State Legislative Tracker: Washington legislature mired in budget showdown

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March 5, 2012

Edited by Greg Janetka

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This week's tracker features an update on the partisan count and the budget situation in Washington.

Partisan breakdown

As of today, March 5, 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 4 Democratic and 5 Republican legislators from the February 6 tracker.

Representation in 50 State Legislatures
Party Number of Percentage
Democratic state legislators 3,302 44.7%
Republican state legislators 3,969 53.8%
Independent state legislators 71 0.96%
Third party (and non-voting) legislators 11 0.15%
Vacancies 36 0.49%

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 March 5, 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 March 5, 2012, 5,364 state representatives are affiliated with either the Republican or Democratic parties.

Party Number of Percentage
Democratic state representatives 2,429 44.9%
Republican state representatives 2,935 54.2%
Independent state representatives 18 0.33%
Third party (and non-voting) representatives 9 0.17%
Vacancies 27 0.50%


There are 27 state house vacancies in 13 different states as of March 5, 2012. They are as follows:

State Vacancies
Georgia 1
Hawaii 1
Kentucky 1
Maine 1
Michigan 2
New Hampshire 2
New Jersey 3
New York 4
Oklahoma 2
Pennsylvania 6
Utah 2
Vermont 1
Washington 1


There are 27 state representatives in 13 states identifying as independents or parties other than Democratic and Representative as of March 5, 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 March 5, 2012, the breakdown of chamber control by party is as follows:

See also: Partisan composition of state houses

Cumulative numbers

As of March 5, 2012, 1,907 state senators are affiliated with either the Republican or Democratic parties.

Party Number of Percentage
Democratic state senators 873 44.3%
Republican state senators 1,034 52.5%
Nonpartisan state senators 49 2.49%
Independent state senators 4 0.2%
Third Party state senators 2 0.10%
Vacancies 9 0.45%


There are 9 state senate vacancies as of March 5, 2012.

State Vacancies
Arizona 2
Idaho 1
Nevada 2
New Mexico 1
New York 1
North Dakota 1
Oklahoma 1


There are 6 state senators in 5 states identifying as independents or parties other than Democratic and Representative as of March 5, 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 43 out of 50 state legislatures are meeting in regular session. No states are scheduled to convene this week, while seven states - Oregon, Utah, Washington, Florida, Wyoming, Virginia and West Virginia - are scheduled to adjourn.

One state has 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 5, 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.

There are currently no special sessions scheduled. Thus far, North Carolina is the only state to have held special sessions in 2012.

Snapshot of State Legislatures:
Monday, March 5, 2012
There are 7,384 Total State Legislators
Total Democratic state legislators 3,302 (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 10
Total Special Sessions 2

In recess

As of today, March 5, 1 states' session is currently in recess:

Issues spotlight

New budgets are currently on the top of the agenda in a number of states, including Washington, where Senate Republicans used a rare procedural move to take control over the budget plan. While Democrats hold a 27-22 majority in the chamber, 25 votes were necessary to pass their budget. Last Friday, three Democratic senators - Jim Kastama, Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon broke party ranks to initiate what is known as a "Ninth Order" which allows any bill to be pulled to the floor, even if it has not yet had a public hearing. While Democrats tried various maneuvers in order to delay the proceedings, they were ultimately unsuccessful and Republicans, with the necessary 25 votes, were able to pass their budget proposal early Saturday morning. Speaker of the House Frank Chopp (D) called the move "the worst abuse of power I have ever witnessed in the legislature.”[2]

Republicans argued that the Democrats' plan did not do enough to reform state government, but rather focused more on kicking the budgetary problems further down the road. The Democratic plan would have delayed $330 million in payments to school districts in order to deal with the current deficit. The Republican plan, however, got rid of this, choosing instead to focus on more spending cuts.[3]

Democrats in the House were able to pass their plan, which also relies on delayed payments, last week. With the regular session set to end on Thursday, the two chambers are running out of time to reach an agreement and could be forced to hold a special session. When asked what she would do if a plan is not passed before the end of the session, Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) said, "I haven't a clue."[4]


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 - Oregon, California, Connecticut, Idaho and Texas. The initial Candidate filing deadline for Texas passed in December, but it was reopened last Friday. So far, deadlines have passed in ten states - Illinois, Ohio, Texas, West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Arkansas.

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 remained uncertain. Last week the court issued interim maps and set the primary for May 29. They also reopened candidate filing on March 2, with the deadline falling on Friday.[5]


See also: 2012 election dates

The first state legislative primary elections of 2012 will take place this week in Ohio. Sixteen Senate seats and 99 House seats will be up for election. Republicans currently hold the majority in both chambers.

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.[6] 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.[7] The main argument for the senators rests on a challenge to the size and shape of their districts. Through the once-a-decade redistricting process, the Republican majority drew up and quickly passed new districts last year. Under the legislation, the maps do not take effect until this fall, but Republicans are now arguing that the recalls should take place in the new districts.

The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board is continuing to review petition signatures along with the challenges submitted against them. They currently have until March 19 to decide whether or not to schedule recall elections. However, GAB officials have said they will most likely ask for more time and will decide on how much longer will be necessary when they next meet on March 12.[8]

This past week Lori Compas, the organizer behind the recall against Scott Fitzgerald, announced she would run if an election is scheduled. Compas, a 41 year old photographer and writer, is the only candidate to declare against Fitzgerald. The senator responded by stressing his experience, saying, “Unlike my opponent, I have a proven track record and real plan to improve our business climate and create jobs.”[9]

Candidates declared their intention to run in the three other races back in January. Those match ups are as follows:

Special elections

See also: State legislative special elections, 2012

This week one special election runoff takes place in Georgia.

Georgia House District 107, Runoff

Len Walker (R) resigned to take a job as pastor of church located outside his present district. The special election was held on February 7. Party affiliation is listed, but all candidates appear on the same ballot. Smith and Kirby were the top two vote-getters and will proceed to a runoff election on March 6, 2012.[10][11]

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

Looking ahead

Upcoming special elections include:

  • March 6: Georgia House of Representatives District 107 (Runoff)
  • 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

See also