State Legislative Tracker: Regular sessions underway in 19 states
Edited by Greg Janetka
This week's tracker features an update on the partisan count and preview of major issues for those states that have convened their 2012 session.
As of today, January 9, 2012, the following figures represent the cumulative partisan breakdown of the 50 state senates and state houses. In the 50 states, Republicans currently control 53.7% of all seats while Democrats hold 45%. All told, Republicans control 59 chambers while Democrats are the majority in 37 chambers.
The totals represent a loss of 12 Democratic and a gain of 27 Republican legislators from the November 28 tracker. These numbers reflect newly sworn-in legislators in Mississippi who were elected in November 2011.
|Representation in 50 State Legislatures|
|Democratic state legislators||3,319||44.9%|
|Republican state legislators||3,963||53.7%|
|Independent state legislators||72||0.98%|
|Third party (and non-voting) legislators||11||0.15%|
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 today, January 9, 2012, the breakdown of chamber control by party is as follows:
- 18 chambers
- 30 chambers
- 1 chamber (Oregon)
- See also: Partisan composition of state senates
As of today, January 9, 2012 5,372 state representatives are affiliated with either the Republican or Democratic parties.
|Democratic state representatives||2,443||45.1%|
|Republican state representatives||2,929||54.1%|
|Independent state representatives||19||0.35%|
|Third party (and non-voting) representatives||9||0.17%|
There are 14 state house vacancies in 12 different states as of January 9, 2012. They are as follows:
There are 28 state representatives in 13 states identifying as independents or parties other than Democratic and Representative as of January 9, 2012. They are as follows:
|Maine||3 (2 non-voting Native American representatives, 1 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)|
As of today, January 9, 2012, the breakdown of chamber control by party is as follows:
- See also: Partisan composition of state houses
As of January 9, 2012, 1,911 state senators are affiliated with either the Republican or Democratic parties.
|Democratic state senators||877||44.5%|
|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%|
There are 6 state senate vacancies as of January 9, 2012.
There are 6 state senators in 5 states identifying as independents or parties other than Democratic and Representative as of January 9, 2012. They are as follows:
|Rhode Island||1 (Independent)|
|Vermont||2 (Vermont Progressive Party)|
So far this year, 19 out of 50 state legislatures have officially convened their regular session.
- See also: Dates of 2012 state legislative sessions
The following states convened their regular legislative sessions:
Additionally, 14 more states will convene this week:
- Click here to see a chart of each state's 2012 session information.
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.
North Carolina held the first special session of 2012 last week. Governor Bev Perdue called the legislature into special session on January 4 to take up the Racial Justice Act, which Perdue vetoed December 14. The Senate voted 31-19 to override the veto. The bill was ultimately referred to a committee for additional study.
No states currently have special sessions scheduled.
As of today, January 9, 12 states' sessions are currently in mid-term recess:
As of today, 19 states have kicked off 2012 sessions. Here's a quick rundown on what are some early topics:
- California: Legislators will be looking for ways to close a $12 billion budget deficit while dealing with issues including changes to public employee pensions and deciding whether the state should regulate healthcare insurance rates.
- Florida: Lawmakers will have to address a $2 billion budget shortfall as well as complete new legislative and congressional district maps.
- Georgia: Legislators expect to overhaul the state tax code, cut state government and seek economic incentives that would lead to job growth.
- Idaho: Legislators are considering setting up a state-based health care exchange as required under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Conservative legislators opposed to the law are seeking to set up a public-private ownership as a compromise, rather that risking the federal government setting up one on the state's behalf. The budget and public education reform will also be major issues.
- Indiana: Main issues include "Right-to-work" legislation (see below for details), a statewide smoking ban, a tax raise to finance a mass transit system, and eliminating the state's inheritance tax.
- Iowa: The main issues will be a property tax relief package, along with education and mental health reform. Legislators are also expected to consider extending terms for representatives from two to four years.
- Kansas: Alongside the budget, legislators will consider reforming the school financing formula and expanding Medicaid's managed care system.
- Kentucky: The legislature will deal with proposals about legalizing casino-style gambling, redraw legislative districts and deal with a budget gap of nearly $1 billion.
- Maine: Lawmakers are facing a $221 million budget deficit. They are also looking to restructure the state Medicaid system, reduce energy costs and improve charter schools.
- Massachusetts: Leading the agenda is a crackdown on abuses at special education collaboratives in the state. Other issues include controlling health costs and a sentencing bill that would bar parole for prisoners convicted of more than two violent crimes.
- Mississippi: Republicans control the legislature and governorship for the first session since Reconstruction. They will have to deal with a spending gap of nearly $1 billion and are expected to consider cuts to education, public health, public safety, and nursing homes for veterans.
- Missouri: The budget is expected to be the main focus of the session as the state faces a $500 million spending gap. The agenda also includes economic development, Workers Compensation reforms, and overhauling public school funding.
- Nebraska: At the top of the list for the legislature is reforming the state's child welfare system, while Governor Dave Heineman said his priorities will be job creation and maintaining fiscal discipline.
- New Hampshire: Major issues on the agenda include economic development, job creation, same-sex marriage, and gambling.
- New York: Redistricting was a divisive issue in 2011 and has to be dealt with in this session. Other issues include addressing a $3.5 billion budget gap and a proposal to ban hydrofracking.
- Ohio: Reforms to the state's public pension system will be on top of the agenda. Additionally, the legislature may consider a revamp of the state's school funding formula as well as major reforms to the Bureau of Workers' Compensation and changes in energy policy.
- Pennsylvania: Fiscal issues will headline the agenda, including a $750 million budget shortfall. Other issues include fees for natural gas drilling and regulations for small games of chance.
- Rhode Island: The legislature will have to address a $120 million budget deficit. Legislators want to cut spending to close the gap while Governor Lincoln Chafee (I) is considering a tax raise. Major issues also include reducing municipal pension costs and reducing regulations to spur economic growth.
- Vermont: The two main issues facing the legislature are dealing with an estimated $75 million budget gap and finding ways to pay for recovery from Tropical Storm Irene.
- Washington: Leading the agenda is a $1.5 billion budget gap. Additionally, Governor Chris Gregoire is pushing for a half-cent sales tax, while the legislature is considering a gas-tax increase to pay for roads and transportation related needs.
The influence of unions became a major issue in a number of states in 2011 and appears poised to remain at the forefront in 2012. It has already taken center stage in Indiana, where House Democrats, upset over the issue, have so far prevented the session from starting.
The 2012 session of the Indiana Legislature officially began on January 4, but the House has yet to meet as Democrats have stayed in caucus, preventing the 67 members necessary for a quorum. Republicans currently hold a 60-40 majority in the chamber.
The issue at the heart of the matter is "right-to-work" legislation that Republicans have long said would be their top priority in 2012. The legislation seeks to ban companies and unions from negotiating a contract that requires non-union members to pay union dues. Republicans argue the move would bring jobs to the state while Democrats say it will lead to lower wages.
Similar legislation led to a major showdown between Democrats and Republicans last year. The battle came to a head on February 22, 2011, when 37 Democrats walked out of the House chambers in order to prevent a quorum necessary to act on the bill. The missing legislators returned on March 28, with both sides making compromises. One of those compromises was shelving the "right-to-work" bill for a year. This year, Democrats say they will not return until Republicans agree to hold public meetings on the legislation around the state. House Minority Leader Pat Bauer called the maneuver "a filibuster until we can get the truth."
While hundreds of protestors filled the statehouse, the legislation advanced on January 6 as the Senate Pensions and Labor Committee voted 6-4 to send the legislation to the full Senate. Following 5 and a half hours of testimony, Republican Brent Waltz and three Democrats voted against the bill.
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.
States with upcoming deadlines:
- January 28: West Virginia
- January 31: Kentucky
- February 14: New Mexico, Pennsylvania
- February 15: Nebraska (Incumbents)
- February 24: Indiana
- February 29: North Carolina
- See also: 2012 election dates
The first 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, Republicans and Democrats agreed to move the primary to April 3.
This week one special election will be held in Massachusetts while Minnesota will have two.
Steven Tolman (D) resigned to serve as president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO. A special election to fill his seat was called for January 10, 2012. A special election primary was held on December 13, 2011. Rep. William Brownsberger won the primary and, barring a write-in, faces no challenger in the general election.
- No Republicans have filed.
General election candidates:
Voters in Senate District 59 will go to the polls tomorrow to choose a replacement for Lawrence Pogemiller (D). Pogemiller, a member of the Senate since 1983, resigned when he was appointed to be Director of the Office of Higher Education. Meanwhile, voters in House District 61B will fill the vacancy left when Jeff Hayden (D) was elected and sworn-in to the Senate.
Upcoming special elections include:
- February 7: Georgia House of Representatives District 60
- February 7: Georgia House of Representatives, District 107
- February 14: Oklahoma House District 1
- 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
- April 3: Oklahoma House of Representatives District 71
- April 3: Oklahoma Senate District 20
- April 3: Oklahoma Senate District 46
- See also: State legislative recalls
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.
On the heels of this success, Democrats in Wisconsin filed recall petitions on November 15, 2011 against four Republican state senators - Pam Galloway, Scott Fitzgerald, Terry Moulton and Van Wanggaard. Supporters of the recall have 60 days to collect the necessary signatures in order to force recall elections in 2012. These signatures will be due on January 17.
Additionally, 2011 saw a wave of recall attempts in Michigan. While most of those efforts dried up, at least two campaigns are continuing on. Organizers of the campaigns to recall Bruce Caswell (R) and Phil Pavlov (R) are aiming for the August ballot.
- News and Observer, "Perdue calls session to deal with Racial Justice Act," December 21, 2011
- Charlotte Observer, "Racial Justice Act prolongs the pain for victims' families," January 8, 2012 (dead link)
- StateScape, Session schedules," accessed January 9, 2012
- Sacramento Bee, "California Legislature returns to face more budget woes, new election rules," January 3, 2012
- Miami Herald, "State lawmakers open session facing $2 billion budget shortfall," January 8, 2012 (dead link)
- Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Legislature could get off to a fast start," January 9, 2012
- Times News Magic Valley, "See What the Idaho Legislature's Toughest Issues Are This Session," January 9, 2012
- Indianapolis Star, "Lawmakers face rematch with 'thousand-pound gorilla'," January 3, 2012
- Sioux City Journal, "Legislators predict 'different' 2012 session," January 8, 2012
- Topeka Capital Journal, "Legislative session to start Monday," January 8, 2012
- Courier-Journal, "Lawmakers kick off legislative session Tuesday," January 2, 2012
- Bangor Daily News, "Maine lawmakers return Wednesday for 2012 session," January 3, 2012
- Washington Examiner, "Mass. lawmakers to weigh bill on special ed groups," January 4, 2012
- Clarion Ledger, "State budget decisions all up to GOP," January 2, 2012
- St. Louis Beacon, "Missouri legislature opens, with last session's issues at top of agenda," January 4, 2012
- Lincoln Journal Star, "As session begins, child welfare reform a priority," January 3, 2012
- Concord Monitor, "House GOP: Jobs the focus," January 4, 2012
- Poughkeepsie Journal, "Divisive issues to test Cuomo's popularity in 2nd year," January 9, 2012
- Zanesville Times Recorder, "12 key issues for Ohio in 2012," Jenner first 2012
- Herald-Mail, "New legislative session brings old challenges in Pa.," January 4, 2012
- Boston.com, "Issues to watch in 2012 RI session," January 2, 2012
- Boston.com, "Vt. lawmakers to tackle Irene recovery, budget," January 2, 2012
- The Olympian, "A big factor in state legislative session: Fall, spring elections," January 7, 2012
- Indianapolis Star, "Rare joint hearing accelerates 'right to work' bill," January 6, 2012
- Christian Science Monitor, "Indiana braces for Wisconsin-style showdown over union bill - again," January 5, 2012
- Indianapolis Star, "Indiana Senate labor committee sends 'right to work' to full Senate," January 6, 2012
- Washington Post, "Ind. House Dems may end block on labor bill soon, speaker not yet imposing fines," January 6, 2011
- CBS DFW, "Tentative Deal Reached on Texas Primary Date," December 16, 2011
- Boston Herald, "Special election set to fill Steven Tolman’s Senate seat," October 14, 2011
- Massachusetts Election Division, "Special State Primary Candidates," accessed on November 16, 2011
- Boston Herald, "Brownsberger on well-worn path to Mass. Senate," December 14, 2011
- Hometown Source, "Voters to decide Senate District 59 and House District 61B elections on Tuesday, Jan. 10," January 9, 2012
- FOX 6 Now, "Recall paperwork filed Tuesday for four senators, including Van Wanggaard," November 15, 2011