State Legislative Tracker: Regular sessions underway in 40 states

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February 6, 2012

Edited by Greg Janetka

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This week's tracker features an update on the partisan count and a preview of major issues for those states that convened their 2012 session last week.

Partisan breakdown

As of today, February 6, 2012, the following figures represent the cumulative partisan breakdown of the 50 state senates and state houses. In the 50 states, Republicans currently control 53.8% of all seats while Democrats hold 44.8%. All told, Republicans control 59 chambers while Democrats are the majority in 36 chambers.

The totals represent a loss of 13 Democratic and a gain of 11 Republican legislators from the January 9 tracker. The partisan changes comes predominantly from the new legislators who election in 2011 being sworn into office.


Representation in 50 State Legislatures
Party Number of Percentage
Democratic state legislators 3,306 44.8%
Republican state legislators 3,974 53.8%
Independent state legislators 71 0.96%
Third party (and non-voting) legislators 11 0.15%
Vacancies 24 0.33%
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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 today, February 6, 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 today, February 6, 2012 5,368 state representatives are affiliated with either the Republican or Democratic parties.

Party Number of Percentage
Democratic state representatives 2,432 44.9%
Republican state representatives 2,936 54.2%
Independent state representatives 18 0.33%
Third party (and non-voting) representatives 9 0.17%
Vacancies 18 0.33%

Vacancies

There are 18 state house vacancies in 12 different states as of today, February 6, 2012. They are as follows:

State Vacancies
Georgia 2
Hawaii 1
Kentucky 1
Maine 1
Michigan 2
New Hampshire 2
New Jersey 3
New York 1
Oklahoma 1
Utah 2
Vermont 1
Washington 1

Independents

There are 27 state representatives in 13 states identifying as independents or parties other than Democratic and Representative as of today, February 6, 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)

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 today, February 6, 2012, the breakdown of chamber control by party is as follows:

See also: Partisan composition of state houses

Cumulative numbers

As of today, February 6, 2012, 1,912 state senators are affiliated with either the Republican or Democratic parties.

Party Number of Percentage
Democratic state senators 874 44.3%
Republican state senators 1,038 52.7%
Nonpartisan state senators 49 2.49%
Independent state senators 4 0.2%
Third Party state senators 2 0.10%
Vacancies 6 0.30%

Vacancies

There are 6 state senate vacancies as of today, February 6, 2012.

State Vacancies
Arizona 2
Maine 1
New Mexico 1
New York 1
North Dakota 1

Independents

There are 6 state senators in 5 states identifying as independents or parties other than Democratic and Representative as of today, February 6, 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)

2010 Elections

Before the November 2010 elections, the Democratic Party held the majority in 28 state senates and the Republican Party held the majority in 20 senates. One state senate (Nebraska) is officially nonpartisan. One state senate (Alaska) was evenly divided between Democratic and Republican senators but several Republicans in that senate vote with the Democratic caucus, so that functionally, the Alaska State Senate could be counted in the column of state senates where Democrats are in the majority. In that case, the overall score heading into the November 2, 2010 elections was:

  • State senates controlled by a Democratic majority: 28
  • State senates controlled by a Republican majority: 20
  • State senates that are officially nonpartisan: 1
See also: State senate elections, 2010

As of October 1, 2010, 1,913 state senators were affiliated with either the Republican or Democratic parties:

Party Number of Percentage
Democratic state senators 1,021 51.8%
Republican state senators 892 45.3%
Nonpartisan state senators 49 2.5%
Independent state senators 4 0.2%
Vacancies 5 0.2%

Sessions

So far this year, 40 out of 50 state legislatures have officially convened their regular session.

Current sessions capture for the week of February 6, 2012

Regular sessions

See also: Dates of 2012 state legislative sessions

The following states convened their regular legislative sessions:

Additionally, 2 more states will convene this week:

Four states - Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, and Texas - will not hold regular sessions in 2012.

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

Special sessions

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.

Texas

The Texas State Teachers Association is urging Governor Rick Perry (R) to call a special session in order to use the state's rainy day fund to prevent more school layoffs and larger class sizes. Perry spokeswoman Allison Castle said the governor has no plans to call a special session on any issue. The TSTA is circulating petitions urging the special session.[1]

Snapshot of State Legislatures:
Monday, January 30, 2012
There are 7,384 Total State Legislators
Total Democratic state legislators 3,306 (44.8%)
Total Republican state legislators 3,974 (53.8%)
There are 99 Total State Legislative Chambers
Total Democratic Party-controlled chambers 36
Total Republican Party-controlled chambers 59
Total tied or nonpartisan chambers 4
2012 Session Information
Total Special Elections 4
Total Special Sessions 1

In recess

As of today, February 6, 1 states' session is currently in mid-term recess:

Issues spotlight

Since last week's Tracker, two states have kicked off their 2012 session. Here's a quick rundown on what are some early topics:

  • Oregon: In their month-long 2012 session, the legislature is expected to mostly deal with issues from the previous session which includes proposals from Governor John Kitzhaber (D) for implementing federal healthcare reforms, requiring an annual "achievement compact" for school districts, and increasing funding for children and families. They will also address the state budget, job growth and economic development regulation of state timber harvest, foreclosure assistance, and tax reform.[3]
  • Oklahoma: The main issue for 2012 is expected to be an overhaul of the state's tax code, which includes cutting the individual income tax. Republican legislative leaders and Governor Mary Fallin contend cutting the tax would make the state more business friendly and attract more companies to the state.[4]

Alabama

The Alabama Legislature convenes its 2012 legislative session tomorrow.

According to State Senator Slade Blackwell (R), there are several topics that will be major issues in the upcoming session.[5]

  • Prison overcrowding: Alabama's prison system is 193 percent overcrowded, which is the highest in the nation. Blackwell said the current system must be changed.[5]
  • Charter schools: Alabama is one of a handful of states that do not allow charter schools. Blackwell said he would like to change that.[5]
  • Economic development and jobs: One early bill that was prefiled would streamline Alabama's tax assessment process. The bill would abolish one division within the Department of Revenue and create a new commission -- the Alabama Tax Appeals Commission.[6]

The session will last until sometime in mid-May. The legislative guidelines allow for a session of 30 legislative days in 105 calendar days.

Elections

See also: State legislative elections, 2012 and State legislative elections results, 2012
2012 badge.jpg

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.

Filing deadlines

See also: Signature requirements and deadlines for 2012 state government elections

Tomorrow, Kentucky will have its signature filing deadline for candidates running for election. There are 19 state senate and 100 state house seats up for election this year. So far, deadlines have passed in four states - Illinois, Ohio, Texas and West Virginia.

States with upcoming deadlines:

Texas

Texas had an initial filing deadline of December 19, 2011, but with the newly drawn state legislative maps being fought in the courts, the districts remain uncertain. The filing process was expected to re-open on February 1, but that date has now been thrown out and a new date has yet to be settled on. Currently, the primary date is set for April 3. But the courts said that if no compromise map is reached by today, that the date will once again have to be delayed.[7]

Kentucky

Kentucky had an initial filing deadline of January 31, but last Tuesday Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd delayed the deadline for state legislative candidates until February 7 while he considers a challenge to newly drawn districts. Republicans argue the new boundaries divide more counties than necessary and are thus unconstitutional.[8]

An early analysis of filings shows that at least 7 senators and 15 representatives will not be seeking re-election.[9]

Primaries

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.[10]

Pennsylvania

Last Friday, Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R) said the legislature may consider moving the April 24 primary date in order to allow more time for the Legislative Reapportionment Commission to draw up a new plan for legislative districts.[11] The original plan was thrown out by the state Supreme Court on January 25, calling it "contrary to law." The ruling held that 2012 elections could take place in the districts that were drawn in 2001. Republicans are fighting the ruling, saying the use of out-of-date boundary lines is unconstitutional. Democrats say they will try to block any attempts to delay the primary.[12]

Texas

The Texas primary, which has already been delayed from March 6 to April 3, might be pushed back further. A three-judge federal court gave the Attorney General and minority groups until today to agree on temporary redistricting maps. If they can't agree, the court will draw the maps, which would delay the primary at least two weeks.[13]

Recalls

RecallBanner.jpg
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.

Democrats in Wisconsin filed recall petitions on November 15, 2011 against four Republican state senators - Pam Galloway, Scott Fitzgerald, Terry Moulton and Van Wanggaard.[14] Campaign organizers turned in more than the necessary number of signatures in each of the four races on January 17, 2012. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board workers are currently in the process of verifying the signatures, which can be viewed on a live feed. This past week three of the embattled senators picked up opponents for potential recalls.

2011 also saw a wave of recall attempts in Michigan. While most of those efforts dried up, at least three campaigns are continuing on. Organizers of the campaign to recall Patrick Colbeck (R) seek to put the issue on the February ballot, while campaigns against Bruce Caswell (R) and Phil Pavlov (R) are aiming for the August ballot.

Special elections

See also: State legislative special elections, 2012

This week two special elections take place in Georgia.

Georgia House District 60

Gloria Bromell Tinubu (D) resigned to run for South Carolina's 7th District U.S. House seat. The special election will be held on February 7. Party affiliation is listed, but all candidates appear on the same ballot. If no candidate receives a majority of the vote, a runoff election will be held on March 6, 2012.[18][19][20]

Democratic Party Democratic Candidates:
Republican Party Republican Candidates:
  • No Republican candidates have filed.

Georgia House District 107

Len Walker (R) resigned to take a job as pastor of church located outside his present district. The special election will be held on February 7. Party affiliation is listed, but all candidates appear on the same ballot. If no candidate receives a majority of the vote, a runoff election will be held on March 6, 2012.[21][22]

Democratic Party Democratic Candidates:
  • No Democratic candidates have filed.
Republican Party Republican Candidates:
Independent Nonpartisan Candidates:

Looking ahead

Upcoming special elections include:

  • February 14: Oklahoma House District 1
  • February 14: Oklahoma House District 71
  • February 14: Oklahoma Senate District 20
  • February 14: Oklahoma Senate District 46
  • 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

See also

References

  1. Houston Chronicle, "Teachers seek special session to stop school cuts," February 3, 2012
  2. StateScape, Session schedules, accessed January 30, 2012
  3. Oregon Live, "Oregon lawmakers hope for quick, civil session that tackles budget, health care and schools," January 29, 2012
  4. NewsOn6, "Tax Plans Likely To Be Focus Of 2012 Oklahoma Legislative Session," February 5, 2012
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Shelby County Reporter, "Issues for legislative session," January 31, 2012
  6. Birmingham Business Journal, "Bill would streamline Alabama tax assessment process," January 31, 2012
  7. Ballot Access, "U.S. District Court Suspends Some Texas Election Deadlines," January 27, 2012
  8. Kentucky Herald Leader, "Judge delays filing deadline for state legislative candidates," February 1, 2012
  9. Courier-Journal, "22 Kentucky legislators won't return next year," February 5, 2012
  10. CBS DFW, "Tentative Deal Reached on Texas Primary Date," December 16, 2011
  11. Philadelphia Inquirer, "Legislators says rejection of Pa. redistricting imperils April primary," February 5, 2012
  12. Philadelphia Inquirer, "Democrats would fight delay in Pa. primaries," February 6, 2012
  13. ABC 13, "Deadline approaches for April 3 primary," February 6, 2012
  14. FOX 6 Now, "Recall paperwork filed Tuesday for four senators, including Van Wanggaard," November 15, 2011
  15. Journal Times, "Lehman to run against Wanggaard in likely recall," January 31, 2012
  16. Leader-Telegram, "Dexter to challenge state Sen. Moulton in recall," January 30, 2012
  17. Wausau Daily Herald, "Seidel announces Senate bid, will challenge Galloway," January 31, 2012
  18. Clayton News Daily, "Special election set to replace Clayton lawmaker," December 28, 201l
  19. Myrtle Beach Online, "Two more enter crowded 7th Congressional race," December 28, 2011
  20. Georgia Secretary of State, "Secretary Kemp Announces the Close of Qualifying for the Special Elections in State House Districts 60 and 107," January 11
  21. The Walton Tribune, "Qualifying date set for District 107 seat," December 27, 2011
  22. Georgia Secretary of State, "Secretary Kemp Announces the Close of Qualifying for the Special Elections in State House Districts 60 and 107," January 11