last-ditch attempt to address redistricting. Gov. Steve Beshear signed the redistricting bill into law on Friday after it garnered 35-2 approval by the Senate and 79-18 in the House. Final approval must come from three federal judges tasked with overseeing the process, who stated beforehand they would not hesitate to create their own maps should the legislature fail to reach an agreement. If accepted by the three-judge panel, the new boundaries will take effect following the 2014 election. Critics from Northern Kentucky believe the maps do not proportionally reflect the population growth of their region: though it rose thirteen percent in the 2010 census, the three counties gained no further legislative representation.
- 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 Tuesday's primaries:
There is one special election scheduled for this week in Maine.
Sen. Seth Goodall (D) resigned on July 8 to serve as New England District Representative of the Small Business Association. A special election has been called for August 27. Major parties had until July 31 to file a nomination for the ballot.
August 27 Special election candidates:
August 6, 2013
Virginia State Senate District 14
In early April 2013, Sen. Harry Blevins (R) announced his retirement effective August 5. A special election has been called for August 6. John Cosgrove (R) ran unopposed after his opponent, Kerry B. Holmes (D), withdrew from the race.
- August 5 Special election candidates:
- John Cosgrove
Michigan House of Representatives District 49
Rep. Jim Ananich (D) was elected to the Michigan State Senate on May 7, 2013. A special election has been called concurrent with the regularly-scheduled November 5 elections, with a primary on August 6. Candidates had until June 4 to file certified nomination papers.
- August 6 Democratic primary:
Washington State Senate District 7
Sen. Bob Morton (R) retired on January 1, 2013. His term in the state senate runs until 2014. Republican precinct committee officers chose John Smith (R) to fill his seat during the 2013 session and a special election for the rest of his term will be held on November 5, with a primary on August 6.
Washington State Senate District 8
Sen. Jerome Delvin (R) resigned on January 1, 2013 to serve as Benton County Commissioner. His term in the state senate runs until 2014. Republican precinct committee officers chose Sharon Brown (R) to fill his seat during the 2013 session and a special election for the rest of his term will be held on November 5, with a primary on August.
Upcoming special elections include:
- August 27: Maine State Senate District 19
- 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
- September 17: California State Assembly District 45
- September 17: California State Senate District 26
- September 17: New Hampshire House of Representatives Hillsborough District 14
- September 24: California State Assembly District 52
- 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
- "Cape Cod Today," "Wolf to resign as State Senator, suspend campaign for Governor," August 22, 2013
- "Boston Herald," "Mass. governor candidate to suspend campaign," August 22, 2013
- "Mass Live," "State Sen. Dan Wolf lambastes ethics commission, says he'll quit seat and gubernatorial race," August 22, 2013
- "Boston Globe," "State senator Dan Wolf to resign seat, suspend gubernatorial campaign," August 22, 2013
- Star Tribune, "Special session of Minnesota Legislature set for Sept. 9," August 22, 2013
- Bemidji Pioneer, "Farm tax not part of special legislative session," August 22, 2013
- [http://www.inforum.com/event/article/id/409716/group/News/ Forum News Service, "Minnesota political notebook: Special session needed after all," August 21, 2013.
- Pioneer Press, "Minnesota Special session to focus on disaster relief, no deal on repeal of taxes," August 21, 2013 (dead link)
- IIHS, "Maximum posted speed limits," July 2013
- U.S. Department of Energy, "Fact #410: February 6, 2006 - Maximum Speed Limits by State, 2005," accessed July 12, 2013
- The Associated Press, "Wisconsin Assembly speaker supports raising state speed limits to 70 mph," August 18, 2013 (dead link)
- The Associated Press, "Wisconsin: 70 mph speed limit not a sure thing at Capitol," August 20, 2013
- The Associated Press, "Drive to 70 mph speed limit may hit bump," August 20, 2013
- WPR, "Republican Lawmaker Proposes Increasing Speed Limit To 70 MPH," August 20, 2013
- The Los Angeles Times, "Nevada, perhaps to match Texas, eyes 85 mph speed limit," February 26, 2013
- The Associated Press, "85 mph speed limit bill dies in Nevada Assembly," May 28, 2013
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Interstates, Highway 41 candidates for 70-mph speed limit," August 21, 2013
- The Associated Press, "70 mph speed limit most likely on interstates, Hwy. 41," August 22, 2013
- Stateside Associates, " Session Calendar 2013," accessed August 26, 2013
- Stateside Associates, " Session Calendar 2013," accessed August 26, 2013
- boston.com, "Maine lawmakers to return for special session," August 26, 2013 (dead link)
- Statenet.com, "Daily Session Summary," accessed August 26, 2013 (dead link)
- kentucky.com, "Governor quickly signs redistricting bill into law," August 23, 2013
- nky.cincinnati.com, "New KY district maps leave NKY feeling snubbed," August 23, 2013
- 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
- The Bangor Daily News, "Goodall resigns Senate District 19 seat to take post with Small Business Administration," July 10, 2013
- boston.com, "Maine Senate special election set for Aug. 27," July 15, 2013 (dead link)
- mainegreens.org, "Stromgren gets nod for Senate District 19 race," July 18, 2013
- kjonline.com, "SENATE DISTRICT 19Dems pick Eloise Vitelli as candidate," July 23, 2013
- theforecaster.net, "Sagadahoc caucuses tap Benoit, Stromgren, Vitelli for special Senate election," July 24, 2013
- washingtonpost.com, "Special election set Aug. 6 for seat being vacated by Chesapeake state senator," April 18, 2013
- sbe.virginia.gov, "List of Candidates," accessed June 20, 2013
- thestate.com, "Cosgrove wins Va. Senate seat in special election," August 6, 2013
- freep.com, "Snyder calls special election for state House seat," May 15, 2013
- mlive.com, "Six Democrats, two Republicans face off in 49th District state House primary election," June 4, 2013
- mlive.com, "Phil Phelps wins Democratic primary for 49th District state House seat," August 6, 2013
- mlive.com, "Don Pfeiffer wins Republican primary for 49th District state House seat," August 6, 2013
- spokesman.com, "Colville-area farmer named to succeed Morton," January 4, 2013
- wei.sos.wa.gov, "State candidates in lot order," accessed August 5, 2013
- spokesman.com, "Incumbents survive their primary challenges," August 7, 2013
- kvewtv.com, "Kennewick Mayor Pro-Tem Sharon Brown to replace Sen. Delvin," January 28, 2013
- wei.sos.wa.gov, "State candidates in lot order," accessed August 5, 2013
- tri-cityherald.com, "Brown has huge lead in State Senate race," August 6, 2013