State Legislative Tracker: More than half of state legislatures back in session
Edited by Greg Janetka
This week's tracker features a preview of major issues for those states that convened their 2012 session last week.
So far this year, 33 out of 50 state legislatures have officially convened their regular session.
- See also: Dates of 2012 state legislative sessions
The following states convened their regular legislative sessions:
Additionally, 3 more states will convene this week:
- Click here to see a chart of each state's 2012 session information.
Special sessions were a widespread occurrence in the state legislatures in 2011, in particular due to the necessity of states to conduct the redistricting of state legislative and congressional districts. Overall, in 2011 there were 45 special sessions in 28 states.
Thus far, North Carolina is the only state to have held a special session in 2012. No states currently have special sessions scheduled.
| Snapshot of State Legislatures: |
Sunday, February 1, 2015
|There are 7,384 Total State Legislators|
|Total Democratic state legislators||3,308 (44.8%)|
|Total Republican state legislators||3,972 (53.8%)|
|There are 99 Total State Legislative Chambers|
|Total Democratic Party-controlled chambers||35|
|Total Republican Party-controlled chambers||60|
|Total tied or nonpartisan chambers||4|
|2012 Session Information|
|Total Special Sessions||1|
As of today, January 16, 6 states' sessions are currently in mid-term recess:
Since last week's Tracker, 14 states have kicked off 2012 sessions. Here's a quick rundown on what are some early topics:
- Arizona: Lawmakers will address a budget surplus estimated to be between $416-650 million. Republican leaders are expected to consider legislation on topics including immigration, job creation, allowing guns in more places, restricting abortions, and promoting charter and private schools.
- Colorado: Republicans and Democrats have both stressed that job creation and improving the economy are at the top of their agendas. Meanwhile, they will have to deal with an estimated $500 million budget deficit. Additional issues include fracking rules for oil and gas drilling and addressing a voter-approved constitutional amendment giving tax breaks to seniors that includes a provision allowing the legislature to suspend it.
- Delaware: Legislators are expected to focus more on economic rather than social issues this session, including reforms to Medicaid and addressing the budget deficit.
- Illinois: Governor Pat Quinn (D) and all four legislative leaders say reforming the state's public employee pension system will be a top priority in 2012. Legislators are also expected to address gambling expansion.
- Maryland: Governor Martin O'Malley (D) has said 2012 is the year for a massive public works program to create jobs. Legislators are looking to boost revenue through increases in gas and sewer taxes and are considering expanding gambling in the state. Democrats are also looking to legalize same-sex marriage.
- Michigan: For the first time in years, legislators are anticipating an estimated $1 billion surplus. They are expected to consider proposals regarding autism, concealed weapons, elder abuse, mining and ending the personal property tax. Controversial "right-to-work" legislation may also be on the table.
- New Jersey: Democratic legislative leaders are expected to put legalization of same-sex marriage and an increase in the minimum wage at the top of their agenda, both of which are opposed by Republican Governor Chris Christie.
- South Carolina: Legislators will be addressing a budget surplus of $900 million. Major agenda issues include tax reform, job security measures, reforming the state retirement system, and creating a new school funding formula.
- South Dakota: Legislators will take up Governor Dennis Daugaard's proposals of bonuses for state employees, additional aid to schools and Medicare agencies, and work force development initiatives. Additionally, they will consider a texting-while-driving ban, reforming the school funding formula, and increased penalties for speeding.
- Tennessee: Republican legislators began the session by passing new congressional and state legislative maps, but redistricting may remain a major issue as Democrats have threatened a lawsuit over the new districts. Republican leaders say the session will focus on job creation and eliminating policies and regulations that restrict businesses, including the inheritance tax, and reforming unemployment insurance.
- Virginia: With the Senate tied 20-20, control of the chamber will be a major issue. Republicans, using the tie-breaking vote of Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling, claim control of the chamber, but Democrats are challenging in court. The General Assembly will take up Governor Bob McDonnell's proposed $85 billion budget, job creation, economic development, and a proposal to end the 30-year-old moratorium on uranium mining.
- West Virginia: Governor Earl Ray Tomblin's (D) agenda for 2012 includes job creation, tying teacher evaluations to student performance, increasing mine safety, and combating substance abuse. Additionally, the Legislature is expected to address overcrowded prisons, Marcellus Shale development, and health care.
- Wisconsin: With potential recalls of Governor Scott Walker (R), Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch (R) and four Republican state senators, debate on major legislation is expected to be limited. Republican leaders say they are focused on passing bills on only four main issues - clearing the way for on ore mine in northern Wisconsin, easing laws regarding development on wetlands, environmental regulation, and creating a venture capital fund to help start-up businesses.
A total of 86 of the 99 chambers will hold state legislative elections on November 6, 2012.
1,267 (64.3%) of the country's 1,971 state senate seats are up for re-election in November 2012, and 4,712 (87.05%) of the country's 5,413 state house seats are up for re-election. Altogether, 5,984 (81.0%) of the country's 7,384 state legislative seats will be up for re-election during the presidential election year.
- 43 of the 50 state senates are holding elections.
- 43 of the 49 state houses are holding elections.
The 5,984 seats up for election is 146 fewer than the 6,125 that were contested in 2010.
States with upcoming deadlines:
- January 28: West Virginia
- January 31: Kentucky
- February 14: New Mexico, Pennsylvania
- February 15: Nebraska (Incumbents)
- February 24: Indiana
- February 29: North Carolina
- See also: 2012 election dates
The first state legislative primary elections of 2012 are scheduled to take place in March. Those dates are as follows:
- Note: Texas was originally scheduled to hold their primary on March 6. However, with newly drawn state legislative maps being fought in the courts, Republicans and Democrats agreed to move the primary to April 3.
There are no special elections taking place this week.
Upcoming special elections include:
- February 7: Georgia House of Representatives District 60
- February 7: Georgia House of Representatives, District 107
- February 14: Oklahoma House District 1
- February 14: Maine Senate District 20
- February 21: New Hampshire House of Representatives Hillsborough District 10
- February 28: Michigan House of Representatives District 29
- February 28: Michigan House of Representatives District 51
- April 3: Oklahoma House of Representatives District 71
- April 3: Oklahoma Senate District 20
- April 3: Oklahoma Senate District 46
- See also: State legislative recalls
Currently, 18 states permit the recall of state officials. Between 1913 and 2008, there were just 20 state legislative recall elections in five states. Of the 20 state legislative recall elections, 13 out of 20 resulted in the state legislator being recalled. In 2011, there were 11 state legislative recalls in three states, 4 of which resulted in the legislator being recalled.
On the heels of this success, Democrats in Wisconsin filed recall petitions on November 15, 2011 against four Republican state senators - Pam Galloway, Scott Fitzgerald, Terry Moulton and Van Wanggaard. Supporters of the recall have 60 days to collect the necessary signatures in order to force recall elections in 2012. These signatures are due tomorrow. Recall organizers say they have enough signatures to force recall elections against all four senators, as well as Governor Scott Walker (R) and Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch (R).
2011 also saw a wave of recall attempts in Michigan. While most of those efforts dried up, at least two campaigns are continuing on. Organizers of the campaigns to recall Bruce Caswell (R) and Phil Pavlov (R) are aiming for the August ballot.
- StateScape, Session schedules," accessed January 16, 2012
- Arizona Republic, "Arizona Legislators gear up for new session," January 7, 2012
- Denver Post, "Colorado legislature faces key issues," January 8, 2012
- Delaware First Media, "Legislators begin to form 2012 agenda," January 8, 2012
- Illinois Issues, "Push for pension changes grows, but players are far from agreement," January 12, 2012
- Baltimore Sun, "So much to do: Annapolis Democrats push ambitious agenda," January 8, 2012
- Detroit News, "Michigan Legislature sets priorities in new session," January 12, 2012 (dead link)
- NJ.com, "Democratic legislators to put Christie in tight spot with gay marriage, minimum wage," January 15, 2012
- The State, "Legislative key issues," January 8, 2012
- Argus Leader, "S.D. Legislature to visit array of old issues with fresh optimism," January 8, 2012
- The Tennessean, "TN lawmakers gear up for fast session, re-election," January 8, 2012
- Richmond Times Dispatch, "Fight to control Senate highlights start of session," January 11, 2012
- State Journal, "Tomblin focuses on job creation in WV State of the State address," January 11, 2012
- The Intelligencer, "New Prison an Issue as Lawmakers Return," January 12, 2012
- Governor Journal, "Recalls Make for Quiet Session," January 16, 2012
- Appleton Post Crescent, "Wisconsin legislative agenda influenced by negative effects of recalls," January 16, 2012
- CBS DFW, "Tentative Deal Reached on Texas Primary Date," December 16, 2011
- FOX 6 Now, "Recall paperwork filed Tuesday for four senators, including Van Wanggaard," November 15, 2011
- FOX6 Now, "Recall petitions due Tuesday, recall organizers say they will turn in enough signatures," January 15, 2012 (dead link)