State Legislative Tracker: Illinois House expels member for first time in over 100 years

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August 20, 2012

Edited by Greg Janetka
This week's tracker features a look at the recent special session of the Illinois Legislature, which resulted in the expulsion of Rep. Derrick Smith.

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Weekly highlight

When the Illinois State Legislature met in special session last Friday, they had two goals - address comprehensive pension reform and the matter of Rep. Derrick Smith, who had been arrested earlier this year on bribery charges. While they failed to act on the estimated $85 million pension shortfall, lawmakers did take swift action against Smith, voting 100–6 to expel him. It was the first time in over 100 years that Illinois legislators threw a fellow sitting lawmaker out of office.[1][2]

On March 13, 2012, Smith, who was appointed to the seat only a year earlier, was arrested by federal agents and charged with bribery after he allegedly accepted $7,000 in return for supporting a $50,000 state grant to a day care center. Smith did not realize his deal was being struck with an undercover informant. The bribery charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years and a $250,000 fine. He was released on a $4,500 personal bond.[3]

Smith's 2012 primary opponent, Tom Swiss, called for Smith's resignation and withdrawal from the primary election.[3] Democratic leaders encouraged voters to vote for him in the primary despite his arrest, with the idea that Smith would then take himself off the ballot so the party could appoint someone else to run in November. However, after winning the primary, Smith refused to step down.[4]

Even with his expulsion, Smith has vowed to stay on the ballot. If he wins the November 6 election, he could be sworn in again and could not be expelled a second time for the same findings. However, if he is convicted of the charges, he would be automatically removed from the legislature. Smith stated, "I am sad because my colleagues in the House saw fit to remove me from office. The bottom line is that my former colleagues did not know the whole truth, and I look forward to that day when they do."[2]

The only other legislator to be expelled from office was Democratic Rep. Frank Comerford back in 1905. In a speech to students at the Illinois College of Law, Comerford, likening the General Assembly to "a great public auction," named lawmakers who were rumored to have taken bribes and detailed the money that was exchanged. Soon after he was kicked out of the House for "besmirching its good name and reputation."[5]


This week 4 out of 50 state legislatures - New Jersey, Ohio and California are meeting in regular session, while Massachusetts is meeting in informal session, which it will continue to do throughout the rest of the year. As of May 16, all states had convened their 2012 sessions. No states are projected to adjourn this week.

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

Current sessions capture for the week of August 20, 2012

Regular sessions

See also: Dates of 2012 state legislative sessions
Click here to see a chart of each state's 2012 session information.

Although most states have concluded 2012 business, some states have already begun 2013 action. Drafting for 2013 has begun in Montana and North Dakota, while prefiling of legislation is going on in Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, and Virginia.[6]

Special sessions

Snapshot of State Legislatures:
Monday, August 20, 2012
There are 7,383 Total State Legislators
Total Democratic state legislators 3,301 (44.7%)
Total Republican state legislators 3,953 (53.5%)
There are 99 Total State Legislative Chambers
Total Democratic Party-controlled chambers 37
Total Republican Party-controlled chambers 58
Total tied or nonpartisan chambers 4
2012 Session Information
Total Special Elections 30
Total Special Sessions 18

In 2011, special sessions were a widespread occurrence in state legislatures. This was largely due to states' having to complete the redistricting process for legislative and congressional districts. Overall in 2011, there were 45 special sessions in 28 states.

Since the beginning of 2012, there have been 18 special sessions in 14 states. There are no special sessions currently ongoing, with the next scheduled for August 24 in Minnesota.


California Governor Jerry Brown (D) told legislative leaders on August 16 that he will call a special session in December in order to address changes to state law so that California can lead the way with implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The law takes effect January 1, 2014.[7]


In July, Governor Mark Dayton (D) announced that there will be a special session to address flood relief. Now set to begin the third week of August, the session, remained without a date for some time as state and local officials were waiting to hear how much the federal government would cover.[8]

While the Federal Emergency Management Agency earlier granted federal money for damage to public infrastructure, Dayton received a shock in late July when FEMA said they would not provide any assistance to businesses and individuals whose homes were damaged in the flooding. The governor appealed the decision, but that appeal was denied.[9] Dayton has proposed a $190 million relief package.[10]

The session is tentatively scheduled for August 24.[11]

In recess

As of today, August 20, 5 state's sessions are currently in recess:

  • Illinois - In recess from August 17, 2012 to November 27, 2012.[12]
  • New York - In recess from June 22, 2012 to January 7, 2013.[13]
  • Michigan - In recess from August 16, 2012 to September 10, 2012.[13]
  • Pennsylvania - In recess from July 3, 2012 to September 23, 2012.[13]
  • Wisconsin - In recess from March 17 to December 31, 2012.[13]
Redistricting Roundup.jpg

State news

Redistricting Facts
Maps submitted for vote: 138 out of 142 (97.2%)** No votes on initial maps in the following: ME (2), MT (2)
States that have completed Congressional Maps 43/43
States that have completed State Legislative Maps 46/50 (Maps unfinished: AL, ME, MS, MT)
**With 50 states, there are 142 possible maps. 50 State Senate, 49 State House (No House in Nebraska), and 43 Congressional (7 states have 1 seat)


On August 10, 2012, the Legislative Black Caucus, along with the Association of Black County Officials and several black county commissioners, filed a lawsuit seeking to block implementation of legislative redistricting plans. According to the lawsuit, the plans dilute minority voting strength, violate "one person, one vote," and illegally split counties.[14]


Back in January, House Republicans and Democratic Sen. Kathy Stein filed suit against the new legislative district maps, arguing they unnecessarily divided counties and disenfranchised voters. Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd agreed with the suit, ruling the maps unconstitutional, a decision which was upheld by the state Supreme Court.

Shepherd has now ruled that the Legislative Research Commission will have to pay attorneys fees for House Republicans and Sen. Stein. The LRC, which consists of the majority and minority leaders from both chambers, used money from the legislative budget to oppose the lawsuit. The amount it will have to pay has not yet been specified.[15]

New Mexico

As Republican Gov. Susana Martinez and the Democratic-led Legislature consistently found themselves at odds with one another, the 2012 round of redistricting in New Mexico was among the most politically divisive in the country. This led to a lengthy court battle, which taxpayers will now have to pick up the tab for.

On July 30, 2012, District Judge James Hall ruled that taxpayers would be responsible for paying attorneys' fees for those who represented Democratic, Republican, Native American and Hispanic voter interests in the redistricting trials - a sum that amounted to nearly $3 million. Gov. Martinez suggested the legislature pay the fees for Democratic-leaning groups, while the executive branch should pay for Navajos and Republican interests. Hall rejected this notion, stating, "the request itself only reaffirms the 'us-versus-them' mentality which pervades our present political environment."[16]

Following this decision, an analysis by the Associated Press found the total cost to taxpayers for the redistricting process came to nearly $8 million. This reignited the call by some for the creation of a nonpartisan commission to handle the once a decade process.[17]

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.

1,301 (65.97%) of the country's 1,972 state senate seats are up for election in November 2012, and 4,714 (87.12%) of the country's 5,411 state house seats are up for election. Altogether, 6,015 (81.47%) of the country's 7,383 state legislative seats will be up for 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 6,015 seats up for election is 110 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

As of July 12, all signature filing deadlines have passed.


See also: 2012 election dates

There are state legislative primaries taking place this week in one state - Wyoming.

A total of 151 state legislative incumbents have been defeated in a primary - 95 Republicans and 56 Democrats.

So far, primaries have taken place in 35 states:

States with upcoming primaries:

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, four of which resulted in the legislator being recalled. In 2012, there have been four state legislative recalls - three have failed while one succeeded.


Recall efforts are currently targeting four Republican members of the Louisiana House of Representatives - Charles "Chuck" Kleckley, Kevin Pearson, George Cromer and Ray Garofalo.

The legislators have been targeted primarily because of their support for controversial public education reforms backed by Gov. Bobby Jindal (R).[18]


2011 saw a wave of recall attempts in Michigan. While most of those efforts dried up, at least two campaigns continued 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) set their sights on the August 2012 ballot, but in April organizers of the Pavlov recall announced they did not have enough signatures and were abandoning their efforts.[19] The Caswell campaign appears to be no longer active as well.

Following several attempts to get recall language approved against Sen. Randy Richardville, organizers succeeded on June 12, 2012. The approved petition language against Richardville states that one reason for the recall is Richardville's support for a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.[20]

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See also: State legislative special elections, 2012

So far in 2012 there have been 30 special elections in 12 states.

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

Recent election results

CheckedBoxOffset.jpg On August 7, Pennsylvania's special election was decided:

Looking ahead

Upcoming special elections include:

  • September 4: Virginia Senate District 5, Virginia House of Delegates District 45
  • November 6: Kentucky Senate District 19
  • November 6: Mississippi State Senate District 19
  • November 6: New Jersey Assembly Districts 16, 26, 68
  • November 6: Texas House of Representatives District 41
  • December 11: Alabama House of Representatives District 30

See also


  1. Rockford Register Star, "Illinois lawmakers fail to take action on pension reform," August 17, 2012
  2. 2.0 2.1 Chicago Tribune, "Rep. Derrick Smith booted from office," August 17, 2012
  3. 3.0 3.1, "Feds: State Rep. Derrick Smith took $7,000 bribe," March 13, 2012
  4., "Illinois House poised to expel one of their own over bribery," July 20, 2012
  5. FOX Illinois, "Illinois House expulsion in 1905 laid groundwork for 2012 Smith case," June 20, 2012
  6. StateNet, "Daily Session Summary," accessed August 13, 2012
  7. San Francisco Chronicle, "Gov. Brown to call special session on Obamacare," August 17, 2012
  8. Duluth News Tribune, "Minnesota officials pledge cooperation to deliver disaster relief," July 12, 2012 (dead link)
  9. Claims Journal, "FEMA Denies Minnesota Appeal for Individual Flood Aid," August 13, 2012
  10. The Sacramento Bee, "Lawmakers look toward Aug. 24 special session," August 16, 2012
  11. Twin Cities, "Minnesota Legislature: Special session date tentatively for Aug. 24," August 6, 2012
  12. Illinois General Assembly, "Session schedule," accessed August 20, 2012
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 StateScape, Session schedules, accessed August 20, 2012
  14. The Birmingham News, "Alabama Legislative Black Caucus files lawsuit over redistricting plans," August 10, 2012
  15. Lexington Herald Leader, "Legislature must pay legal fees of challengers who overturned unconstitutional redistricting," August 15, 2012
  16. WTNH, "Judge awards nearly $3M for NM redistricting fees," August 1, 2012
  17. New Mexico Watchdog, "And the redistricting price tag keeps growing — now the figure is $8 million," August 2, 2012
  18. American Press, "Leaders call Kleckley recall push a 'grass-roots effort'," June 15, 2012
  19. The Times Herald, "State Sen. Phil Pavlov recall fails," April 13, 2012
  20. My FOX Detroit, "Recall language targeting Richardville approved," June 12, 2012
  21. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Vulakovich defeats Brown for Orie's seat," August 7, 2012