Thursday, November 20, 2014

Lameducken edition

D.C.'s not the only place seeing hot pre-Thanksgiving lame duck action right now. As post-election dust settles across the country, most legislators are doing prep work for upcoming sessions in the new year, but a few are still scrambling to get this year's final items to the table... er, governor's desk.

  • Maybe they sucked at drawing hand turkeys in school: Lawmakers in Ohio are spending the final weeks of their session trying to keep Toledo's drinking water safeshield the identities of manufacturers and sellers of drugs used in executions, and screw teachers
    • Republicans snuck an amendment into an otherwise minor piece of legislation that would eradicate the statewide teacher minimum pay schedule. 
Fun fact! This provision was a part of 2011's notorious Senate Bill 5, the union-busting law that voters soundly rejected at the ballot box.
    • The bill is a direct attack on public education, teachers, and rural schools, and it's a ham-handed attempt to force educators into a merit-pay system -- a system that overvalues standardized testing, undermines educational quality, and ultimately hurts students even more than it does teachers.
      • The legislation passed out of committee on Monday and will be heard by the full GOP-dominated House.
Bonus item to watch: A new redistricting proposal that purports to provide for more input from the minority party -- but may actually make gerrymandering worse. 

  • When turkeys and humans don't get pardoned: Execution by firing squad could be on its way back in Utah. The method of execution was eliminated in the state in 2003, but as traditional lethal injection drugs grow scarce and newer drug cocktails lead to more botched executions, lawmakers are considering bringing back the bullets as an alternative, for "maneuverability," according to the bill's sponsor. The legislation passed out of committee on Wednesday.

  • Overstuffed turkeyMichigan's post-election session is already chock full o' shenanigans, but the Wolverine State has seen quite a bit of lame duck craziness over the past few years. 
    • The GOP-controlled legislature is really trying to outdo itself this year, though. Republicans are pushing two terrible measures before the end of session, hoping that voters are too busy to notice and/or will totally have forgotten lawmakers' antics by the time the next election rolls around.
      • Way back in the long-ago time of 2011, Republicans had just gained control of the state House and the governor's mansion to win a trifecta of GOP control of state government. Republicans proceeded to pass lousy laws -- like the one banning domestic partner benefits for public employees.
Fun fact! That law was declared unconstitutional by a federal judge last week.
    • The second piping-hot item on the Michigan GOP's post-election agenda is the latest chapter in the GOP's ongoing saga of Gerrymandering The Electoral College. 
      • The original story was set in Pennsylvania way back in 2011, when a GOP Senator decided he was tired of his state's electoral votes always going to Democrats, because so what if the Democratic candidate got more votes
        • So he proposed a bill to allocate electoral votes by congressional district -- districts he helped gerrymander to benefit Republicans. 
        • But other members of his party balked, the bill went nowhere, and everyone lived happily ever after...(There was a little post-credits scene in Wisconsin [featuring a cameo of Michigan], when a similar proposal to distribute EVs by CD popped up month later, also going nowhere.)
      • ...until 2013, when gerrymandered Republican majorities in states that went for Obama in 2012 were vexed that the majority of their states' voters gave those EVs to a Democrat againThe nerve! 
        • Gerrymandering The Electoral College: Catching Fire: In 2013, proposals to allocate electoral votes by congressional district popped up in every state that
          • Was governed by Republican trifectas (GOP gov, state House/Assembly, and state Senate) AND 
          • Gave its EVs to Obama in 2012. (That's PennsylvaniaWisconsinMichiganFloridaOhio, and Virginia.)
            • All of those proposals died in committee or fizzled before they got to the drafting stage in 2013.
      • And now, before the 2014 election results are even certified, a Michigan Republican is back for Part 3: MockingLund
        • The same lawmaker behind the state's previous two attempts to allocate electoral votes by congressional district has a "new" proposal. This time, Rep. Lund simply wants to divide those 16 Electoral College votes based on how lopsided -- or not -- a presidential candidate's win is in the state. 
          • So the next time a Democrat has the temerity to win the majority of the popular vote, Republicans could rest assured that such an upstart wouldn't win all 16 of those EVs (unless it's a blowout win of 61.6% or more, which is extremely unlikely). 
Fun fact! Due to term limits, Rep. Fund won't be returning to the legislature next year. This is his last EV hurrah.
        • At the measure's committee hearing on Monday, many concerns were expressed -- by both Republicans and Democrats -- and no action was taken. Some observers have already declared it dead, but that's a bit premature; the measure will be heard again on December 2, so save the date!
Yet another fun fact! A GOP operative in Michigan thinks Democrats should shut up about splitting the state's EVs, because it totally won't be that big of a deal and anyway Democrats totally did it themselves one time -- in 1892. And we know it was a great idea then because Republicans immediately switched it back to winner-take-all when they took over after the next election.

    • Other states to watch for more electoral vote shenanigans as their sessions reconvene next year: Those old chestnuts Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Florida
      • Pennsylvania and Virginia EV antics will be stopped by their Democratic governors.
        • Nevada is a new one to watch, since it will meet the criteria of
    1. won by Obama in 2012 and 
    2. trifecta GOP government control after its new legislators are sworn in.

  • Ugh, leftovers: And while we're on the subject of that new Republican trifecta in Nevada, GOP lawmakers are already preparing to serve up a helping of voter suppression with their new majorities. 

    • It's a bigot, inside of a homophobe, inside of a racist turkey: No discussion of Nevada's new GOP majorities would be complete without recognizing the Assembly's newly-designated Speaker, Ira Hansen. Hansen seems like a curious pick for the shiny new GOP majority, since he uses the word "negro" a lot and has repeatedly espoused sexist, homophobic, and racially-charged viewpoints
        • How do we know so  much about his beliefs? Well, he's been writing about them in his columns in the Sparks Tribune since 1994.
      • The Nevada Assembly will officially elect its Speaker when it convenes for session in February. If Hansen weathers this storm and is elected, we'll know a great deal about the new Republican majority before the first bill is even passed.

The following 6 state legislatures are meeting actively this week: ILLINOIS, INDIANA, MASSACHUSETTS, NEW JERSEY, OHIO, and VIRGINIA.



The National League of Cities will hold its Congress of Cities and Exposition November 19-22 in Austin, Texas. 
The Republican Governors Association will hold its Annual Conference November 19-21 in Florida.
The Republican Lieutenant Governors Association will hold its Policy Summit November 23-25 in Washington, D.C. 

The Oil and Gas Taskforce will meet November 20-21 to hear from local government officials and discuss surface owner rights. 
The House and Senate met November 19-20 for a veto session. 
The Act 240 Subcommittee of the Department of Education met November 17 to discuss the teacher evaluation system. 
The Joint Committee on Public Employee Retirement met November 19 for a quarterly report on the status of pension funds and will discuss underfunded pension plans. 

The Retirement Systems Committee met November 19 to examine the public employees' retirement system administered by the Public Employees Retirement Board. 
The House Republicans met November 18 for leadership elections.
The Department on Environmental Services will meet November 21 for a public meeting to discuss proposed amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act. 
The Legislative Education Study Committee met November 17-20 to discuss the Higher Education Funding Formula and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). 

The Legislative Assembly concluded its Fourth Ordinary Session November 18
The Senate Education Committee met November 17 to discuss school choice programs, the trigger program and the implementation of charter schools. 
The Water Development Commission met November 18 to discuss water issues within the state.
The Join Health and Human Services Interim Committee met November 19 to discuss potential legislation regarding Medicaid payments, health worker certifications and health care practitioners. 
The Economic Development and Workforce Services Interim Committee met November 19 to discuss the Motion Picture Incentive Program and other economic development incentives. 

The Carbon Emissions Reduction Taskforce met November 17 to present a report on their recommendations for the design and implementation of a market-based carbon pollution program. 
The Health Care Oversight Committee met November 18 to discuss telemedicine and affordability issues associated with the Affordable Care Act. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Good News, Everyone! edition


So Tuesday was a rough night for down-ballot Democrats. 

How rough? Well, I did say to expect a nadir, and being right isn't necessarily fun.

Here's that handy List of Essential Statehouses I advised watching, and what happened where.

  • Arkansas House (48 D/51 R/1 G): R majority grew (34 D/63 R)
  • Arizona Senate (13 D/17 R): Still R, no change
  • Colorado House (37 D/28 R): Ds kept majority (final numbers unavailable)
  • Colorado Senate (18 D/17 R): Probably flipped R (final numbers unavailable)
  • Iowa House (47 D/53 R): R majority grew (43 D/57 R)
  • Iowa Senate (26 D/24 R): Ds kept majority, no change
  • Kentucky House (54 D/46 R): Ds kept majority (53 D/46 R/1 tbd)
  • Maine Senate (19 D/15 R): Flipped R (13 D/21 R)
  • Michigan House (50 D/59 R/1 I): Rs grew majority (46 D/63 R)
  • Minnesota House (73 D/61 R): Flipped R (62 D/72 R)
  • Nevada Assembly (27 D/15 R): Flipped R (17 D/25 R)
  • Nevada Senate (11 D/10 R): Flipped R (10 D/11 R)
  • New Hampshire House (212 D/174 R/13 vacancies): Flipped R (final numbers ¯\_(ツ)_/¯)
  • New Hampshire Senate (11 D/13 R): Rs grew majority (9 D/14 R/1 tbd)
  • New Mexico House (37 D/33 R): Flipped R (34 D/36 R)
  • New York Senate (26 D/30 R/5 IDC/2 vacancies): Flipped R (27 D/32 R/4 IDC)
  • Oregon Senate (16 D/14 R): Ds grew majority (17 D/12 R/1 tbd)
  • Pennsylvania Senate (23 D/27 R): Rs grew majority (20 D/30 R)
  • Washington Senate (23 D/24 R/2 MCC): Flipped R (24 D/25 R)
  • West Virginia House (53 D/47 R): Flipped R (36 D/64 R)
  • Wisconsin Senate (15 D/18 R): Rs grew majority (14 D/19 R)

  • The chamber I overlooked (in terms of being "in play") was the West Virginia Senate, which moved from a Democratic majority (24 D/10 R) to a tie (17 D/17 R)... except then a Democrat defected, giving the GOP control of the chamber (16 D/18 R)Jerk.


This is it! The moment we should have trained for!
  • Something tells me I could easily defeat those trained professionals! Democrats kept their majority in the Kentucky state House. It's neat because OMG 2016!!!
    • Republicans -- including national groups, state-based PACs, and the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity -- invested serious scratch into flipping this chamber (I'm super stoked for final numbers, although we may never have a tally for AfP). 
      • Paul didn't help out because he was feeling nice; he had a serious interest in flipping that House. Current state law prohibits candidates from running for two elected offices simultaneously, which I hear is a thing Rand Paul is pretty into doing in 2016. Democrats will almost certainly continue to block any proposed measure that would allow him to run for Senate and President at the same time.
    • Also, Speaker Stumbo is already talking about reintroducing a bill to gradually raise the state's hourly minimum wage form $7.25 to $10.10. The GOP-controlled state Senate killed a similar measure during the last Session. 

  • Gravity normal. Air pressure returning. Terror replaced by cautious optimism: Despite a poor showing for Democratic candidates in the state overall, Democrats kept their one-seat majority in the Iowa state Senate. Majority Leader Mike Gronstal (D-Legit Badass) and his caucus will continue as the state's backstop against a right-wing agenda pushed by Gov. Branstad and the GOP-majority House. 
    • So don't look to Iowa for stuff like amendments enshrining a same-sex marriage ban and "right to work" in the state's Constitution, or new restrictions on choice and women's healthcare, or new voting restrictions. Not. Gonna. Happen.
Gronstal/Stumbo 2016!
  • Now open your mouth and let's have a look at that brain: In Arkansas, Tuesday was not only a bad day for Democrats (Republicans will continue to hold the House and Senate, and they'll soon be joined by GOP Gov.-elect Asa Hutchinson), but it was also especially rough for anyone who's into giving some 200,000 Arkansans continued access to health insurance (via the state's "private option" approach to expanding Medicaid). 
    • While Hutchinson allegedly quietly supports the private option, opponents of the plan made "major gains" in both chambers. 
      • Fun fact! The legislature will have to re-authorize funding for the private option again next year -- with a 75% majority vote of both the House and Senate. This could get... interesting. Stay tuned!
  • At the risk of sounding negative, no: In Tennessee, GOP lawmakers will be doing a lot of legislating of lady parts in the near future. Amendment 1 passed with 54% of the vote,  so now the state's Constitution won't get in the way of the Republican-controlled legislature's efforts to restrict abortions and dictate women's healthcare. A mandatory waiting period, special "inspection requirements" for facilities, and mandatory counseling are already being teed up for next session.

  • I'll be whatever I wanna do: The chamber flips in New Mexico (House), Minnesota (House), Colorado (Senate), and Maine (Senate) likely won't produce drastic shifts in policy, since the other chamber in these states retained Democratic majorities. 

  • This is the third hose fight I've broken up today, and the second using actual hoses: Keep an eye out for partisan drama in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and West Virginia as the Democratic governors in these states face off against legislatures that will be under minty-fresh complete GOP control.

  • Fire all weapons and open a hailing frequency for my victory yodel: Nevada will be a fun place to watch over the next year or so. The GOP governor with national ambitions suddenly has a GOP-controlled legislature. Zany antics are sure to ensue! 

If we hit that bullseye, the rest of the dominoes should fall like a house of cards. Checkmate! But some of the real harm done to Democrats this cycle is a bit less obvious than chamber flips or a landmark GOP majority in the U.S. House. 
  • Part of the reason Republicans will enjoy such a large congressional majority harkens back to the walloping of statehouse Democrats in 2010. Dems lost their seat at a lot of super important tables during redistricting because of big GOP wins in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, among many others. 
    • If Democrats are going to have a say in the 2021 redistricting process, they're going to need a majority in at least one chamber of those state legislatures (and others, too, obvs).
  • 2012 was a step in the right direction. Democrats gained seats in OH and PA and WI and MI that cycle (and others, too, obvs). If Democrats could have at least held on to those gains in 2014, winning back some of those majorities by 2020 seemed totally doable. 
    • But then Tuesday happened, and Democrats lost ground in each of those chambers (and others, too, obvs). 
  • Ohio and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and Michigan are home to 56 congressional districts. That's a lot of Congress to have gerrymandered away from you.
    • Obviously, some of those seats would end up Democratic, but not many.
      • Currently, Democrats hold 17 of these 56 seats -- less than a third of the districts in states that all gave a majority of their popular vote to Obama in 2012. 
If Democrats want any hope of establishing a sustained majority in the U.S. House in the next decade, they need to be involved in drawing the next set of district maps in as many states as possible. The 2014 statehouse results are a significant setback, and Democrats only have three more elections to make up some huge deficits in a lot of critical legislative chambers.
  • Bottom line: If Democrats don't want to end up totally boned in the U.S. House until 2030, they need to start focusing on state legislative elections, like, yesterday.
    • Fun fact! In the Kentucky Senate race, Democratic and progressive outside groups spent over $10 millionOne race. Outside groups Meanwhile, the national party committee responsible for electing Democrats to all the state legislatures all over the country -- 98 partisan chambers, 6,000+ seats -- raised $16 million for the 2014 cycle. (h/t David Sirota)
      • I'm not saying Senate campaigns aren't important and don't merit many millions of dollars in campaign spending, because they are, and they do. 
  • But if progressives are interested in the long-term electoral health of the Democratic Party, they need to start looking at state legislative elections as similarly worthy of that level of investment.

As always, holler with any questions, concerns, complaints, comments, hopes, dreams.... 



Carolyn Fiddler
Awesome To The Max

Monday, November 3, 2014

Ghosts of 2010 edition (featuring Ballot Measure Hotness!)

Almost there. 

Department of Loose Strings: In my last edition, I amazed and captivated you with my LES (List of Essential Statehouses) and associated ratings for each chamber. The marvelous folks at Daily Kos Elections put my ratings into a handy little spreadsheet, which I love, even though I'm about to screw it up.

  • After more conversations with experts, fresh peeks at some data and polling, and a refreshed survey of state legislative elections coverage in key states, I've tweaked my ratings.
    • Just as things are looking more dire for Democrats in many federal races, so, too, are many state legislative contests trending towards Republicans. Not everywhere, mind you, but in a lot of the places that matter.

And so, I present Essential Statehouses 2: Double Down. (Or 2 Essential 2 Statehouse. Or Electric Boogaloo. Whatever.)

Now with color coding!

  • Arkansas House (48 D/51 R/1 G): Lean R
  • Arizona Senate (13 D/17 R): Likely R
  • Colorado House (37 D/28 R): Lean D
  • Colorado Senate (18 D/17 R): Lean R
  • Iowa House (47 D/53 R): Lean R
  • Iowa Senate (26 D/24 R): Tossup
  • Kentucky House (54 D/46 R): Lean D
  • Maine Senate (19 D/15 R): Likely D
  • Michigan House (50 D/59 R/1 I): Likely R
  • Minnesota House (73 D/61 R): Lean D
  • Nevada Assembly (27 D/15 R): Tossup
  • Nevada Senate (11 D/10 R): Lean R
  • New Hampshire House (212 D/174 R/13 vacancies): Tossup/¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • New Hampshire Senate (11 D/13 R): Lean R
  • New Mexico House (37 D/33 R): Lean D
  • New York Senate (26 D/30 R/5 IDC/2 vacancies): Tossup
  • Oregon Senate (16 D/14 R): Likely D
  • Pennsylvania Senate (23 D/27 R): Likely R
  • Washington Senate (23 D/24 R/2 MCC): Tossup
  • West Virginia House (53 D/47 R): Lean D
  • Wisconsin Senate (15 D/18 R): Likely R
    • You'll notice the list got a bit longer. That's because a lot of chambers with Democratic majorities that didn't look to be in play this year have definitely become competitive, and, if you're into that kind of thing, they should be on your radar. 
Election Day 2014 is the final Democratic hangover from the 2010 statehouse debacle. Tomorrow, the ghosts of 2010 come back to haunt the crap out of Democrats in both the U.S. House and in state legislatures all across the country. 
  • Basically, 2014 was destined to amount to 
    • Non-presidential turnout levels + Republican-drawn legislative district maps = Not a great election cycle for Democrats.
      • But then factor in things like the lack of a strong Democrat at the top of the ticket (like Nevada), successful nationalizing of legislative races in states with abysmal Obama approval ratings (West VirginiaArkansas, Kentucky, Colorado, etc.), way less money than the other guys (all over), and, well, Democrats could have a rough night.

Oh, well. Republicans should enjoy their successes while they can, because this is as good as it's going to get for them for the remainder of the decade. 
  • Shifting demographics, backlash against ultra-conservative agendas (Kansas gubernatorial, anyone?), and presidential turnout levels in two out of the next three elections (sorryVirginia, New Jersey, Mississippi and Louisiana) make this cycle Democrats' likely nadir on the state legislative level. 
    • Or, as some jerk put it, "Republicans will make their hay while the sun shines this year, but it could be their last chance to do so for quite some time." Hay. Seriously.

Ugh, I've even bored myself. Back to the action.

  • Despite the fact that Democrats are defending LOTS of chambers and could lose a half-dozen or more on Election Day, only a few should outcomes really give progressives indigestion. Like, serious gas.
    • Iowa Senate: If Democrats lose their tiny majority here, the Republican governor and the GOP majority in the state House will be free to unleash a flood of ultra-conservative agenda items kept dammed up for years by Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal. Expect voter suppression, attacks on women's healthcare and choice, a so-called "right to work" constitutional amendment, and other right-wing romps.
    • Arkansas House: Unless the polls are skewed, The Natural State's next governor is going to be a Republican. If Democrats fail to flip the GOP's tiny majority here, Republicans will be in complete control of the state's government, and the recent "private option" expansion of Medicaid could be at risk.
    • Kentucky House: If this chamber flips to Republican control, Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear could have a rough final year. If a Republican replaces him in 2015, Republicans will have complete legislative and executive control of the state. 
    • Nevada Assembly and SenateEarly vote numbers are terrible for Democrats all across the state. Democrats' one-seat majority in the state Senate was always in jeopardy; now, dismal early vote numbers in more than a half-dozen Democratic state Assembly districts in Clark County are putting that chamber solidly in play, too (Republicans need seven to outright flip it, butt one Democrat who feels crapped on already plans to caucus with the GOP in the event of a tie). 
      • If Democrats lose both the Senate and Assembly tomorrow, Republican Gov. Sandoval will be free to push his conservative agenda and build a record of policy accomplishments that will help him run for... other things.

Well, we all know that state legislatures are home to the hottest action this cycle, but let's not forget that other fun down-ballot devil: Ballot Measures.

Tomorrow, voters will decide on new laws and amendments ranging from groovy to unfortunate to terror vomit-inducing. Here are few high/lowlights:

  • Personhood and choiceColorado's Amendment 67, which would criminalize all abortions (nothing in the amendment excepts pregnancies resulting from rape or incest or abortions required to save the life or health of the mother) and outlaw in vitro fertilization and some forms of contraception, appears to be on its way to defeat. A recent poll had 54% of respondents rejecting it, with 32% in favor and 14% undecided.
    • North Dakota also has a personhood amendment on the ballot, but it's even more expansive. Measure 1's provisions cover "any stage of development," which includes end-of-life care, too, technically. If a terminally ill patient's advance directives conflict with Measure 1, a doctor might feel obligated to override them.
    • Voters in Tennessee will decide whether to give their state lawmakers more control over women's bodies. Currently, the state Constitution offers greater privacy protections than even the federal Constitution, and those protections include a women's right to terminate a pregnancy. 
      • State lawmakers don't think ladies need that much privacy and are asking voters to approve language specifically excepting the state Constitution from covering abortion issues (Amendment 1), freeing those lawmakers up to slap new laws all over lady parts.
        • Opponents of the measure are outspending supporters almost 3 to 1, but the latest polling indicates the outcome is very much up in the air; last week, a Middle Tennessee State survey found that 39% of respondents support Amendment 1, 32% oppose the anti-choice measure, and 15% remain undecided.
  • Voting: Voters in Connecticut will decide whether to make absentee voting a little easier by removing constitutional restrictions that currently prevent casting early or absentee ballots without a reason. 
    • Voters in Missouri, meanwhile, are voting on that sneaky amendment that allows up to six days of early voting, but prohibits it on evenings and weekends and is completely contingent on the GOP-dominated legislature allocating sufficient funds in a given year to cover the costs. Because, sure, that'll happen. Republicans are SO INTO early voting and will totally bother to fund it every two years.
    • Montana referendum (LR-126) would end the state's practice of Election Day voter registration, instead ending it the Friday before the election. The GOP-controlled legislature, tired of Democratic governors' vetoes, sidestepped executive approval entirely by placing the measure on the ballot

Well, the money's been spent, the mail has all dropped, and tomorrow will see the end of incessant political TV ads (except for maybe Louisiana and Georgia, those poor bastards), and it's all over but the crying, so to speak. 

  • Determining which party wins majorities in which legislative chambers will take many, many hours -- in some places, even days. But I'll be there through the whole slog, and when you get tired of wondering what X party's control of the U.S. Y means for Z, I'll have my Epic Statehouse Post-Election Roundup ready for consumption. 
    • Or mostly ready. Depends on your attention span for everything else + how much Sugar Free Red Bull I can drink before going blind.

The following state legislatures are meeting actively this week: MASSACHUSETTS, MICHIGAN, NEW JERSEY and VIRGINIA.


The National Association of Medicaid Directors will hold its Fall Conference November 3-5 in Arlington, Virginia. 

The National Association of Counties will hold its Rural Action Caucus (RAC) Retreat November 6-8 in Billings, Montana.


On November 4, 2014 




In addition, LOUISIANAMISSISSIPPI and VIRGINIA will hold special elections.

The City of Little Rock will hold its general election November 4. Mayor Mark Stodala (D) was first elected as Mayor of Little Rock in 2006. 


The Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Advisory Commission will meet November 5 to discuss the draft risk assessment regarding traffic risks, road damage and greenhouse gas impacts. 


The Joint Subcommittee on Recurrent Flooding will meet November 5 to discuss the problem of flooding. (Glad they cleared that up.)


The Utilities and Transportation Commission will meet November 5 to discuss proposed amendments to its rules relating to renewable energy requirements for electric companies.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

LES Is More edition

Or, everything you ever wanted to know about 2014 statehouse elections but were afraid to ask.

It's that time of year again... Stupid elections. 

So we're all a little short on time and a little long on things demanding our attention. And maybe after Senate and House and governors, oh my!, you don't quite have enough bandwidth left for the thousands of state legislative races happening across the country. 

But that's okay, because most of them don't matter. You can ignore at least 90% of them. You don't even have to keep track of all 98 partisan legislative chambers, or even just all 50 states. Nope. Not even close.

Because you don't have time for stuff that's not important, I present the List of Essential of Statehouses 2014LES. (See? Now the subject line makes sense. You're welcome.

  • Essential Statehouses, with majorities ripe for flippage:
    • Arkansas House (48 D/51 R/1 G*): Lean R
    • Colorado Senate (18 D/17 R): Tossup
    • Iowa House (47 D/53 R): Lean R
    • Iowa Senate (26 D/24 R): Tossup/Tilt D
    • Kentucky House (54 D/46 R): Lean D
    • Michigan House (50 D/59 R/1 I): Lean R
    • Nevada Senate (11 D/10 R): Tossup/Tilt D
    • New Hampshire House (212 D/174 R/13 vacancies): Tossup/who the hell knows?
    • New Hampshire Senate (11 D/13 R): Tossup
    • New Mexico House (37 D/33 R): Lean D
    • New York Senate (26 D/30 R/5 IDC/2 vacancies): Tossup
    • Washington Senate (23 D/24 R/2 MCC): Tossup
    • West Virginia House (53 D/47 R): Lean D
  • Outliers, or chambers that could flip if Democrats have a ridiculous night (but don't hold your breath):
    • Arizona Senate (13 D/17 R)
    • Pennsylvania Senate (23 D/27 R)
    • Wisconsin Senate (15 D/18 R)
  • Pipe dreams, or HOLY SHIT IT'S 2010 ALL OVER AGAIN:
    • Maine Senate (19 D/15 R)
    • Minnesota House (73 D/61 R)
    • Oregon Senate (16 D/14 R)

Clip 'n' save!

But what does it all mean? Why does it even matter if these chambers change hands?

I've got you.
  • Arkansas House flipping R to D would prevent a GOP trifecta, should Ross lose the gubernatorial race. 
    • Extra fun: If Ross wins but both chambers retain GOP majorities, he'll be continually stymied by the fact that his vetoes can be overridden by a simple majority vote in both chambers.

  • Colorado Senate flipping D to R won't be a big deal if Hickenlooper wins, but if Democrats don't keep the governor's mansion, the state House would be the only remaining Democratic aspect of that trifecta. Expect more guns, less weed.
    • Hot races to watch here are 
      • SD-3 and SD-11 (where the recall winners are running in an election where turnout will be above the 21% that plunked them into office last year); 
      • SD-19 and SD-22, where Sens. Rachel Zenziger and Andy Kerr  face Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (read: probably too extreme for these swing districts) Laura Woods and Tony Sanchez, respectively; and 
      • SD-16, which was redrawn to be less hospitable towards its Democratic incumbent than it was four years ago.
  • Recent polling is giving Democrats legit indigestion about this chamber; PPP had Democrats down 40-48% on the generic legislative ballot last week.

  • Iowa House flipping R to D means that the state Senate would almost certainly retain its Democratic majority, leaving Republican Gov. Branstad lonely at the top.
  • Iowa Senate flipping D to R would almost certainly correlate with Republicans keeping their House majority, giving the GOP full trifecta control of state government. The conservative agenda kept at bay by the Democratic Senate majority since 2010 would come home to roost -- expect attacks on women's healthcare and choice, a "right to work"** constitutional amendment, voter suppression... you know the drill by now. 
    • And will the Butter Cow become the official state idol? We just can't rule it out. 
    • If you want to seriously geek out, keep an eye on SDs-5, 7, 39 (a Republican named Michael Moore would have been much funnier 10 years ago), 41, and 47
      • Network TV ad spending in Iowa state Senate races is estimated at $131,200. In SD-39 alone, 244 spots have aired so far.

  • Kentucky House flipping D to R would leave Gov. Beshear the lonely Democrat at the top. If the next governor is also a Democrat, he'll need good bourbon to dull the pain of his stalled agenda. If a Republican replaces him in 2015, the GOP will have the governing trifecta. Expect "right to work," anti-choice, and other fun bits of the conservative agenda to quickly become law.

  • Michigan House flipping R to D would give Democrats a seat at the policy table; they'd either be a check on Gov. Snyder or a valuable ally of Gov. Schauer.  
    • Picking up this chamber is a long shot for Democrats in a non-presidential year, but even a pickup of one or two seats would put them in a great spot to flip the House in 2016. 
    • The state is awash in House campaign money and spending. 

  • Nevada Senate flipping D to R would make Gov. Sandoval's life a lot better (and Harry Reid's life a little harder. #2016).
    • If you're going to keep an eye on one district here, make it SD-09. Flipping it gives Republicans the majority control they crave, and both parties are all over it.
    • Recent polling shows tight races in at least two of those three seats. The dearth of a strong gubernatorial candidate at the top of the ticket won't help Dems, but neither will lack of excitement about a shoo-in Republican reelect motivate Republicans. I suspect I'll be chewing my nails over this chamber late into the night on November 4.

  • New Hampshire House flipping D to R would make this chamber your prime source of entertaining/crazy/just plain wrong legislation. I mean, even more than it is already.
  • New Hampshire Senate flipping R to D would help keep the House crazies in check (and would be a valuable ally of Gov. Hassan).
    • Rand Paul alert! He's not just trying to win state legislative seats in Kentucky; just this week, Paul dropped $16,500 on various candidates for state Senate and Executive Council. #2016

  • New Mexico House flipping from D to R would be a major coup for Gov. Martinez (she tried really hard to make that happen two years ago), but the GOP majority would be slim, and Democrats still control the Senate (it's not up this year).
    • Both parties are dropping MAD CASH to control the chamber. Much of the money is funneling through two super PACs: GOP-backing Advance New Mexico Now (COH: $485,779) and Democrat-supporting Patriot Majority New Mexico (COH: $897,836).

  • New York Senate flipping (effective) R to (actual, outright) D might not be a game change in terms of state policy, but paying back the Dem turncoats of 2012 would be delicious.

  • Washington Senate... ditto. But with pot. 
    • Also zombies: In SD-06, Democratic challenger Rich Cowan runs the company that brought production of SyFy's Z Nation to the district (largely thanks to a tax credit Republican Sen. Michael Baumgartner voted for, but now opposes), resulting in jobs and other great things, like a city full of extras in zombie makeup. 
    • Climate activist and super-rich guy Tom Steyer's NextGen Climate Action Committee is dropping $1 million to unseat two other Republicans: Sens. Steve O'Ban (SD-25) and Andy Hill (SD-45).

  • West Virginia House flipping D to R would mean first time since argle bargle Republicans control something something Democrats' historical derp tiddely-pom.
    • But really, both parties are taking this chamber seriously. Eight different outside groups are spending heavily in state races. An estimated $63,500 has been spent on network TV ads across four House races (exactly the number the GOP needs to flip to win a majority).

So there you have it... except it's worth noting that when the head of the DLCC is saying that anything short of a pickup of six legislative chambers is a FAIL for the GOP (he's not wrong -- these are their perfect maps in their perfect year; they could run the table), I think I'm going to leave my champagne at home on Nov. 4. 
I'll sip it the next week, as I'm laying out all the sweet pickup opportunities for Democrats in 2016.

For the Week of October 23, 2014 

The following 4 state legislatures are meeting actively this week: MASSACHUSETTS, MICHIGAN, NEW JERSEY and PENNSYLVANIA.


The Autonomous Vehicle Technology Study Committee met October 22 to hear testimony regarding the current status of autonomous vehicle infrastructure and advantages and future possibilities for autonomous infrastructure. 

The Senate Education Committee met October 22 to meet the Teachers of the Year and discuss their perspectives on education. 

The Environment and Agriculture Committee held an executive session October 21 to discuss interim study bills H.B. 1382, regarding the definition of "farm sand" and H.B. 1464, regarding the exemption from the Food and Drug Administration Safety Modernization Act of agricultural products produced, sold and consumed in the state. 

The Public Works and Highways Committee met October 21 for an executive session to discuss revenue alternatives to the gas tax and make recommendations for future legislation. 
The Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee met for an executive session October 23 to discuss limited partnerships between alcoholic beverage manufacturers and wholesale distributors and make recommendations for future legislation. 
The Legislative Health and Human Services Committee met October 20-22 to discuss mental and behavioral health programs and services available to Native Americans, a basic health program update and the Health Insurance Exchange. 
The Workers' Compensation Review Committee met October 21 to discuss a bill draft relating to posttraumatic stress disorder coverage for first responders. 
The House Higher Education Committee met October 22 to discuss student loan debt and the transition between K-12 education to Higher Education. 
The Senate Jurisprudence Committee met October 23 to discuss expunction of criminal records. 
The Health Care Reform Task Force met October 23 to receive updates concerning Governor Gary R. Herbert's (R) negotiations with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regarding the Governor's Healthy Utah proposal. The Task Force will also discuss alternative options for expanding health care coverage. 
via Stateside AssociatesProject Vote.
* Updated 10/24/14 to correct Arkansas House partisan breakdown
** Updated 10/24/14 to clarify potential "right to work" policy changes in Iowa.