State Legislative Tracker: Which state has the most committees?

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June 13, 2011

By Jackie Arthur

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This report marks the second in a weekly series covering state legislatures. In particular, the State Legislative Tracker will feature a weekly update of sessions and elections in the 50 state legislatures.

Throughout this year, Ballotpedia writers have conducted an analysis on state legislative standing committees in the 2011-2012 session. The research was based on standing committees, which are permanent committees that consider and refine legislative bills before they are sent to the chamber floor. Select and special committees, such as one-year study commissions, were not counted in the report.

The research found that there are currently 2,079 standing committees in the 50 state legislatures. Mississippi has the most total standing committees with 91 (43 Senate, 46 House, 2 joint). The state with the fewest number of standing committees is Nevada, with 21 committees. (11 Senate, 10 House)

To find the states that had the highest and lowest averages of committees per legislator, we took the total number of legislative positions on committees, and divided that figure by the number of legislators. We used the results to rank the states based on the average number of committees that each legislator would serve on. For example, Kentucky has the most average committees (8.01) per legislator.

Legend:
Highest
Lowest
State Number of Committees Senators Representatives Total legislators Ratio of legislators to committees Total legislators on all committees Committees per legislator
Kentucky 49 38 100 138 2.82 1,106 8.01
Mississippi 91 52 122 174 1.91 1,263 7.26
Delaware 53 21 41 62 1.17 409 6.6

The states with the lowest average committees per legislator, meaning the legislator is likely responsible for fewer committees, are:

State Number of Committees Senators Representatives Total legislators Ratio of legislators to committees Total legislators on all committees Committees per legislator
New Hampshire 41 24 400 424 10.34 501 1.18
Alaska 27 20 40 60 2.22 197 1.33
Maine 27 35 153 188 6.96 266 1.41
To see the full table of all 50 states, click here.

The study also yielded some unique facts. In Connecticut, there are only joint committees. Legislators do not serve on chamber-specific committees. Instead, a total of 27 joint committees handle all committee work. In Maine, although there are 153 total representatives, not every representative is on a House-specific committee. There are only 6 total House committees, and some legislators have been appointed to one, lone joint committee.

Sessions

So far this year, 35 out of 50 state legislative sessions have officially adjourned. This week, only one state is scheduled to adjourn their 2011 session:

States that adjourned last week:

Special sessions

Special sessions are expected to be 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.

As of this week, Arizona, California, Texas, Virginia legislature and Wisconsin continue their special sessions, while the South Carolina legislature prepares to convene its special session tomorrow.

Arizona began its special session on Friday, June 10 to extend unemployment benefits which are set to end this week. Governor Brewer said she hopes to change state law so that jobless residents could continue to get 20 more weeks of extended unemployment benefits. She also proposed tightening job search requirements for recipients of extended benefits. Arizona's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 9.3 percent for April, down from 9.5 percent in March. Currently, 15,000 people are receiving unemployment benefits in Arizona. An additional 25,000 people would receive extended benefits at some point during the remainder of 2011 if lawmakers are able to change the law. In order to "safeguard against program fraud and abuse," Gov. Brewer proposed two new requirements: unemployed persons would need to make and document, four days weekly instead of two, their job search efforts, and they would also have to certify weekly of their awareness that they need to accept any job offer that pays at least minimum wage.[1]

Last week, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley's hopes of a June 7 emergency special session were dashed when Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell filed a lawsuit against her, contending that the proposed special session was unconstitutional and that it violated the Constitutional separation of powers among the governor, legislature and courts.[2] The South Carolina Supreme Court responded to the lawsuit and ruled 3-2 against Governor Haley, holding that her order violated the Legislature's ability to set its calendar and agenda.[3] The Palmetto state is slated to return for a special session beginning tomorrow and ending July 1 to deal with redistricting. Leaders of the legislature have said they will also take up bills dealing with restructuring of government.[4]

A total of eight special sessions have occurred this year in Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Kentucky, Louisiana, Utah and Washington.

Regular sessions

The following 15 states remain in regular legislative sessions:

Click here to see a chart of each state's 2011 session information.

Sessions spotlight

This week, here's a closer look at Iowa and North Carolina, two states that have experienced some tumultuous legislative sessions.

Iowa:A seven-week-long budget stalemate shows no signs of ending as Governor Branstad (R) continues a 43-city tour of Iowa, explaining the state's budget woes. The Iowa legislative session began on January 10, 2011 and has continued since, now 43 days past the maximum of 110 calendar days. The Iowa legislature is not in special session, rather an extended session in which legislators do not receive per diem. Iowa legislative rules allow lawmakers to receive per diem for a maximum of 100 days in even numbered years, and 110 days in odd numbered years. The 110th calendar day of the 2011 session was April 30. The rules may be amended at any time to extend the legislative session.

Since last Monday, the beginning of his tour, Branstad has left his chief of staff and budget director in charge of events, placing his "complete trust" in them to carry out business.[5]

Last week, the Republican-controlled Iowa House passed a bill that outlined the GOP plans for state spending over the next two years -- including a plan to reduce property taxes. However, Senator Jeff Danielson (D) said there are items in the bill that "just won't fly" with the Democratically-controlled Senate. Top Republicans are suggesting that a deal could be reached yet this week, but Democrats remain skeptical.[5]

Iowa's current budgeting year ends June 30th. Legislators need to approve a spending plan for the fiscal year which begins July 1, 2011.[5]
Iowa Senate partisan breakdown

Party As of July 2014
     Democratic Party 26
     Republican Party 24
Total 50

Iowa House partisan breakdown

Party As of July 2014
     Democratic Party 47
     Republican Party 53
Total 100


North Carolina:There have been two firsts for the legislature this session: the first GOP controlled legislature in over 140 years, and a state budget veto.[6]

After a contentious session between the Republican-controlled legislature and Democratic-Governor Beverly Perdue, Perdue has vetoed the GOP's $19.7 billion state budget. However, despite the veto and sharp criticisms from the Governor, the GOP appear poised to move the appropriations bill forward. Republicans have enough votes in the State Senate to override Perdue's veto. A House override appears likely as well, as five Democrats have hinted at aligned with Republicans to achieve the necessary supermajority.[6]

Democratic support of the House GOP is not without cause. The Raleigh News & Observer reported that the Democrats are trying "to avoid a prolonged impasse between Perdue and Republican legislators, one that could eventually result in a government shutdown.[6]

Elections

A total of 578 seats will be up for general election in state legislatures in 2011. New Jersey on June 7 held this year's first primary for 2011 state legislative elections.

The other three states holding elections this year are Louisiana, Mississippi and Virginia.

The next state with a signature filing deadline is Virginia on June 15. According to the Virginia Secretary of State's office, candidate lists for the August 23 primary should be available next week by Monday, June 20. Virginia's primary has been rescheduled to August 23, 2011 instead of its usual date of June 14, 2011[7] after delays and uncertainty in the redistricting process.[8].[9]

Special elections

June

There are no special elections scheduled for this week. As of June 13, there are only two special elections scheduled for this month. On June 21, four candidates will compete to fill a vacancy in Georgia House District 113. The vacancy was created when Hank Huckaby (R) resigned to become the new University of Georgia Chancellor. On June 28, Republican Jose Oliva will face write-in candidate Antonio Moreno in a special election to fill a vacancy in Florida House of Representatives District 110.[10] The vacancy was created when former Representative Esteban Bovo, Jr. (R) resigned to take the office of Miami-Dade County Commissioner.

References