State Legislative Tracker: Primary dates may still change in several states

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February 13, 2012

Edited by Greg Janetka

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This week's tracker features a preview of major issues for those states that convened their 2012 session last week and a look at the ever-changing changing primary dates in a number of states, including Idaho, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas.


So far this year, 44 out of 50 state legislatures have officially convened their regular session.

Current sessions capture for the week of February 13, 2012

Regular sessions

See also: Dates of 2012 state legislative sessions

The following states convened their regular legislative sessions:

No states are scheduled to convene this week.

One state will end its regular session this week:

Four states - Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, and Texas - will not hold regular sessions in 2012.

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.

Thus far, North Carolina is the only state to have held a special session in 2012, and will be holding another one this week.[1] According to Speaker of the House Thom Tillis (R), the February 16-18 floor session will not have any recorded votes on bills, and therefore, only a few legislators are required to attend. Democrats are skeptical as, during the special session in January, more issues were addressed then they believed would be. The principal work session begins May 16.[2]


State legislators said they may return later in the year for a special session to deal with tax credit bills and the health benefits exchange.[3]

Snapshot of State Legislatures:
Monday, February 13, 2012
There are 7,384 Total State Legislators
Total Democratic state legislators 3,304 (44.7%)
Total Republican state legislators 3,974 (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 4
Total Special Sessions 1

In recess

As of today, February 13, 1 states' session is currently in mid-term recess:

Issues spotlight

Since last week's Tracker, three states have kicked off their 2012 session. Here's a quick rundown on what are some early topics:

  • Arkansas: The main issue taken up by legislators will be Governor Mike Beebe's (D) $4.7 billion budget, which includes increases in Medicaid and education funding. Other issues include repealing a tax break for truckers and toughening sentencing guidelines for sex offenders.[5]
  • Connecticut: Legislators will mainly focus on the $20 billion state budget. In addition, they will also consider overhauling early childhood public education, ending the ban on Sunday alcohol sales, increasing the minimum wage, allowing same-day voter registration and the use of red-light cameras.[6]
  • Wyoming: With projections estimating a $115 million decrease in revenue, a number of legislators are focused on either cutting spending or at least preventing the budget from increasing. Governor Matt Mead (R) has called for $17 million in spending cuts. Other issues include redistricting, creating a statewide school support and evaluation system, increasing motor vehicle fees and raising the state speed limit 80 mph.[7]


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

This week Nebraska and Pennsylvania will have signature filing deadlines for candidates running for election. The deadline in Nebraska only applies to incumbents, while the Pennsylvania deadline applies to all candidates. So far, deadlines have passed in six states - Illinois, Ohio, Texas, West Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana.

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 remain uncertain. The filing process was expected to re-open on February 1, but that date has now been thrown out and a new date has yet to be settled on.[8]


See also: 2012 election dates

The first state legislative primary elections of 2012 are scheduled to take place in March. Those dates are as follows:

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 has been delayed.


Legislators are considering a bill that would move the state's primary election from its current May 15th date back to August. Rep. Tom Loertscher (R), Chair of the House State Affairs Committee, is sponsoring the bill, saying it would shorten the general election campaign season.[9] The bill's chances, however, are not looking good. Nine county clerks have testified against the bill and were joined last week by Secretary of State Ben Ysursa (R), who said he believed pushing the date back would hurt voter turnout.[10]

New York

A bill was introduced last Friday that would move New York's primary elections for state offices from September 11 to June 26, bringing it in line with the congressional primary date that was ordered by a federal judge. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D) said each primary costs an estimated $50 million, most of which falls to local governments. "There is no good reason why our local governments should be asked to spend an extra $50 million to hold three primary elections in one year. That’s why we should be holding both state and federal primaries on the same day," he said.[11]

Republicans, who hold a majority in the Senate, are pushing for an August primary, saying the June date is too near the end of the legislative session.


With the state Supreme Court throwing out new redistricting maps, the April 24 primary date looked to be in jeopardy. Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R) said the legislature may consider moving the date back in order to give the commission more time to create new maps. Democrats, however, have said they will fight to block any attempt to push back the date. That, however, may be unnecessary as U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick ruled last week that the election cycle is already too far along to delay it, especially with no viable alternative available. He said that forcing Secretary of State Carol Aichele to alter the election schedule would only complicate things and that she needs to know how to proceed. State legislative elections this year are on pace to take place using districts created based on the 2000 Census.

House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R) said new maps could be in place in time to meet the primary date, as long as they shorten the time for public comment and appeal. Under the state Constitution, the public has 30 days to comment on the map, with another 30 days allowed for appeals. Democrats shot back at Turzai's suggestion by saying those time periods are guaranteed and altering them would mean ignoring the Court and the Constitution.


The Texas primary, which has already been delayed from March 6 to April 3, might be pushed back further. The state is waiting on a three-judge federal court panel to draft temporary maps after arguments take place on Tuesday and Wednesday. If they are able to complete maps by February 20, the primary may take place on April 17, but if they are unable to, the primary would once again be pushed back.[12]


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 also saw a wave of recall attempts in Michigan. While most of those efforts dried up, at least three campaigns are continuing on (the recall of Paul Scott was successful). Organizers of the campaigns to recall Bruce Caswell (R) and Phil Pavlov (R) are aiming for the August ballot.

A recall targeting Patrick Colbeck (R) sought to put the issue on the ballot this month, but it was abandoned last week. Recall leader Mary Kelley cited several reasons why the effort was dropped, including difficulties getting the organizational support and money necessary, strict recall rules, necessitating all signatures be collected within 90 days, and a lack of name recognition for Colbeck.[13]


Democrats in Wisconsin filed recall petitions on November 15, 2011 against four Republican state senators - Pam Galloway, Scott Fitzgerald, Terry Moulton and Van Wanggaard.[14] Campaign organizers turned in more than the necessary number of signatures in each of the four races on January 17, 2012.

This past Saturday marked the one year anniversary of Gov. Scott Walker's (R) announcement of a proposed budget bill that restricts collective bargaining for public workers. The legislation was the catalyst that led to last year's recalls as well as the current round.[15]

Meanwhile, last Thursday was the deadline for the senators targeted for recall to file challenges to the petitions. All four submitted challenges, but Scott Fitzgerald (R) was the only one to challenge enough individual signatures that, if they were found to be invalid, would end the recall threat. The main argument for the senators, however, 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 previously rejected the argument and a federal trial regarding the matter is scheduled to begin on February 21. If it is decided that the recalls should take place in the new districts, then, according to Republicans, enough of the signatures would be thrown out as to end all the recalls as they came from residents who live in the old districts but not the new ones.[16]

GAB has until March 19 to schedule recall elections.

Special elections

See also: State legislative special elections, 2012

This week 4 special elections - two general elections and two primaries - take place in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma House District 1

Rusty Farley (R) joined the House in 2010 and served until he passed away on July 4, 2011.[17] A special election has been scheduled for February 14, 2012 to select a replacement. A primary election was held on November 8, 2011.[18][19]

Democratic Party Democratic Candidate:
  • Curtis McDaniel 1,255 Approveda
  • Donald G. Ray 587
Republican Party Republican Candidates:
  • Kevin George 83
  • Keith Bain 16
  • Joe M. Silk 235 Approveda
  • Kenny Sivard 135

General election candidates:

Democratic Party Curtis McDaniel
Republican Party Joe M. Silk

Oklahoma Senate District 46

Andrew Rice (D) resigned effective January 15, 2011 in order to move out of state where his wife has taken a job. A special election has been scheduled for April 3, 2012 to select a replacement. If a primary election is not necessary, the primary election on February 14, 2012 will serve as the general election.

General election candidates:

Democratic Party Al McAffrey
Republican Party Jason Reese

Looking ahead

Upcoming special elections include:

  • February 14: Oklahoma House District 1
  • February 14: Oklahoma Senate District 46
  • February 14: Oklahoma House District 71 (primary)
  • February 14: Oklahoma Senate District 20 (primary)
  • February 14: Maine Senate District 20
  • February 21: New Hampshire House of Representatives Hillsborough District 10
  • February 28: Michigan House of Representatives District 29
  • February 28: Michigan House of Representatives District 51

See also


  1. The Daily Reflector, "Fitzsimon: Worry when General Assembly convenes," February 13, 2012
  2. News and Observer, "NC Republicans: No recorded votes at next session," February 8, 2012
  3. Washington Post, "Legislators consider special session later this year," February 8, 2012
  4. StateScape, Session schedules," accessed February 13, 2012
  5. Arkansas News, "Fiscal session begins Monday with leaders watching calendar," February 12, 2012
  6. Hartford Courant, "Governor Malloy Delivers State Of The State Address," February 8, 2012
  7. Wyoming Tribune Eagle, "State may cracked down on spending," February 12, 2012
  8. Ballot Access, "U.S. District Court Suspends Some Texas Election Deadlines," January 27, 2012
  9. Deseret News, "Idaho bill would move state's primary to August," January 22, 2012
  10. The Spokesman Review, "Testimony overwhelmingly against moving primary to August, but Idaho GOP backs," February 2012
  11. Democrat and Chronicle, "New bill would push state primary from September to June," February 12, 2012
  12. NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth, "Judges To Discuss Texas Primary Date," February 13, 2012
  13. Hometown Life, "Recall group drops effort to oust Colbeck," February 7, 2012
  14. FOX 6 Now, "Recall paperwork filed Tuesday for four senators, including Van Wanggaard," November 15, 2011
  15. Sheboygan Press, "Anniversary of collective bargaining bill produces Madison protests," February 11, 2012
  16. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Senators facing possible recall challenge size, shape of districts," February 10, 2012
  17. Oklahomans mourn death of state legislator, July 5, 2011 (dead link)
  18. Journal Record, "Special election to choose successor to Farley set for Feb. 14 of next year," July 26th, 2011
  19. Oklahoma State Election Board, "Special Primary Election for State Representative, District 1," November 8, 2011