State Legislative Tracker: State's fiscal years end this week as possible shutdowns loom large

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June 27, 2011

By Jackie Arthur

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In this week's State Legislative Tracker there are 11 states still in regular session.

Sessions

So far this year, 37 out of 50 state legislative sessions have officially adjourned. This week, six states are scheduled to adjourn their 2011 session:

States that adjourned last week:

Special sessions

Special sessions are expected to be 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.

As of this week, California, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin continue their special sessions. Connecticut is set to convene their special session this week, beginning June 30.

Special sessions that ended last week were:

  • Illinois- June 22. Illinois began and ended its special session on June 22, 2011. After much speculation and fear over a potentially lengthy and costly special session, lawmakers wrapped up the single day session in less than three hours. Legislators accomplished two major items, solving the construction budget and cutting their own salaries by $3,000 for next year.[1]

This week, three states are scheduled to adjourn their special sessions:

A total of nine special sessions have adjourned this year in Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Utah and Washington.

UPDATE: Alaska is also currently in the middle of a special session. The legislature is analyzing the Coastal Management program.[3]

Regular sessions

Current sessions capture as of June 20, 2011

The following 11 states remain in regular legislative sessions:

Click here to see a chart of each state's 2011 session information.

Sessions spotlight

This week, our spotlight focuses on Iowa and Minnesota, where potential government shutdowns loom, and California, where legislators are no longer receiving pay for the current session. Also, an update on New York, featured in last week's tracker.

State budget woes

Eleven states have yet to submit an acceptable state budget for the new fiscal year:[5][6]

Two states, Minnesota and Iowa, face government shutdowns if immediate measures are not taken.

Iowa: Only three days remain for lawmakers to decide on a state budget before time runs out on the third largest legislative session in state history. Iowa's current budgeting year ends June 30th, and legislators need to approve a spending plan for the new fiscal year which begins July 1, 2011.[7]

Optimism abounds regarding a possible end of the week adjournment, as Republicans and Democrats have begun to work together on the issues. According to Senate Majority Leader Michael Gronstal (D), "The Senate has gotten the ball rolling. The handful of days remaining in the month of June is more than enough to finish the state budget and adjourn.[8]

However, despite the apparent partisan cooperation, one important issue has yet to be resolved. Both parties are still severely split on property taxes. Republicans wish to cut taxes across the board, reimbursing local government for lost revenue. Democrats call the plan a "tax shift," and are pushing a plan that would offer a tax credit approach to cut taxes.[8]

The Iowa legislative session began on January 10, 2011 and has continued since, now 59 days past the scheduled time of 110 calendar days. The Iowa legislature is not in special session, rather an extended session in which legislators do not receive per diem. Iowa legislative rules allow lawmakers to receive per diem for a maximum of 100 days in even numbered years, and 110 days in odd numbered years. The 110th calendar day of the 2011 session was April 30. The rules may be amended at any time to extend the legislative session.

If a plan is not reached by June 30, Iowa faces shutdowns in many areas of state government.

Minnesota: Although Minnesota's legislative session adjourned May 23, the state's $5 billion budget deficit has yet to be worked out.

The Republican controlled Legislature and Democratic Governor Mark Dayton have been at odds since early January over spending. Earlier this year, Dayton vetoed the Legislature's proposed budget, largely because it did not contain the revenue he had anticipated.[9]

To help solve the problem, Governor Dayton requested that Ramsey County District Judge Kathleen Gearin appoint a mediator to intervene. Legislators also petitioned the judge, asking her to order Dayton to call for a special legislative session. Both requests were turned down. Gearin responded by referencing the recent flood of legal filings from parties with stakes in the possible shutdown, and said "there's no way I can deal with all the motions that were introduced today." She also added that this is a "significant crisis," and that the "clock is ticking."[10]

According to attorney Fritz Knaak, the budget impasse will go away if Dayton were to call for a special session to handle the issues. "He has a duty to call a special session," Knaak said.

If Dayton and legislative leaders fail to reach a budget agreement by July 1, many state government functions that are deemed non-essential will begin to shut down.[10]

California: California Controller John Chiang (D), the state's chief fiscal adviser, announced June 22 that legislator's pay would be stopped, due to a proposed budget he deemed insufficient. He said the state budget contained $89.75 billion in spending, but only provided $87.9 billion in revenue, resulting in a $1.85 billion gap.

According to reports, the decision to withhold pay was implemented as an incentive to fix the budget shortfall. Under Chiang's decision, most lawmakers will lose about $260 salary per day, and $142 in tax-free travel and living expenses.[11] California legislators are paid $95,290.56 per year. They also receive $141.86 per day in per diem.

Updates

Governor Cuomo's (D) legislation will, as of July 24, grant same-sex couples equal rights to marry, as well as "hundreds of rights, benefits and protections that are currently limited to married couples of the opposite sex."[12] The bill alters the Domestic Relations Law to say that "no application for a marriage license shall be denied on the ground that the parties are of the same or a different sex."[13]

The bill passed the Senate by a 33-29 vote. Four Republicans supported the bill, and one Democrat, Ruben Diaz, opposed it. The National Organization for Marriage has promised a "campaign for their electoral punishment"[12] against the four Republicans who voted for the bill -- James Alesi, Roy McDonald, Stephen Saland and Marc Grisanti.

New York State Senate Partisan Breakdown

Party As of December 2014
     Democratic Party 32
     Republican Party 29
     Vacancy 2
Total 63

Note: Although Democrats have a numerical majority, a coalition gives Republicans control of the chamber.


Elections

A total of 578 seats will be up for general election in state legislatures in 2011.

Three state legislative primaries remain in Louisiana, Mississippi and Virginia. New Jersey held statewide primaries on June 7, 2011. The next primary will be in Mississippi on August 2, 2011.

The next state with a signature filing deadline is Louisiana on September 8. Virginia's signature filing deadline was June 15, however no candidate list has been released. Virginia's primary has been rescheduled to August 23, 2011 instead of its usual date of June 14, 2011[14] after delays and uncertainty in the redistricting process.[15].[16]

Special elections

June

There is one special election this week, taking place in Florida House of Representatives District 110. Tomorrow, Republican Jose Oliva will face write-in candidate Antonio Moreno in a special election to fill the District 110 vacancy.[17] The vacancy was created when former Representative Esteban Bovo, Jr. (R) resigned to take the office of Miami-Dade County Commissioner.

Republican Party Republican Candidate:[18]
Independent Write-in Candidate:

Four candidates competed to fill a vacancy in Georgia House District 113 on June 21. The opening was created when Hank Huckaby (R) resigned to become the new University of Georgia Chancellor.

The election was a nonpartisan special election with no party primary. Candidates Charles Williams (R) and Dan Matthews (D) were the top two vote-getters. Since neither received a majority of the vote, a runoff election will be held on Tuesday, July 19, 2011.[19][20]

Democratic Party Democratic Candidate:
Republican Party Republican Candidates:


References

  1. Illinois Statehouse News, Lawmakers keep summer road work on track, cut own pay, June 22, 2011
  2. Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau, Wisconsin Legislative Spotlight, accessed June 27, 2011
  3. Juneau Empire, "Session enters second day as Coastal Management debate continues," June 27, 2011
  4. Maine.gov Session Schedule, accessed June 20, 2011
  5. NCSL, Fiscal Year 2012 Budget Status, June 20, 2011
  6. Updates to NCSL report were found on June 27, 2011
  7. Quad City Times, Budget battle:Time running out in Iowa, June 20, 2011
  8. 8.0 8.1 Sioux City Journal.com, Iowa Lawmakers aim for adjournment, June 27, 2011
  9. Stateline.org, Shutdowns loom in Iowa, Minnesota, June 27, 2011
  10. 10.0 10.1 Star Tribune, Judge won't order state budget mediation, special session, June 23, 2011
  11. The Sacramento Bee, John Chiang's pay blockage upends budget talks, June 22, 2011 (dead link)
  12. 12.0 12.1 Timesunion.com, "Waking up to new marriage law," June 26, 2011
  13. CNN.com, Same-sex marriage bill enters last scheduled day of NY session, June 20, 2011
  14. Ballot Access News, "Virginia House Passes Bill Moving 2011 Primary from June to August," January 20, 2011
  15. Virginia General Assembly, "History of House Bill 1507 (2011)"
  16. Virginia Public Access Project, "Update:Primaries to be held August 23," January 30, 2011
  17. Miami Herald, Hialeah’s Jose Oliva wins House District 110, May 24, 2011 (dead link)
  18. Connecticut Democrats, "Upcoming Events" (dead link)
  19. Georgia Secretary of State, "Unofficial Results of the Tuesday, June 21, 2011 Special Election," accessed June 22, 2011
  20. Secretary of State News, Secretary Kemp Announces the Close of Qualifying for the Special Election in State House District 113, May 18, 2011