State Legislative Tracker: Three states adjourn with work unfinished, head to special sessions

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March 12, 2012

Edited by Greg Janetka

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This week's tracker features an update on what was accomplished (and not accomplished) in those state legislatures that adjourned for the year last week and a look at special sessions in Florida, Virginia and Washington.


This week 35 out of 50 state legislatures are meeting in regular session. One state - Louisiana - convenes this week, while no states are scheduled to adjourn.

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

Current sessions capture for the week of March 12, 2012

Regular sessions

See also: Dates of 2012 state legislative sessions

The following states convened their regular 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

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.

Washington is currently in special session. Virginia formally began a special session last Saturday, but adjourned until March 21, while Florida is scheduled to begin one on Wednesday.

In recess

As of today, March 12, 1 states' session is currently in recess:

Sessions spotlight

So far ten states have adjourned their regular session for the year - at least three of those will be holding special sessions to finish up their work.


Following the Florida Supreme Court's decision on Friday to reject the state's new Senate maps, the Senate will reconvene in special session starting Wednesday in order to redraw its map.[2]

In Florida, if the Court finds a plan unconstitutional, the Governor must call a new session within five days to correct the district lines -- this session may last no longer than 15 days. The revised plan is again submitted to the court for evaluation. The court approved the new state House districts.


The Virginia General Assembly ended their regular session on Saturday. The 60-day session was full of heated debate over bills regarding abortion restrictions and gun laws, but never included passing a new state budget. Thus, the same day that the Legislature adjourned, they also formally started a special session then adjourned until March 21.

Following the 2011 legislative elections, which left the Senate evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, Republicans claimed power in the chamber using the tie-breaking vote of Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R). The Lt. Governor, however, can not break ties on appropriations bills. In exchange for a compromise on the budget, Democrats are seeking a power-sharing agreement in the Senate.[3]


Gov. Chris Gregoire (D) called for a special session on Thursday after it was clear the Legislature was going to end its 60-day regular session without passing a supplemental budget plan. House Democrats passed a budget agreement by a 53-45 vote, but it included a delayed payment for schools, something that has previously failed in the Senate. While Democrats hold the majority in the Senate, three members broke from the party ranks to vote for a Republican plan that got rid of the delayed payment and focused instead on more spending cuts.[4]

The special session got under way today at noon, but the first two days are only "pro forma," meaning legislators are not required to be at the Capitol until Wednesday. Gregoire said it could last up to a month.[5]

Snapshot of State Legislatures:
Monday, March 5, 2012
There are 7,384 Total State Legislators
Total Democratic state legislators 3,300 (44.7%)
Total Republican state legislators 3,969 (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 11
Total Special Sessions 5

Issues spotlight

Nine states concluded their regular session for the year last week. Three of those will be holding special sessions (see above). Here is an update on major topics that were addressed in the other six:

  • Arkansas – Arkansas' second-ever fiscal session focused mainly on the passage of a $4.7 billion budget. Legislators attempted to get non-budget items passed, including a $4 million tax break for truckers, but those items will have to wait until next year. The House also voted to elect Darrin Williams as the first black Speaker of the House in state history.[6]
  • Indiana – Legislators ended their session by passing a spending package that includes $6 million for victims of the Indiana State Fair stage collapse and $80 million for full-day kindergarten. They also agreed to decrease the state inheritance tax beginning next year until it is completely phased out after 2021. In perhaps the most controversial move, legislators passed a bill which mandates that citizens are protected by the state's self-defense law if they reasonably believe force is necessary in order to protect themselves from unlawful actions by a police officer.[7]
  • Oregon – The Legislature held its first-ever annual session this year, which was created by a voter-approved ballot measure passed in 2010. Lawmakers were able to pass a balanced budget to deal with a $200 million budget gap and largely deemed the session a success.[8]
  • Utah – The Legislature's 45-day session was fairly uneventful, with the controversial issue of immigration avoided entirely. The most attention was given to what is being called the "Sagebrush Rebellion 2.0" as legislators sought to claim 30 million acres of state land that is owned by the federal government.[9]
  • West Virginia – Legislators passed 213 bills this session, including 112 on the last day. One thing they did not accomplish, however, was passing a new budget. To that end, the session was extended, with work on the budget getting under way again yesterday. Some are predicting a special session will have to be called later in the month.[10]
  • Wyoming – The Legislature finished on March 8, a day early. During that time legislators passed a $3.2 billion budget for the next two years. It keeps spending more or less flat but gives the governor authority to spend up to $150 million in reserve funds if necessary. They also passed a new state wolf management plan that aims to end protections for wolves under the federal Endangered Species Act.[11]


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.

1,267 (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 and 2012 Elections preview: Comparing state legislative filing deadlines

This week five states have signature filing deadlines for candidates running for election - Montana, Maine, Iowa, Nevada and Utah.

So far, deadlines have passed in 13 states:

States with upcoming deadlines:


See also: 2012 election dates

The first state legislative primary elections of 2012 took place last week in Ohio. There are no state legislative primaries this week. The next will take place in Illinois on March 20, where all 59 Senate seats and 118 House seats will be on the ballot.

States with upcoming primaries:

Note: Texas was originally scheduled to hold their primary on March 6. However, with newly drawn state legislative maps being fought in the courts, the date was moved to May 29.


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.


2011 saw a wave of recall attempts in Michigan. While most of those efforts dried up, at least two campaigns are continuing 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) are aiming for the August 2012 ballot.


Democrats in Wisconsin filed recall petitions on November 15, 2011 against four Republican state senators - Pam Galloway, Scott Fitzgerald, Terry Moulton and Van Wanggaard.[12] Campaign organizers turned in more than the necessary number of signatures in each of the four races on January 17, 2012.

On February 9, all four senators for recall submitted signatures challenges, and the recall committees submitted rebuttals to the challenges.[13] A statement issued by GAB staff on Friday said they won't be able to finish reviewing all of the signatures by the deadline and requested the board to ask for an extension to March 30. The statement also recommends the board dismiss all of the petition challenges, a move which would automatically trigger recall elections.[14] GAB director Kevin Kennedy has said primaries could take place on May 15 with the recalls on June 12.

The full board met today and voted unanimously to order recalls against all four Republican state senators.[15]

Special elections

See also: State legislative special elections, 2012

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

Looking ahead

Upcoming special elections include:

  • March 20: New York Assembly District 93
  • March 20: New York Assembly District 100
  • March 20: New York Assembly District 103
  • March 20: New York Assembly District 145
  • March 20: New York Senate District 27
  • April 3: Oklahoma House of Representatives District 71
  • April 3: Oklahoma Senate District 20
  • April 10: Minnesota Senate District 20
  • April 24: Pennsylvania House District 22
  • April 24: Pennsylvania House District 134
  • April 24: Pennsylvania House District 153
  • April 24: Pennsylvania House District 169
  • April 24: Pennsylvania House District 186
  • April 24: Pennsylvania House District 197

See also