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State Legislative Tracker: Union bill controversy dominates early dates of Indiana legislative session

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January 23, 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. Two other major state legislative situations are brewing in Indiana and Wisconsin. Indiana Democrats continued their walkout of the Assembly over "right-to-work" legislation, while Democrats in Wisconsin turned in recall signatures.


So far this year, 37 out of 50 state legislatures have officially convened their regular session.

Current sessions capture for the week of January 23, 2012

Regular sessions

See also: Dates of 2012 state legislative sessions

The following states convened their regular legislative sessions:

Additionally, 1 more state will convene 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. No states currently have special sessions scheduled.

Snapshot of State Legislatures:
Monday, January 23, 2012
There are 7,384 Total State Legislators
Total Democratic state legislators 3,308 (44.8%)
Total Republican state legislators 3,972 (53.8%)
There are 99 Total State Legislative Chambers
Total Democratic Party-controlled chambers 35
Total Republican Party-controlled chambers 60
Total tied or nonpartisan chambers 4
2012 Session Information
Total Special Elections 4
Total Special Sessions 1

In recess

As of today, January 23, 3 states' sessions are currently in mid-term recess:

  • Minnesota - Mid-term recess May 24, 2011 through January 23, 2012[1]
  • North Carolina - Mid-term recess June 18 through February 15, 2012[1]
  • Oklahoma - Mid-term recess May 28 through February 5, 2012[1]

Issues spotlight

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

  • Alaska: Legislators will be taking up Governor Sean Parnell's (R) suggestion to decrease the oil tax in order to increase economic growth. They are also expected to consider a ban on texting while driving, education funding, the state's unfunded pension liability, and whether to extend the legislative session from 90 to 120 days.[2]
  • Hawaii: The legislature is expected to focus on job creation, creating a sustainable economy, sustainable and renewable energy, improving the state's information technology infrastructure, and education funding.[3]
  • New Mexico: In their 30-day session the legislature is expected to consider drivers licenses for illegal immigrants, voter identification, business income tax, ethics reform, and defining homeowner rights in foreclosure proceedings.[4]
  • Utah: Major topics include a projected $13 billion budget, improving technology for students, illegal immigration, and infrastructure improvements.[5]


The start of the new session of the Indiana House of Representatives was initially delayed for three days by Democrats, who prevented a quorum in order to slow the passage of "right-to-work" legislation. Democrats returned to the chamber on January 9, but refused to show up the next day after a six-minute committee hearing on the bill where Republicans refused to allow testimony, debate or amendments.[6] Democrats are seeking to require a voter referendum on the bill, but were told by the Legislative Services Agency that it would likely be unconstitutional. Meanwhile, Republicans started fining the absent legislators $1,000 a day until they return.[7] Debate on the bill is scheduled to take place in the House today with final votes tomorrow. The Senate, in which Democrats cannot prevent a quorum, is set to take their final vote on the legislation today.[8]


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 Saturday (January 28), West Virginia will have its signature filing deadline for candidates running for election. There are 17 state senate and 100 state house seats up for election this year. Democrats have large majorities in both chambers. So far, deadlines have passed in three states - Illinois, Ohio and Texas.

States with upcoming deadlines:


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, Republicans and Democrats agreed to move the primary to April 3.[9]


Following the rejection of new state legislative districts by the Idaho Supreme Court last week, legislators are considering moving the state's primary from May 15 to August 8. This would move the filing period from February 27-March 9 to May 21-June 1. The rejection of the maps sends the state's bipartisan redistricting committee back to work.[10]

Special elections

See also: State legislative special elections, 2012

There are no special elections taking place this week.

Looking ahead

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 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
  • April 3: Oklahoma House of Representatives District 71
  • April 3: Oklahoma Senate District 20
  • April 3: Oklahoma Senate District 46


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.[11] Campaign organizers turned in more than the necessary number of signatures in each of the four races on January 17, 2012 - 20,600 for Scott Fitzgerald[12], more than 21,000 for Terry Moulton,[13], more than 21,000 for Pam Galloway[14] and about 24,000 for Van Wanggaard.[15] Wisconsin Government Accountability Board workers are currently in the process of verifying the signatures, which can be viewed on a live feed. The senators have until Friday to challenge the signatures.

2011 also 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.

See also