State Legislative Tracker: In addition to primaries, Pennsylvania to hold 6 special elections tomorrow

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April 23, 2012

Edited by Greg Janetka

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This week's tracker features an update on the ongoing special sessions in Alaska and Virginia.


This week 23 out of 50 state legislatures are meeting in regular session. No states are scheduled to convene this week, while one state - Iowa - is expected to adjourn.

Eighteen 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 April 23, 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

Snapshot of State Legislatures:
Monday, April 16, 2012
There are 7,384 Total State Legislators
Total Democratic state legislators 3,303 (44.7%)
Total Republican state legislators 3,967 (53.7%)
There are 99 Total State Legislative Chambers
Total Democratic Party-controlled chambers 36
Total Republican Party-controlled chambers 58
Total tied or nonpartisan chambers 5
2012 Session Information
Total Special Elections 19
Total Special Sessions 9

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 9 special sessions in 6 states. Two are ongoing.


Gov. Sean Parnell (R) called for a special session last week following the end of the Legislature's regular session in order to deal with unresolved issues, including oil taxes, an in-state natural gas pipeline project and strengthening penalties for people convicted of sex trafficking.[1] On April 18, it got off to a slow start, as both the House and Senate passed a resolution to bring back a sex-trafficking measure and an in-state gas line bill that died during the regular session.[2] The trafficking bill has passed both chambers, but other issues are ongoing. Jessica Geary, finance manager of the Legislative Affairs Agency, estimated that each day of the special session costs the state up to $30,000.[3]


The Kentucky Legislature wrapped up a five-day special session last Friday, reaching an agreement on a transportation budget and a bill targeting prescription drug abuse. Gov. Steve Beshear (D) ordered the special session last week so lawmakers could take up the two major bills that died during the regular session. The session cost approximately $300,000.[4][5]


Maryland might hold a special session in order to deal with unfinished budget issues, but Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) said he will only call one if legislative leaders agree that there will not be another stalemate. The General Assembly passed a budget before the regular session adjourned, but measures related to the budget stalled. Among these is a tax plan to balance the budget. Without one in place, a "doomsday plan" of $512 million in cuts will take effect.[6]

Last Tuesday, House Republicans announced their support for the state's approved budget, set to start July 1, while calling on Democratic leaders not to hold the special session. Republicans said the $512 million in cuts is not a doomsday scenario but rather a good start in limiting spending.[7] The governor is expected to meet with Democratic leaders tomorrow to discuss the possibility of a special session.[8]


The Virginia General Assembly reconvened its special session last week in an attempt to pass a budget.[9] It ended its regular session on March 10 without passing a new state budget. Thus, the same day that the Legislature adjourned, it also formally started a special session to address the issue.[10]

The Senate passed an $85 billion budget plan on Wednesday, sending it to the governor for review. The previous day saw a stalemate in the chamber over funding to extend the metro train system to Dulles International Airport.[11] The governor has seven days to sign or veto the plan. The session is projected to adjourn on Friday.[12]

In recess

As of today, April 23, 6 states' sessions are currently in recess:

  • Kansas - In recess from March 31 to April 24. Will return for wrap-up session April 25, scheduled to adjourn April 30.
  • Maine - In recess from April 14 until May 13.[12]
  • New Jersey - In recess for budget hearings from March 16, 2012 through May 15, 2012[12]
  • North Carolina - Mid-term recess June 18, 2011 through May 12, 2012[12]
  • Pennsylvania - In recess April 5 until April 30.[12]
  • Wisconsin - In recess from March 17, 2012 through April 23, 2012. Will only return to conduct limited business.[12]

State news


On April 20, Judge Michael McConahy of Alaska's Fourth District Superior Court struck down the state Redistricting Board's revised map. He found that the plan still fails to ensure compliance with the Alaska Constitution. Earlier this year, McConahy and (upon appeal) the Alaska Supreme Court overturned Board's original plan. The Board will hold a public meeting on April 24 to consider an appeal.[13][14]

  • The ruling in the case can be found here.
  • Details and teleconference info for the meeting can be found here.
Redistricting Facts
Maps submitted for vote: 135 out of 142 (95.1%)** No votes on initial maps in the following: AL (2), KS (1), ME (2), MT (2)
States that have completed Congressional Maps 41/43 (Maps unfinished: KS, NH)
States that have completed State Legislative Maps 45/50 (Maps unfinished: AL, KS, 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)


The Vermont State Senate has approved legislative redistricting maps for the House and Senate. However, disagreements still persist between the two chambers over the maps. The plans now head to a House-Senate conference committee where lawmakers hope to iron out their differences. Regardless of a legislative compromise, some worry that the high population deviations (18.2% for the Senate, 24% for the House) will prompt a legal challenge against the maps.[15][16]

  • The Senate-approved Senate plan can be found here.
  • The Senate-approved House plan can be found here.


Despite saying that the Republican-drawn maps "have largely been vindicated" by the court, Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen (R) has now appealed the three-judge panel's decision regarding the two Assembly districts the panel ordered to be redrawn. The appeal goes directly to the U.S. Supreme Court, who is required to take the case.[17]

Democrats called the move unnecessary and expensive. Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D) asked, "Does their appetite for wasting taxpayer money on protecting their own political interests ever end? It must be the first time in history anyone has appealed their 'vindication' to the Supreme Court."[17]

In response to criticism, Van Hollen said, "While some view the adverse portion of the district court decision as being inconsequential, I disagree. Any time a federal court rejects a state redistricting statute, and decides to redraw or adjust a legislative district, it is a serious matter and appropriate for appellate review."[17]

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 election in November 2012, and 4,712 (87.05%) of the country's 5,413 state house seats are up for election. Altogether, 5,984 (81.0%) of the country's 7,384 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 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

No states have signature filing deadlines this week.

So far, deadlines have passed in 26 states:

States with upcoming deadlines:


See also: 2012 election dates

State legislative primaries take place this week in Pennsylvania. Half of the state's 50 Senate seats and all 203 House seats will be up for election.

So far, primaries have taken place in two states:

A total of five state legislative incumbents have been defeated in a primary.

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. In 2012, there are currently 4 scheduled state legislative recalls.


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 earlier this month organizers of the Pavlov recall announced they did not have enough signatures and were abandoning their efforts.[18] The Caswell campaign remains active.

Proposed recall petition language was submitted last week targeting Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R). The man behind the move is Jeff Andring, a fellow Republican and former chairman of the Monroe County Republican Party. The language says Richardville should be recalled for cosponsoring legislation that benefited the brother of the state GOP chair, supporting a right-to-work law only affecting public school teacher unions, and supporting a proposed bridge to Canada.[19]

Andring explained the campaign, saying, "I've always been critical of his policies because Randy's a liberal Republican and I'm a conservative Republican. Randy's a nice guy, but I disagree with his policies and it's time to say enough is enough." The Monroe County elections commission will meet May 2 to vote on the proposed recall language.[19]


See also: Timeline of events of the recall of Wisconsin State Senators in 2012

Recalls are scheduled against four state senators. The primary will take place on May 8 with general elections on June 5.[20]

Democrats in Wisconsin filed recall petitions on November 15, 2011 against four Republican state senators - Pam Galloway, Scott Fitzgerald, Terry Moulton and Van Wanggaard.[21] Campaign organizers turned in more than the necessary number of signatures in each of the four races on January 17, 2012.

In late March, state Republican Party officials announced plans to run Democratic candidates in all four recall primaries in order to ensure primaries in all races, which then guarantees all recalls will take place on the same day.[22] Because Wisconsin has an open primary system, voters do not have to be registered to a specific party in order to cast a vote in the primary. Therefore, Republican-leaning voters can cross over to the Democratic primary and vice-versa. Republicans used the same maneuver last year during the recall elections of six GOP state senators. The "fake" or "protest" candidates were all defeated in the primary, receiving between 29 and 44 percent of the vote.

Candidates in the recalls had until April 10 to file to get on the ballot, and the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board held a special meeting April 17 to consider challenges to the candidates and certify ballot access.[23] Democrats filed a complaint against all of the protest candidates, arguing they knowingly gave false information on documents submitted to election officials, but that was rejected by GAB, allowing them to stay on the ballot.[24] Republicans are not mincing words when it comes to their intentions behind the fake candidates, as State Rep. Robin Vos openly said "We are encouraging Republicans to vote in the Democratic primaries."[25]

Matchups for the recalls are as follows:

See also: State legislative special elections, 2012

There are six special elections scheduled to take place this week in Pennsylvania. House Speaker Sam Smith (R) initially maintained that he was legally prohibited from scheduling the special elections until the state had established new legislative redistricting maps. However, on February 29, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that the special elections could not wait and set the April 24 date. Party ward leaders nominated candidates for the election.[30]

Pennsylvania House District 22

Chelsa Wagner (D) resigned in January after being elected Allegheny County controller in November 2011.[31]

Democratic Party Democratic Candidate:
Republican Party Republican Candidate:

Pennsylvania House District 134

Douglas Reichley (R) resigned after being elected Lehigh County judge in November 2011.[32]

Democratic Party Democratic Candidate:
Republican Party Republican Candidate:

Pennsylvania House District 153

Josh Shapiro (D) resigned in December after being elected Montgomery County Commissioner in November 2011.[33]

Democratic Party Democratic Candidate:
Republican Party Republican Candidate:

Pennsylvania House District 169

Dennis O'Brien (R) resigned after being elected to the Philadelphia City Council in November 2011.

Democratic Party Democratic Candidate:
Republican Party Republican Candidate:

Pennsylvania House District 186

Kenyatta Johnson (D) resigned after being elected to the Philadelphia City Council in November 2011.

Democratic Party Democratic Candidate:
Republican Party Republican Candidate:

Pennsylvania House District 197

Jewell Williams (D) resigned after being elected Philadelphia sheriff in November 2011.[34]

Democratic Party Democratic Candidate:
Republican Party Republican Candidate:
Independent Independent Candidate:

Looking ahead

Upcoming special elections include:

  • 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
  • July 10: South Carolina Senate District 41
  • July 24: South Carolina House District 68

See also


  1. Coshocton Tribune, "Governor calling special session on 3 issues," April 16, 2012
  2. Anchorage Daily News, "No hurry-up in Juneau as special session gets under way," April 19, 2012
  3. Daily News Miner, "Special session costs Alaska 'up to $30,000 a day'," April 20, 2012
  4. WKYU, "Special Session Opens in Frankfort; Lawmakers Hope to Complete Work in Five Days," April 16, 2012
  5. The Courier-Journal, "Kentucky special session ends with passed transportation budget, pill mill bill," April 20, 2012
  6. Gazette.Net, "O’Malley: No special session without consensus," April 13, 2012
  7. The Washington Times, "Maryland GOP backs budget, tells Democrats to drop special session," April 17, 2012
  8. Washington Times, "Top Md. Democrats divided over gambling," April 22, 2012
  9. Washington Post, "More than a month late, Virginia legislators will again consider state budget," April 14, 2012
  10. The Roanoke Times, "Budget requires special session," March 11, 2012
  11. Reuters, "Virginia legislature approves $85 bln budget," April 18, 2012
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 12.5 StateScape, Session schedules," accessed April 23, 2012
  13. KTUU, "Fairbanks Judge Rejects Revised Redistricting Plan," April 20, 2012
  14. Anchorage Daily News, "Alaska judge rejects latest redistricting plan," April 20, 2012
  15. Burlington Free Press, "Vermont Senate endorses redistricting plans," April 20, 2012
  16. VT Digger, "Senate moves ahead with House redistricting plan," April 20, 2012
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Van Hollen appeals redistricting ruling to U.S. Supreme Court," April 19, 2012
  18. The Times Herald, "State Sen. Phil Pavlov recall fails," April 13, 2012
  19. 19.0 19.1 MLive, "Sen. Randy Richardville is recall target of fellow Republican," April 18, 2012
  20. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Recall votes set for May 8 and June 5," March 14, 2012
  21. FOX 6 Now, "Recall paperwork filed Tuesday for four senators, including Van Wanggaard," November 15, 2011
  22. Channel 3000, "GOP Plans To Run Democratic Candidates In 4 Recall Races," March 30, 2012
  23. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "GAB Special Board Meeting," accessed April 16, 2012
  24. The Northwestern, "Democrats challenge fake Dems on recall ballots," April 12, 2012
  25. Real Clear Politics, "GOP hoping cross over voting affect recalls," April 22, 2012
  26. Caledonia Patch, "GOP's Official Protest Candidate Files Papers for the 21st District," April 3, 2012
  27. Daily Union, "Ellerman running as a protest candidate," April 2, 2012
  28. The Republic, “Wisconsin Republicans name fake Democrats for recall primaries,” April 4, 2012
  29. WQOW, ""Fake Democrat" files to run in 29th Senate District," April 4, 2012
  30. Philadelphia Enquirer, "Six Pennsylvania House seats to be filled in April," March 1, 2012
  31. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Allegheny County controller Chelsa Wagner resigns House seat," January 16, 2012
  32. Reading Eagle, "Democrats pick House candidate for Reichley seat," March 7, 2012
  33. Philly Burbs, "Shapiro to resign House seat," December 9, 2011
  34., "Elections ordered for 6 vacant House seats," March 1, 2012