State Legislative Tracker: Collective bargaining on the agenda for 2012

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December 5, 2011

Edited by Greg Janetka

This week's tracker features a spotlight on legislative attempts to curb the influence of unions, set to be a major issue in 2012.


So far this year, 46 out of 50 state legislatures have officially adjourned their regular session. No states are scheduled to adjourn this week.

Current sessions capture for the week of December 5, 2011

Regular sessions

The following 4 states remain in regular legislative sessions:

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

While most state legislatures are not currently in session, a number of legislators remain active this fall with redistricting hearings and meetings. Meanwhile, although most states have concluded 2011 business, a number of states have already begun 2012 action. Drafting for 2012 has begun in two states: Kentucky and Montana, while prefiling of legislation is going on in 11 states: Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Maine, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.[1]

Special sessions

Special sessions have been 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.

  • Washington began a special session November 28 to cut $2 billion from the budget. Some analysts predicted the session could last at least three weeks.[2] The first week of the special session saw protests and arrests, but little action by the legislature. Two newly appointed senators -- Dave Frockt and Christine Rolfes -- were sworn into the Washington State Senate.[3]

So far this year, there have been 42 special sessions in 27 states.

State Legislative Tracker: A glance at state legislatures
Number of special elections this year 92
Number of special sessions this year 42
Number of states that held special sessions this year 27
Number of seats up for general election this year 578

No states have future special sessions scheduled. However, there has been talk of possible special sessions in several states.

  • New York may have a special session as early as tomorrow to deal with the state's budget.[4] Over the weekend Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) called for comprehensive reform of the state's tax code as well as a stimulus package.[5] The Assembly will be meeting at the Capitol for a conference tomorrow afternoon and hold a session afterward if there is anything to vote on.[6]
  • Arizona has had a tumultuous redistricting process thus far and looked to be slated for a special session, but last week Governor Jan Brewer (R) said she would not be calling one. In November, the state Supreme Court reinstated Arizona Independent Redistricting chair Colleen Mathis, after she was initially impeached by Brewer and removed by the Arizona State Senate.[7] Since the Redistricting Commission was created by voters, another vote would be necessary to do away with it, which would have required a special session to get the issue on the February 28 ballot. According to Brewer press aide Matthew Benson, polling showed that voters would not have voted to eliminate the commission.[8]

In recess

As of today, December 5, 21 states' sessions are currently in mid-term recess:

  • Alaska - Mid-term recess April 18 through January 16, 2012 [9]
  • California - Mid-term recess September 9 through January 4, 2012.[10]
  • Delaware - July 1, 2011 through January 10, 2012 [9]
  • Georgia - Mid-term recess April 15 through January 8, 2012 [9]
  • Hawaii - Mid-term recess May 6 through January 7, 2012 [9]

  • Illinois - Mid-term recess through January 10, 2012 [9]
  • Iowa - Mid-term recess June 30 through January 8, 2012 [9]
  • Kansas - Mid-term recess June 1 through January 8, 2012 [9]
  • Maine - Mid-term recess June 30 through January 3, 2012[9]
  • Massachusetts - Mid-term recess November 17 through January 3, 2012[9]
  • Minnesota - Mid-term recess May 24 through January 23, 2012 [9]

  • Oklahoma - Mid-term recess May 28 through January 31, 2012 [9]
  • South Carolina - Mid-term recess July 27 through January 9, 2012 [9]
  • Tennessee - Mid-term recess May 22 through January 9, 2012 [9]
  • Vermont - Mid-term recess May 7 through January 3, 2012 [9]
  • Washington - Mid-term recess April 23 through January 8, 2012 [9]

Issues spotlight

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. At a meeting of the Republican Governors Association last week, chairman and Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell said members of the association will continue to fight to curb the power of unions, despite the backlash that was seen in several states.[11]

Here is a rundown of the major 2011 action:

  • Indiana: On February 22, 2011, 37 Democrats walked out of the House chambers in order to prevent a quorum necessary to act on a "right-to-work" 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. Last month, Republican legislative leaders announced that the legislation would be back on the table in 2012 and on the top of their agenda.[12] According to Andrew Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center on Indiana Politics at Indiana University-Purdue University, the only major change that may occur in Indiana next year is active campaigning by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels (R) in favor of the proposed legislation. This year Daniels remained largely quiet on the debate, which some feel was a cautionary step as he decided whether or not to run for president. Without a presidential bid, and term-limited in 2012, Daniels has little to lose by entering the fray. While both sides claimed victory in the 2011 battle, the victor may be seen in the November general election when all 100 state representatives and half of the 50 state senators will be up for re-election.


See also: State legislative elections, 2011 and State legislative elections results, 2011
SLP elec2011 badge.jpg

A total of 578 seats were up for general election in state legislatures in 2011.

General elections were held in New Jersey, Mississippi and Virginia on November 8, 2011. Louisiana's general election took place on November 19.

Five of the eight incumbents who ran were defeated. All told, 28 incumbents were defeated in the 2011 state legislative elections -- eight in primaries and 20 in the general election. Thus, 94.1% of incumbents who ran for re-election in 2011 were victorious.

Thus, of the 578 seats up for election, Democrats won 264 (45.7%) while Republicans won 311 (53.8%).

Partisan breakdown of state legislators in Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia
Before November 2011 election After November 2011 election
Party Senators Representatives Total state legislators Senators Representatives Total state legislators Gain/loss legislators
87 200 287 77 179 256 -23
83 202 285 92 223 315 +26
Independent or nonpartisan
0 4 4 0 3 3 -1
1 1 2 0 0 0 -2

In 2012, at least 5,979 state legislative seats will be up for election, representing more than 80% of all state legislative seats in the 50 states.

Filing deadlines

See also: Signature requirements and deadlines for 2012 state legislative elections

The first signature filing deadline for candidates wishing to run in the 2012 state legislative elections took place in Illinois today, officially kicking off the 2012 election season.

States with upcoming deadlines:

2012 Primaries

With the first primary elections of 2012 scheduled to take place in Texas in just three months, primary dates continue to fluctuate in several states.

In November, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed into law a bill to move the state's primary date from September 18 to September 6 so as not to conflict with the holiday of Rosh Hashanah. However, it looks like that date could change once again as that also happens to be the last day of the Democratic National Convention. Gov. Patrick has said the date should be moved, but Secretary of State William Galvin has shown reluctance, stating that the last day of the convention is normally little more than a festive day.[18] Galvin has said, however, that he would consider alternative dates. There is currently a bill before the legislature that would move the primary to June 5, the same day as the presidential primary.[19]

Special elections

See also: State legislative special elections, 2011 and State legislative special elections, 2012

There is one state holding special elections tomorrow. Georgia voters go to the polls to determine runoff elections in House District 25 and Senate Districts 28 and 50. The special elections were all held November 8, but in each case no candidate received a majority of the vote. Party affiliation was listed, but all candidates appeared on the same ballot.

Georgia House District 25, Run-off Election

James Mills (R) resigned to accept an appointment to the state Pardons and Paroles board.[20][21]

Democratic Party Democratic Candidates:
Republican Party Republican Candidates: [22]

General election candidates:

Republican Party Bobby Banks
Republican Party Emory West Dunahoo, Jr.

Georgia Senate District 28, Run-off Election

Mitch Seabaugh (R) resigned to accept an appointment to the position of deputy state treasurer.[23]

Democratic Party Democratic Candidates:
Republican Party Republican Candidates: [24]
Independent Non-Partisan Candidates:

General election candidates:

Republican Party Duke Blackburn
Republican Party Mike Crane

Georgia Senate District 50, Run-off Election

Jim Butterworth (R) resigned to accept an appointment as Adjutant General of the Georgia National Guard.[25][26]

Democratic Party Democratic Candidates:
Republican Party Republican Candidates: [27]

General election candidates:

Republican Party Rick Austin
Republican Party John Wilkinson

Looking ahead

Upcoming special elections include:

  • December 13: Texas House of Representatives District 14 runoff
  • December 20: Kentucky House of Representatives District 82
  • January 10, 2012: Massachusetts Senate 2nd Suffolk and Middlesex
  • February 14, 2012: Oklahoma House District 1
  • February 28, 2012: Michigan House of Representatives District 29
  • February 28, 2012: Michigan House of Representatives District 51


See also: State legislative recalls

Currently, 18 states permit the recall of state officials. This year has seen a flurry of recall activity take place, most notably in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Arizona. In Wisconsin, nine state senators faced recall elections this past summer, resulting in the removal of two Republicans from office. Dozens of state legislators in Michigan were targeted for recall, but only one campaign successfully made the ballot. Two recalls - Russell Pearce in Arizona (R) and Paul Scott in Michigan (R) - took place on November 8, 2011, both of which succeeded.

To put the use of recall into perspective, 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 have been 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 against four Republican state senators - Pam Galloway, Scott Fitzgerald, Terry Moulton and Van Wanggaard.[28] Supporters of the recall have 60 days to collect the necessary signatures in order to force recall elections in 2012.

Last week, Eau Claire County Democratic Party chair Kristen Dexter said 8,900 signatures - 59 percent of the total needed - had been collected for Moulton's recall,[29] while Brad Wojciechowski, communications director for the State Senate Democratic Committee, has said Wanggaard's recall is "on pace" to collect the necessary signatures, but specific figures were not released.[30]


  1. StateNet, "Daily Session Summary," December 5, 2011
  2. Public News Service, "Predictions for WA's Special Legislative Session," November 28, 2011
  3. The News Tribune, "At least protesters are making good use of Capitol," December 1, 2011
  4. New York Daily News, "A December Session For The Legislature? Depends Who You Talk To!," November 25, 2011
  5. New York Times, "Cuomo Pushes New Tax Rates for Big Earners, December 4, 2011
  6. North County Public Radio, "State Assembly will be back in Albany—maybe for a special session," December 2, 2011
  7. Arizona Capitol Times "AZ Capitol Times: Special session over reinstalling redistricting commission chairwoman?," November 21, 2011
  8. Arizona Daily Star," Brewer rejects special session over redistricting," November 30, 2011
  9. 9.00 9.01 9.02 9.03 9.04 9.05 9.06 9.07 9.08 9.09 9.10 9.11 9.12 9.13 9.14 9.15 9.16 9.17 9.18 StateScape, Session schedules, accessed December 5, 2011
  10. The Sacramento Bee, California Democrats, backed by business, roll out last-minute proposal on regulations, Sept. 2, 2011
  11. San Francisco Chronicle, "Republican Governors Slap Reigns on Unions Undeterred by Backlash," December 4, 2011
  12. Stateline, "Indiana ready to restart battle over union rights," November 22, 2011
  13. Union Leader," Right to work veto override vote coming?," November 29, 2011
  14. Eagle Tribune, "N.H. House fails to override right-to-work veto," December 1, 2011
  15. Union Leader," "Garry Rayno's State House Dome: 2nd round likely in right-to-work bout," December 4, 2011
  16. UPI, "Voters reject collective-bargaining limits," November 9, 2011
  17. Reporter News, "Court orders primary filing period pushed back," November 7, 2011
  18. WAMC, "Mass.Primary Date In Conflict With Democratic Convention," November 30, 2011
  19. MetroWest Daily News, "Editorial: Incumbents' primary advantage," December 5, 2011
  20. Georgia Secretary of State, "Secretary of State Kemp Sets Qualifying Dates for the Special Elections in State Senate District 50, State House District 25 and State House District 10," September 22, 2011
  21. '"Gainsville Times, "Longtime lawyer seeks House seat," September 29, 2011
  22. Georgia Secretary of State, District 25, Unofficial Results, November 8, 2011
  23. Atlanta Business Chronicle, "Seabaugh leaving legislature for treasury post," October 3, 2011
  24. Georgia Secretary of State, District 28, Unofficial Results, November 9, 2011
  25. Georgia Secretary of State, "Secretary of State Kemp Sets Qualifying Dates for the Special Elections in State Senate District 50, State House District 25 and State House District 10," September 22, 2011
  26. Atlanta Journal Constitution, "Jim ‘B-1′ Butterworth tapped as new head of Ga. National Guard," September 6, 2011
  27. Georgia Secretary of State, District 50, Unofficial Results, November 8, 2011
  28. FOX 6 Now, "Recall paperwork filed Tuesday for four senators, including Van Wanggaard," November 15, 2011
  29. The Chippewa Herald, "Democrats say Moulton recall signatures at 59 percent," November 29, 2011
  30. The Journal Times, "Wanggaard recall ‘on pace,’ Dems say but no numbers released," November 23, 2011