State Legislative Tracker: Michigan legislature debates public assistance issues

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September 23, 2013

Edited by Joel Williams
This week’s tracker includes a look at bills in Michigan that could affect public assistance.

Weekly highlight

Last week, no state ended its legislative session. Here is a brief look at issues making headlines across the country:

  • California: The reshuffling of seats in the California State Legislature continues, with Democratic Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell defeating fellow Democrat Mervin Evans in a special election this week to win the open Senate District 26 seat. Mitchell received 80.6 percent of the vote to Evans’ 19.4 percent during a special election held Tuesday. The Senate seat Mitchell claimed has been vacant since Democrat Curren Price’s election to the Los Angeles City Council earlier this year. While Mitchell’s win boosts the supermajority held by Senate Democrats, her resignation from the Assembly will leave California’s lower house with 52 Democrats — two shy of the number needed for a supermajority. That number is expected to shift again in the coming months following a special runoff election between Democrat Matt Dababneh and Republican Susan Shelley for the open Assembly District 45 seat. The special runoff election, set for November 19, was called to fill the seat vacated by Bob Blumenfield (D), also elected to the Los Angeles City Council earlier this year.[1][2][3][4]
  • Massachusetts: Having twice faced a deadline to comply with a state conflict-of-interest law, a Massachusetts state senator caught another break last Thursday. Early last month, the Massachusetts State Ethics Commission ruled that Dan Wolf (D), a 20-percent owner of Cape Air, an airline which holds contracts with the quasi-governmental Massachusetts Port Authority, was in violation of the law, which forbids public employees from having certain financial interests in contracts with the state. Wolf, who represents the Cape and Islands district, had been due to resign on August 29 but was given an extension until September 19 in order to prepare a proposal for an exemption to the law. Following Wolf's petition at its meeting on Thursday, the commission voted 4-1 to draft the exemption. However, the commission rejected Wolf's language, instead choosing to draft its own. It also granted another extension, allowing Wolf to remain in office indefinitely. Commissioner Martin Murphy said that Cape Air's contracts were akin to "a license or a permission that the state needs to give in order for someone to do private business in which they are not seeking taxpayer money to run that business." If the exemption is passed, Wolf may also be able to resume a run for Governor. Wolf, who co-founded Cape Air in 1988, refused to comply with the ethics law by divesting himself of his stake, saying that doing so would hurt the company, or by terminating the contracts, which he argued would have larger economic ramifications. His attorney, Carl Valvo, suggested that Wolf may be allowed to stay in the Senate but forced to give up his company stake should he win the governorship next November.[5][6][7][8]
  • Michigan: On Wednesday, the Michigan Senate and House passed two separate bills affecting citizens that receive public assistance. In the Senate, lawmakers passed Senate Bill 276 on a 27-9 vote. This bill would require people receiving food stamps or welfare benefits to perform unpaid community service to get assistance. Sen. Joe Hune (R), the sponsor of Senate Bill 276, said, "There is absolutely nothing wrong with requiring folks to have a little skin in the game, all they have to do is a little community service to get their benefits.” Sen. Vincent Gregory (D), an opponent of the bill, questions the emotional and monetary impact the bill will have on its intended recipients. On the bill, Gregory stated that "A lot of people are embarrassed to even be there (asking for benefits), and they have this put on them (community service)." Gregory also said that the bill will burden single mothers who will have to pay or look for childcare to complete the community service. Senate Bill 276 will now head to the House Families, Children and Seniors Committee for discussion. The second bill, House Bill 4952, would deny unemployment benefits to people that refused to take a drug test as a condition of employment or tested positive. House Bill 4952 passed the House Commerce Committee by a vote of 12-4. Rep. Frank Foster (D), chair of the Commerce Committee, said on House Bill 4952 that "...we know that we have around 70-to-75 thousand rotating jobs every month open in this state – and you chose not to work because you’d rather do drugs, that’s wrong and we’re not going to fund it anymore." Rep. Jon Switalski (D) and other opponents of the bill believe the legislation is just a political ploy for next year's elections. House Bill 4952 will now head for a full vote in the House.[9][10][11][12]
  • Washington: Thanks to an 1889 provision in the Washington State Constitution, state legislators cannot be fined for speeding during state legislative sessions, according to the Washington State Patrol. Article II of the Constitution states that "Members of the legislature shall be privileged from arrest in all cases except treason, felony and breach of the peace; they shall not be subject to any civil process during the session of the legislature, nor for fifteen days next before the commencement of each session." The rationale for this section stems from the desire to prevent political opponents of legislators from using local police powers to keep legislators from voting, as was done to members of Parliament in England centuries ago. State legislators consider this provision a joke today, and avoid taking advantage of it. State Representative David Sawyer (D) said that the law was not being abused, and Representative Laurie Jinkins (D) noted that legislators would likely create more problems for themselves if they tried to use the loophole. Senator and Law and Justice Committee Chair Mike Padden (R) said that he believed legislators should be ticketed. Representative Ross Hunter (D) said that he once asked a police officer to give him a ticket after being pulled over, but the officer refused. Hunter subsequently introduced legislation to allow the State Patrol to issue tickets to legislators, but his 2005 bill did not receive consideration in the legislature that session. Some local police departments do issues tickets, but the state police do not. State Patrol spokesman Bob Calkins estimated that his officers pull over legislators five or six times per year.[13][14][15][16]

Regular sessions

Current sessions capture for the week of September 23, 2013
See also: Dates of 2013 state legislative sessions
Click here to see a chart of each state's 2013 session information.

Currently four out of 50 state legislatures are meeting in regular session.

As of April 8, all states states have convened their 2013 legislative sessions.[17]

The following states have ended their regular session:[18]

Special sessions

Snapshot of State Legislatures:
Saturday, April 25, 2015
There are 7,387 Total State Legislators
Total Democratic state legislators 3,439 (46.6%)
Total Republican state legislators 3,820 (51.7%)
There are 99 Total State Legislative Chambers
Total Democratic Party-controlled chambers 40
Total Republican Party-controlled chambers 57
Total tied or nonpartisan chambers 2
2013 Session Information
Total Special Elections 53
Total Special Sessions 16

In recess

As of today, September 23, there are 4 state legislatures currently in recess:[19]

Redistricting Roundup.jpg

State news

Redistricting Facts
Maps submitted for vote: 140 out of 142 (98.6%)** No votes on initial maps in the following: MT (2)
States that have completed Congressional Maps 42/43 (Maps ordered redrawn: TX)
States that have completed State Legislative Maps 46/50 (Maps unfinished: ME, MT; Maps ordered redrawn: AK, TX)
**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)
See also: Status of redistricting maps after the 2010 census

While the great majority of states have completed their redistricting following the 2010 census, the issue still remains for a handful of states. Maine and Montana are not required to have their maps completed until 2014. Alaska and Texas, however, saw their maps rejected for legal reasons and will have to take up the drawing of maps once again.

See also: State legislative elections, 2013

A total of 3 of the 99 chambers will hold state legislative elections on November 5, 2013.

The 3 chambers with elections in 2013 are in 2 states. They are:

Louisiana and Mississippi also typically hold elections in odd years. However, legislators are elected to 4-year terms in those states and those will not be up for election again until 2015.

40 of the country's 1,972 state senate seats are up for re-election in November 2013, and 180 of the country's 5,411 state house seats are up for re-election. Altogether, 220 of the country's 7,383 state legislative seats are up for re-election on November 5, 2013.

Signature filing deadlines

See also: Signature requirements and deadlines for 2013 state legislative elections

The state legislative filing deadlines were as follows:

  • New Jersey:
  • April 1, 2013 (Major party)
  • June 4, 2013 (Independent)

Nomination petitions must contain the signatures of at least 100 voters in the legislative district. Candidates are required to disclose any criminal convictions.[20]

  • Virginia:
  • March 28, 2013 (Major party)
  • June 11, 2013 (Independent)

Nomination petitions must contain the signatures of at least 125 qualified voters in the legislative district. Major party candidates are required to submit a primary filing fee equal to 2% of the annual salary for the office sought in effect in the year in which the candidate files. In 2013, the primary filing fee was $352.80.[21]


The state primaries were as follows:

  • New Jersey:
  • June 4, 2013
  • Virginia:
  • June 11, 2013


New Jersey had a quiet election, with all competing incumbents winning their primaries.

There were only three hotly contested races, all in the Senate, but none resulted in the ousting of an incumbent:[22]

Republican PartyDistrict 13: Incumbent Joe Kyrillos, Jr. defeated challenger Leigh-Ann Bellew.
Democratic PartyDistrict 20: Incumbent Raymond Lesniak defeated challenger Donna Obe.
Democratic PartyDistrict 34: Incumbent Nia H. Gill defeated challengers Mark C. Alexander and Vernon Pullins, Jr..

Virginia experienced two upsets in an otherwise quiet day of primaries for the House of Delegates. Voter turnout was expected to fall below 5 percent based on projections at polling locations.[23]

Virginia's legislative primaries yielded a pair of defeats for incumbent legislators. The defeated incumbents were supporters of a recently passed transportation bill that increases sales and gas taxes to improve roadways.[24][25] The successful challengers lodged primary challenges in part to protest the bill's passage, which they called the biggest tax increase in the state's history.[26]

Republican Party Mark J. Berg defeated Beverly Sherwood in District 29.
Republican Party Dave A. LaRock defeated Joe T. May in District 33.

Five incumbents were able to fend off primary challenges in the June 11 primaries:

Republican Party C. Todd Gilbert defeated Mark W. Prince in District 15.
Republican Party Bill Howell defeated Craig E. Ennis in District 28.
Republican Party Bobby Orrock defeated Dustin R. Curtis in District 54.
Democratic Party Roz Dance defeated Evandra D. Thompson in District 63.
Democratic Party Algie Howell defeated Richard James in District 90.
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See also: State legislative special elections, 2013

There is one special election scheduled for this week in California.

UncheckedBox.jpg RunoffArrow.jpgCalifornia State Assembly District 52

Rep. Norma Torres (D) won election to the California State Senate on May 14, 2013. A special election has been called for July 23, with a runoff if necessary on September 24. Candidates had until May 31 to file certified nomination papers with the Secretary of State.[27][28][29]

July 23 blanket primary candidates:
Democratic Party Paul Vincent Avila
Democratic Party Tom Haughey
Democratic Party Freddie Rodriguez Approveda
Democratic Party Jason Rothman
Democratic Party Manuel Saucedo
Democratic Party Danielle Soto
Democratic Party Doris Louise Wallace
Republican Party Dorothy Pineda
Independent Paul Leon Approveda
September 24 Runoff election candidates:
Democratic Party Freddie Rodriguez
Independent Paul Leon

Recent election results

September 17, 2013

RunoffArrow.jpgCalifornia State Assembly District 45
Rep. Bob Blumenfield (D) resigned on July 1 after winning election to the Los Angeles City Council. A blanket primary took place on September 17 and because no candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff will take place on November 19.[30][31][32]

September 17 blanket primary candidates:
Democratic Party Elizabeth Badger
Democratic Party Damian Carroll
Democratic Party Matt Dababneh Approveda
Democratic Party Dennis De Young
Democratic Party Jeff Ebenstein
Democratic Party Andra Hoffman
Democratic Party Dan McCrory
Republican Party Armineh Chelebian
Republican Party Chris Kolski
Republican Party Susan Shelley Approveda
Independent Eric Lewis
November 19 Runoff candidates:
Democratic Party Matt Dababneh
Republican Party Susan Shelley

CheckedBoxOffset.jpgCalifornia State Senate District 26
Curren Price (D) resigned on July 1 after winning election to the Los Angeles City Council. A special election has been called for September 17, with a runoff if necessary on November 19.[33][34][32]

September 17 blanket primary candidates:
Democratic Party Mervin Evans
Democratic Party Holly J. Mitchell Green check mark transparent.png

CheckedBoxOffset.jpgNew Hampshire House of Representatives Hillsborough District 14
In January 2013, Rep. Patrick Garrity (D) resigned because he moved out of the district. A special election has been called for September 17. The filing period for candidates ran from July 29 to August 5.[35][36][37]

September 17 special election candidates:
Democratic Party Mary Heath Green check mark transparent.png
Republican Party Ross W. Terrio

Looking ahead

Upcoming special elections include:

  • September 24: California State Assembly District 52
  • October 1: South Carolina State Senate District 42
  • October 15: Florida House of Representatives District 36
  • October 22: Iowa House of Representatives District 33
  • October 29: South Carolina House of Representatives District 93
  • November 5: Fifteen special elections in various states. List available here.

See also


  1. “The Sacramento Bee - Capitol Alert”, “Holly Mitchell slides to Senate, 45th Assembly district moves to runoff” Accessed September 19, 2013
  2. “California Secretary of State”, “Senate District 26 - Districtwide Results” Accessed September 19, 2013 (dead link)
  3. “Los Angeles Times”, L.A. Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell wins state Senate seat” Accessed September 19, 2013
  4. “Los Angeles Times”, Special elections today for two Los Angeles-area legislative seats” Accessed September 19, 2013
  5. Cape Cod Times, "Ethics Commission considering exemption for Wolf," September 19, 2013
  6. Cape Cod Times, "Ethics Commission considering exemption for Wolf," September 19, 2013
  7., "Mass. Sen. Wolf to suspend campaign for Gov., resign from Senate," August 22, 2013. Retrieved August 22, 2013
  8. Cape Cod Times, "Wolf gets reprieve from ethics board," August 29, 2013. Retrieved August 29, 2013
  9., "Michigan Lawmakers Pass Bills Requiring Unpaid Work, Drug Tests For Citizens Who Need Public Assistance," accessed September 19, 2013
  10. CBS Detroit, "Bills Would Require Michiganders To Work For Welfare, Pass Drug Test," accessed September 19, 2013
  11., "Mich. lawmakers: Do community service or lose welfare," accessed September 19, 2013
  12., "Unemployment drug testing bill moves forward in Michigan Legislature," accessed September 19, 2013
  13. The News Tribune, "Does state law forgive legislators’ speeding?" September 15, 2013
  14. KOMO, "No speeding tickets for lawmakers during legislative session," September 16, 2013
  15. Union-Bulletin, "Should state lawmakers be above the law?" September 6, 2013
  16. The Spokesman-Review, "Editorial: Change lawmaker ticket rule speedily," September 19, 2013
  17. Stateside Associates, " Session Calendar 2013," accessed September 23, 2013
  18. Stateside Associates, " Session Calendar 2013," accessed September 23, 2013
  19., "Daily Session Summary," accessed September 23, 2013 (dead link)
  20. New Jersey Department of State, "Petition filing instruction sheet," accessed January 14, 2013 (dead link)
  21. Virginia State Board of Elections, "Candidacy Requirements for House of Delegates," accessed January 16, 2013
  22., "Polls close in 2013 N.J. primary elections as votes are tallied," June 4, 2013
  23. Washington Post, "Voter turnout sparse for down-ticket races in Virginia," June 11, 2013
  24. CBS DC, "Virginia Primary Results Roll In," June 11, 2013
  25., "Howell’s transportation PAC helping candidates," June 7, 2013
  26. WRIC, "Virginia Primary Round Up," June 11, 2013
  27., "Gov. Brown announces special election to fill 52nd District," May 21, 2013
  28., "Nine candidates seek to replace Torres in Assembly," June 2, 2013
  29., "Republican Andy Vidak leading in Central Valley state Senate vote," July 24, 2013
  30., "Special elections set for Asssembly, Senate seats are costly, draw few voters," July 4, 2013
  31., "AD 45 Special Primary Election - Official Certified List of Candidates," accessed July 31, 2013
  32. 32.0 32.1, "Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell wins state Senate seat," September 17, 2013
  33., "Special elections set for Asssembly, Senate seats are costly, draw few voters," July 4, 2013
  34., "SD 26 Special Primary Election - Official Certified List of Candidates," accessed July 31, 2013
  35., "Two step up to run for Ward 7 state representative," April 24, 2013
  36., "Special Election - Hillsborough District 14," accessed August 6, 2013
  37., "Gatsas, Arnold Win Manchester Primary, Will Face Off For Mayor," September 17, 2013