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State Legislative Tracker: Pennsylvania Legislature suspends rule to pass last-minute legislation

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July 9, 2012

Edited by Greg Janetka
Today's tracker features a partisan count update and spotlight on Pennsylvania, where the legislature saw a flurry of activity before recessing for the summer.

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Weekly highlight

The Pennsylvania General Assembly currently sits in summer recess and is not scheduled to get back to work until August 23.[1] Its last days before going on break were busy ones, highlighted by Gov. Tom Corbett (R) signing the new budget into law fifteen minutes before the new fiscal year was to begin and legislation passed after the Legislature's own deadline.[2]

Back in 2005, lawmakers ignited a firestorm of controversy when they passed legislative pay raises in the early morning hours. The raise, which was eventually declared unconstitutional by the courts, led to a number of reforms, including a rule that sessions have to end by 11 p.m..[3] Legislators suspended that ruled this year in order to pass about a dozen bills, including HB 254 which extends Philadelphia's red-light camera program and allows Pittsburgh and 14 suburban Philadelphia municipalities to begin such programs.[2]

The amendment expanding the use of red-light cameras was introduced by Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R) on June 28 and adopted without debate, discussion or a public hearing. The final vote on the bill did not occur until 1:10 a.m. on July 1, when it passed the House by a margin of 113-72. Rep. Greg Vitali (D) rallied against the bill, arguing that 1 a.m. was not an appropriate time to pass it and that it should be shelved. Others objected to it because of privacy concerns and conflicting evidence whether red-light cameras reduce crashes or not. Their effort, however, was in vain as it passed the House by a margin of 113-72.[4]

Tim Potts, co-director of Democracy Rising PA, a nonprofit seeking government reform, addressed the situation, stating:

"No one who pays attention can excuse the way this place operates. Every deadline crisis is a manufactured crisis designed to...keep citizens as completely in the dark as much as possible. And so we continue to push these issues because they will result in more accountability, lower costs to taxpayers, greater transparency and the restoration of people's confidence in their government."[3]


As of today, July 9, 2012, the following figures represent the cumulative partisan breakdown of the 50 state senates and 49 state houses. In the 50 states, Republicans currently control 53.6% of all seats while Democrats hold 44.8%. All told, Republicans control 58 chambers while Democrats are the majority in 36 chambers. Four chambers are tied, while one is nonpartisan.

The totals represent a loss of 7 Republican legislators from the June 4 Tracker.

Representation in 50 State Legislatures
Party Number of Percentage
Democratic state legislators 3,305 44.8%
Republican state legislators 3,961 53.6%
Independent state legislators 71 0.96%
Third party (and non-voting) legislators 11 0.15%
Vacancies 24 0.32%

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 July 9, 2012, the breakdown of chamber control by party is as follows:

  • Democratic Party 18 chambers
  • Republican Party 30 chambers
  • Purple.png 1 chamber (Oregon)
See also: Partisan composition of state senates

Cumulative numbers

As of July 9, 2012, 5,365 state representatives are affiliated with either the Republican or Democratic parties.

Party Number of Percentage
Democratic state representatives 2,431 44.9%
Republican state representatives 2,929 54.1%
Independent state representatives 18 0.33%
Third party (and non-voting) representatives 9 0.17%
Vacancies 17 0.31%


There are 17 state house vacancies in 14 different states as of July 9, 2012. They are as follows:

State Vacancies
Florida 1
Georgia 1
Hawaii 1
Iowa 1
Kentucky 1
Maine 2
Minnesota 1
New Hampshire 2
Oklahoma 2
Pennsylvania 1
South Carolina 1
Texas 1
Vermont 1
Wisconsin 1


There are 27 state representatives in 13 states identifying as independents or parties other than Democratic and Representative as of July 9, 2012. They are as follows:

State Independents/Third Party
Georgia 1 (Independent)
Louisiana 2 (Independent)
Maine 3 (2 non-voting Native American representatives, 1 Independent)
Missouri 4 (Independent)
New Hampshire 2 (Independent)
New Mexico 1 (Independent)
New York 1 (Independence Party of New York)
North Carolina 1 (Independent)
South Dakota 1 (Independent)
Tennessee 1 (Carter County Republican)
Vermont 8 (5 Vermont Progressive Party, 3 Independent)
Virginia 1 (Independent)
Wisconsin 1 (Independent)

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 July 9, 2012, the breakdown of chamber control by party is as follows:

See also: Partisan composition of state houses

Cumulative numbers

As of July 9, 2012, 1,906 state senators are affiliated with either the Republican or Democratic parties.

Party Number of Percentage
Democratic state senators 874 44.3%
Republican state senators 1,032 52.4%
Nonpartisan state senators 49 2.49%
Independent state senators 4 0.2%
Third Party state senators 2 0.10%
Vacancies 7 0.35%


There are 7 state senate vacancies as of July 9, 2012.

State Vacancies
Massachusetts 1
Mississippi 1
Montana 1
Nevada 2
pennsylvania 1
South Carolina 1


There are 6 state senators in 5 states identifying as independents or parties other than Democratic and Representative as of July 9, 2012. 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)

This week 2 out of 50 state legislatures - Ohio and Massachusetts - are meeting in regular session. As of May 16, all states had convened their 2012 sessions. No states are projected to adjourn this week.

Thirty-eight states have adjourned for the year, while four states - Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, and Texas - will not hold regular sessions in 2012.

Regular sessions

See also: Dates of 2012 state legislative sessions

All states have convened their regular 2012 legislative sessions.

The following states have ended their regular session:

Click here to see a chart of each state's 2012 session information.

Special sessions

Snapshot of State Legislatures:
Monday, July 9, 2012
There are 7,383 Total State Legislators
Total Democratic state legislators 3,305 (44.8%)
Total Republican state legislators 3,961 (53.6%)
There are 99 Total State Legislative Chambers
Total Democratic Party-controlled chambers 36
Total Republican Party-controlled chambers 58
Total tied or nonpartisan chambers 5
2012 Session Information
Total Special Elections 27
Total Special Sessions 15

In 2011, special sessions were a widespread occurrence in state legislatures. This was largely due to states' having to complete the redistricting process for legislative and congressional districts. Overall in 2011, there were 45 special sessions in 28 states.

Since the beginning of 2012, there have been 15 special sessions in 13 states. There are no special sessions currently ongoing.


Maryland was originally supposed to hold a special session this week, but last Friday Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) said it would not be happening. The Governor wanted lawmakers to address expanded gambling in the state. While the session failed to materialize, O'Malley said he will continue to push the issue and seek a consensus.[5]


Gov. Mark Dayton (D) announced in late June that he would be calling a special session of the legislature later this summer in order to address flood relief. The date of the session is currently unclear as officials are waiting to get a full picture of the extent of the damage, which, according to surveyors, has exceeded $100 million.[6] In preparing for the session, Dayton is seeking assurances from legislative leaders that they will limit the session to the issue at hand.[7]

In recess

As of today, July 9, 9 state's sessions are currently in recess:

  • California - In recess from July 8, 2012 to August 5, 2012.[1]
  • Illinois - In recess until January 7, 2013.[1]
  • New Jersey - In recess from July 3, 2012 to September 13, 2012.
  • New York - In recess from June 22, 2012 to January 7, 2013.[1]
  • Michigan - In recess from June 17 to July 17, 2012.
  • New York - In recess from June 22, 2012 to January 7, 2013 (Estimated).[1]
  • Pennsylvania - In recess from July 3, 2012 to September 23, 2012.[1]
  • Rhode Island - In recess from June 13, 2012 to July 13, 2012[1]
  • Wisconsin - In recess from March 17 to December 31, 2012.[1]
See also: State legislative elections, 2012 and State legislative elections results, 2012
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A total of 86 of the 99 chambers will hold state legislative elections on November 6, 2012.

1,301 (65.97%) of the country's 1,972 state senate seats are up for election in November 2012, and 4,714 (87.12%) of the country's 5,411 state house seats are up for election. Altogether, 6,015 (81.47%) of the country's 7,383 state legislative seats will be up for 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 6,015 seats up for election is 110 fewer than the 6,125 that were contested in 2010.

Filing deadlines

See also: Signature requirements and deadlines for 2012 state government elections and 2012 Elections preview: Comparing state legislative filing deadlines

The final two states - Delaware and New York - have signature filing deadlines this week.

So far, deadlines have passed in 42 states:

States with upcoming deadlines:


See also: 2012 election dates

There are no state legislative primaries taking place this week.

So far, primaries have taken place in 24 states:

A total of 75 state legislative incumbents have been defeated in a primary - 53 Republicans and 22 Democrats.

States with upcoming primaries:

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, four of which resulted in the legislator being recalled. In 2012, there have been four state legislative recalls - three have failed while one has gone to a recount.


Recall efforts are currently targeting four Republican members of the Louisiana House of Representatives - Charles "Chuck" Kleckley, Kevin Pearson, George Cromer and Ray Garofalo.

The legislators have been targeted primarily because of their support for controversial public education reforms backed by Gov. Bobby Jindal (R).[8]


2011 saw a wave of recall attempts in Michigan. While most of those efforts dried up, at least two campaigns continued on (the recall of Paul Scott was successful on November 8, 2011). Organizers of the campaigns to recall Bruce Caswell (R) and Phil Pavlov (R) set their sights on the August 2012 ballot, but in April organizers of the Pavlov recall announced they did not have enough signatures and were abandoning their efforts.[9] The Caswell campaign remains active.

Organizers have made several attempts to get recall language approved against Sen. Randy Richardville. On June 12, 2012, petition language against Richardville was finally approved. One of the reasons for recall listed on the petition is Richardville's support for a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.[10]


See also: Timeline of events of the recall of Wisconsin State Senators in 2012

Recalls against four Republican state senators took place on June 5.[11] Going into the recalls the Senate was tied, meaning if the Democrats could win one of the recalls they would take control of the chamber.[12]

Incumbents Scott Fitzgerald (R) and Terry Moulton (R) won easy victories. Republican Jerry Petrowski easily won Pam Galloway's (R) former seat. Unofficial results showed John Lehman (D) defeated Van Wanggaard (R) by 779 votes and he declared victory. Wanggaard considered a recount - the county's board of canvassars had until June 15 to submit final vote totals.[13] With the official canvass showing Lehman winning by 834 votes, Wanggaard called for a recount on June 15.[14]

The recount began on June 20 and concluded July 2.[15] Final tallies released show Lehman won by 819 votes - 36,358 to 35,539.[16] Wanggaard was looking at possible legal challenges. If none are filed the results will be certified on Wednesday.[17]

There have been a number of allegations of voter fraud in the recall, with Assemblyman Robin Vos (R) among the loudest voices. PolitiFact invested the claims, ultimately rating them "False" as based on the information currently available. According to the report, "The Racine County Sheriff’s Department is investigating issues regarding election procedures and paperwork, but a top official told us they do not suspect fraud. What’s more, Vos acknowledges he has no direct evidence of fraud."[18]

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See also: State legislative special elections, 2012

So far in 2012 there have been 27 special elections in 11 states.

There are no special elections scheduled to take place this week.

Looking ahead

Upcoming special elections include:

  • July 17: South Carolina Senate District 41
  • July 24: South Carolina House District 68
  • August 7: Pennsylvania Senate District 40
  • November 6: New Jersey Assembly District 16
  • November 6: New Jersey Assembly District 26
  • November 6: New Jersey Assembly District 68

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 StateScape, Session schedules, accessed July 29, 2012
  2. 2.0 2.1 TribLIVE, "In last-minute frenzy, Pennsylvania’s Governor Corbett claims legislation, budget victories," July 2, 2012
  3. 3.0 3.1 Penn Live, "Government reform advocates slam Pa. legislators for continuing to reap benefits from the 2005 pay raise," July 9, 2012
  4. Watchdog, "BOEHM: State House was wrong to ignore 11 p.m. red light in order to pass rushed red-light camera expansion bill," July 2, 2012
  5. Baltimore Sun, "No special session next week, but stay tuned," July 6, 2012
  6. Northland News Center, "Dayton Announces Special Session, Federal Aid Request in Duluth," June 29, 2012
  7. Politics in Minnesota, "Capitol preps for special session," July 9, 2012
  8. American Press, "Leaders call Kleckley recall push a 'grass-roots effort'," June 15, 2012
  9. The Times Herald, "State Sen. Phil Pavlov recall fails," April 13, 2012
  10. My FOX Detroit, "Recall language targeting Richardville approved," June 12, 2012
  11. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Recall votes set for May 8 and June 5," March 14, 2012
  12. Channel 3000, "Wisconsin Democrats counting on recall elections to win state Senate control," May 26, 2012
  13. WAOW, "Wanggaard still not conceding election," June 6, 2012
  14. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Wanggaard calls for recount in Senate recall race," June 15, 2012
  15. The Journal Times, "Wanggaard requests recount, to begin Wednesday," June 15, 2012
  16. Chicago Tribune, "Recount: Dem wins Wisconsin Senate recall," July 2, 2012
  17. Wisconsin State Journal, "Senate recall recount expected to end Monday," July 1, 2012
  18. PolitiFact, "Wisconsin Rep. Robin Vos says voter fraud accounted for a portion of Lehman’s victory margin over Wanggaard in Senate recall," July 6, 2012