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State Legislative Tracker: Right-to-work legislation continues to be a hot topic

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January 30, 2012

Edited by Greg Janetka

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This week's tracker features an update on prominent "right-to-work" laws being considered in several states.


So far this year, 38 out of 50 state legislatures have officially convened their regular session.

Current sessions capture for the week of January 30, 2012

Regular sessions

See also: Dates of 2012 state legislative sessions

The following states convened their regular legislative sessions:

Additionally, 1 more state 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.

Snapshot of State Legislatures:
Monday, January 30, 2012
There are 7,384 Total State Legislators
Total Democratic state legislators 3,307 (44.8%)
Total Republican state legislators 3,973 (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 Elections 4
Total Special Sessions 1

In recess

As of today, January 30, 2 states' sessions are currently in mid-term recess:

  • North Carolina - Mid-term recess June 18, 2011 through February 15, 2012[1]
  • Oklahoma - Mid-term recess May 28, 2011 through February 5, 2012[1]

Issues spotlight

Since last week's Tracker, one state has kicked off its 2012 session. Here's a quick rundown on what are some early topics:

  • Minnesota: Republicans and Democrats are both hopeful that the 2012 session will be a fresh start after last year's budget showdown that led to a three-week government shutdown. Major issues include job creation, economic development and whether to build a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings.[2]

Right to work

22 states currently have "right-to-work" laws

As expected, "right-to-work" legislation is quickly becoming a major divisive issue in several states in 2012. Nowhere is this more evident than Indiana, where House Democrats delayed the start of the session by preventing a quorum in order to slow the proposed legislation. They returned to the chamber on January 9, only to walkout again the next day. Democrats then attempted to offer amendments on the bill and sought to require a voter referendum, both of which failed. Without the numbers to stop the legislation, Democrats returned to the House on January 25 and quickly saw the Republican majority pass the bill 54-44.[3] Governor Mitch Daniels (R) is expected to sign the bill, making Indiana the 23rd right-to-work state.[4]

Over in Missouri a Senate panel endorsed two bills last week that would make it a misdemeanor to require workers to pay union dues. One bill, if passed by the legislature, would go before voters. The other would go straight to the governor.[5] Missouri voters rejected a "right-to-work" proposal in 1978, but it is believed the electorate is now more likely to endorse such a measure.[6]

Meanwhile, a number of bills targeting unions are being considered in New Hampshire. Last year, the Legislature passed House Bill 474, which would have prohibited unions from collecting dues from non-members, but Governor John Lynch (D) vetoed the bill on May 11, 2011. In late November Speaker of the House Bill O'Brien (R) called a vote in an attempt to override it,[7] but came up 12 votes short of sending it to the Senate.[8] A new "right-to-work" bill is on the table, with a fierce battle expected ahead.[9]

Also of note, Minnesota State Sen. Dave Thompson (R) announced last week he will be introducing what he is calling an "Employee Freedom Bill" as an amendment to the state Constitution. Thompson said the bill would allow workers to choose to join a union or not, and if they do not join then they would not have to pay dues. If passed by the legislature it would go before voters on the November ballot. "I'm here to do what I believe is right. If that costs me an election in November, so be it," Thompson stated.[10]


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 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 last week that if no compromise map is reached by February 6, that the date will once again have to be delayed.[11]

West Virginia

West Virginia's candidate filing period ended on Saturday.[12] There are 17 state senate and 100 state house seats up for election this year. Democrats have large majorities in both chambers and look poised to retain them. According to an analysis by The Associated Press, only 5 of the 17 senate seats have the potential to change hands as opposing major party candidates did not file in the other 12 races. Over in the House, 43 seats did not draw opposition from a major party candidate.[13]


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.[14]

New Hampshire

The New Hampshire State Senate voted 13-10 last week to move the state primary from the second Tuesday in September to the last Tuesday in August. The filing deadline would be moved from the first Wednesday in June to the third Wednesday in May. The bill now goes to the House - if approved it would be the first change to the primary date since 1944.[15]

New York

Over the weekend U.S. District Judge Gary Sharpe of the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York delivered his ruling establishing the date of the New York congressional primary as June 26, 35 days prior to the deadline for sending absentee ballots overseas. While his ruling does not change the state legislative primary, it is likely that the legislature will follow suit and move the State senate and State Assembly primary date to June 26 as well.[16]

Special elections

See also: State legislative special elections, 2012

There are no special elections taking place this week.

Looking ahead

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: 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


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.[17] 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. The senators initially had until January 28 to challenge the signatures, but with delays in getting the signatures to the senators, Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess extended the period an additional 10 days.[18] Niess also granted GAB an additional 30 days to verify the signatures.[19]

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.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 StateScape, Session schedules," accessed January 30, 2012
  2. Star Tribune, "New session opens with cautious hopes for peace," January 21, 2012
  3. Christian Science Monitor, "Right to work gets first foothold in Rust Belt," generate 26 2012
  4. Reuters, "Indiana right-to-work law to get final push this week," January 30, 2012
  5. CBS St. Louis, "Missouri “Right-to-Work” Back on the Table," January 30, 2012
  6. St. Louis Beacon, "Bills to change workers' rights high on state Senate's agenda," January 29, 2012
  7. Union Leader," Right to work veto override vote coming?," November 29, 2011
  8. Eagle Tribune, "N.H. House fails to override right-to-work veto," December 1, 2011
  9. CBS News, "Series of bills targets NH public workers' unions," January 29, 2012 (dead link)
  10. Northfield Patch, "Thompson Looks to Take on Unions; Wisconsin-Like Labor Battle Coming?," January 29, 2012
  11. Ballot Access, "U.S. District Court Suspends Some Texas Election Deadlines," January 27, 2012
  12. Charleston Daily Mail, "W.Va. candidates file for Congress, state offices," January 29, 2012
  13. The Republic, "W.Va. primary marked by shortage of legislative contests for both major parties," January 29, 2012
  14. CBS DFW, "Tentative Deal Reached on Texas Primary Date," December 16, 2011
  15., "NH Senate votes to change state primary date," January 25, 2012
  16. Wall Street Journal, "Federal judge sets June date for NY primary" 1/27/2012
  17. FOX 6 Now, "Recall paperwork filed Tuesday for four senators, including Van Wanggaard," November 15, 2011
  18. ABC 7, "Judge gives Wis. gov more time to challenge recall," January 25, 2012
  19. Green Bay Press Gazette, "Judge extends recall verification period," January 25, 2012