State Legislative Tracker: Mississippi legislator passes away

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March 25, 2013

Edited by Joel Williams
This week's tracker takes a look at various controversial bills in state legislatures.

Weekly highlight

As of today, 49 states have kicked off 2013 sessions. Here is some news making headlines across state legislatures this week:

  • Alabama State Legislature: The Alabama House and Senate will tackle the question of Medicaid reform as committees debate the merits of a plan to convert the state's Medicaid system to a managed care plan by 2017. These bills come after nearly 14 months of work by the Alabama Medicaid Advisory Commission, created by Gov. Robert Bentley in 2012. Under its current system, Medicaid in Alabama is handled by the state as a non-profit entity. The new plan would hand over the management of state medical care to for-profit companies to manage eight regions across Alabama.[1]
  • Mississippi: Mississippi Representative Jessica Upshaw (R) was found dead on March 24 in the home of former state Rep. Clint Rotenberry in Mendenhall, MS. Upshaw had served in the Mississippi House of Representatives since 2004. Rotenberry was not arrested at the scene, and most officials are unwilling to state a cause of death. Simpson County Sheriff Kenneth Lewis, however, believes the death was a suicide, stating "[it] appeared she had a gunshot wound to her head; it appeared to be self-inflicted." The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation is currently investigating Upshaw's death. Gov. Phil Bryant offered a public statement on her death, saying "This is a tragic loss for her family and all Mississippians, and our thoughts and prayers go out to her family during this difficult time."[2]
  • North Dakota: North Dakota's legislature passed the nation's first fetal personhood amendment on March 22, and the measure will now appear on the ballot in 2014. If the measure passes, it will amend the state constitution to read that "the inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected." Several similar personhood amendments have appeared on the ballot in recent years, though they ended up rejected by voters at the polls. In addition to an outright ban of abortion in the state, the amendment would impact some forms of birth control, stem cell research, and in vitro fertilization.[3]

Regular sessions

Current sessions capture for the week of March 25, 2013
See also: Dates of 2013 state legislative sessions
Click here to see a chart of each state's 2013 session information.

Currently 36 out of 50 state legislatures are meeting in regular session. One state, California, is meeting in special session concurrent with their regular session. One state has yet to begin its 2013 sessions. Louisiana will convene April 8.

The following states have convened their 2013 legislative sessions:[4]

The following states have ended their regular session:

Special sessions

Snapshot of State Legislatures:
Monday, March 25, 2013
There are 7,384 Total State Legislators
Total Democratic state legislators 3,463 (46.9%)
Total Republican state legislators 3,822 (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 24
Total Special Sessions 1

There are no special sessions meeting this week with California in recess. Virginia's special session on Judicial Appointments is scheduled to convene April 4.


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, March 25, 6 states' sessions are 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 Arizona

See also: Redistricting in Arizona

A dispute over Arizona's new maps begins this week, with Republicans disputing the redistricting plan's legality after population was not evenly distributed across districts. The Redistricting Commission, an independent panel of four appointed by legislators who choose their fifth member and chair, defended the maps' constitutionality under Section 5 of the Voters' Rights Act, claiming it requires a certain number of districts where minorities have a chance to elect their representative. If the court strikes down the maps, they will be redrawn again for 2014 and the court can impose guidelines to ensure the new maps are constitutional.[8]

Redistricting in Texas

See also: Redistricting in Texas

March 22 was the deadline for parties in Texas's redistricting debate to file advisory litigation. The court in San Antonio will not issue a decision until after the U.S. Supreme Court decides the Shelby County case, but asked for scenarios if Section 5 of the Voters' Rights Act is upheld or struck down. The State of Texas has already told the court that if Section 5 is upheld, the interim 2012 maps should be used for 2014. Neither party official took a substantive position on changes to the 2012 interim maps.[9]

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.[10]

  • 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.[11]


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 is one taking place this week in Mississippi:

Mississippi House of Representatives District 11

Rep. Joe Gardner (D) died in office on February 4, 2013. A special election to fill the vacancy will be held March 26, 2013. Candidates had until February 25 to file. A runoff, if necessary, will take place on April 16. Special elections in Mississippi are nonpartisan.[12]

Independent General election candidates:

Recent results

March 19, 2013

CheckedBoxOffset.jpg New Hampshire House of Representatives Hillsborough 9 District
Rep. Robert B. Thompson (D) resigned his position due to residency issues after moving to Florida the same month he was elected. A special election to fill the vacancy was held on March 19, 2013, which William O'Neil won.[13][14][15]

General Election Candidates:
Democratic Party William O'Neil Green check mark transparent.png
Republican Party Win Hutchinson

Looking ahead

Upcoming special elections include:

  • March 26: Mississippi House of Representatives District 11
  • April 2: Massachusetts House of Representatives 12th Essex
  • April 2: Massachusetts House of Representatives 28th Middlesex
  • April 2: Missouri House of Representatives District 76
  • April 2: Missouri House of Representatives District 157
  • April 2: Wisconsin State Assembly District 98
  • April 9: Alabama House of Representatives District 97
  • May 7: Alabama House of Representatives District 11
  • May 7: Michigan State Senate District 27

See also