Another week, another bunch of lawmakers doing their lawmaking. Thirty-five legislatures are now in session (also, D.C. and Puerto Rico). Over the coming months, that number will rise to 46 (Montana, Nevada, North Dakota and Texas have no sessions scheduled for this year).
But if you're looking for a really important number, try 86. Of the 98 partisan legislative chambers in the country, that's how many will have elections this fall (Nebraska is unicameral and ostensibly nonpartisan, so it doesn't count). Some will elect entire chambers. Others will elect chunks of their state Senates. Notwithstanding those coming up against term limits, the vast majority of the legislators meeting in state capitals across the country right now are facing reelection in November.
While this may not phase lawmakers with lopsided majorities (say, Alabama, Hawaii, Massachusetts or Wyoming, for instance), it's fair to say a lot of them are taking those elections into account as they go about the business of governing.
So how's that working out so far in some of the more competitive chambers?
- In Minnesota, state Republicans are itching to take back the House (73 D/61 R) and Senate (39 D/28 R) majorities they historically snatched from Democrats in 2010, only to see them flip back in 2012. Controversy surrounding House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt won't be of much help to them, though. After a gun-related dispute associated with his attempt to purchase a Ford Bronco in Montana, as well as his perceived failure as a fiscal conservative, GOP leaders in his home district planned a vote of "no confidence" in him on Tuesday. They cancelled at the last minute after the Minority Leader showed up at the meeting to defend himself. (Minnesotans are so polite.)
- Arizona Senate: After the state's Independent Redistricting Commission drew equitable new legislative maps in 2011, Democrats made significant gains in the 2012 elections; now winning a majority in the state Senate (13 D/17 R) seems within striking distance over the next cycle or two. So, in the waning hours of last year's legislative session, state Republicans rammed through a restrictive elections bill. Opponents organized and effectively halted the implementation of the bill by placing it on the 2014 ballot as a referendum. Now Republicans are considering an end-run around the referendum: HB 2196 would repeal the law and cancel the November referendum. Legislators then plan to reintroduce parts of the old law as new bills so that, if reenacted, citizens would have to launch an entirely new petition drive (or drives) to halt the measure(s) and put them back on the ballot.
- Also in the Arizona House (23 D/36 R), one Republican thinks the state is helping too many kids afford college, because who needs an educated workforce, anyway?
- Democrats in the Washington Senate (23 D/23 R/2 MCC) hope to move from their weird tie/power sharing/effective minority situation to an outright majority this fall. The state enjoyed a great deal of progressive attention last November as SeaTac voted to raise its minimum wage, so now a GOP state Senator is pushing legislation that would prohibit all future attempts by localities to pass minimum wage measures. Even if it passes the Senate, though, the measure will likely die in the state House (55 D/43 R).
- In Kentucky, House (54 D/46 R) Democrats may have a shot at getting a felons voting rights measure through the state Senate (14 D/23 R/1 I) this year.
Stay tuned for news from Michigan, Iowa, New Hampshire and beyond as sessions unfold!
- While the Indiana legislature is not considered especially competitive by most folks, Democrats did hold a majority in the state House as recently as 2010. Since Republicans took over, the state has created one of the biggest school voucher programs in the country, passed a so-called "right to work" law, and otherwise just generally been terrible for progressive interests. Now GOP House Speaker Brian Bosma is leading the charge on a constitutional same-sex marriage ban. After realizing the measure (HJR 3) would likely fail in one committee, the Speaker simply shunted it to another. The amendment just passed the Elections and Apportionment Committee earlier this evening and will go before the full House, which is expected to pass it. If the amendment also passes the Senate, it will go before voters this fall.
- There was another special election in Virginia yesterday. Democrat Jennifer Wexton won Attorney General Mark Herring's state Senate seat rather handily. If Democrat Lynwood Lewis can hold on to his tiny lead in the SD06 race (recount next week), Democrats will have effective majority control of the state Senate.
- States all over the country have pretty much run out of one of the drugs in the classic death row cocktail, so some lawmakers are going old school when it comes to killing people in the name of the law. Virginia legislators are mulling bringing back the electric chair full-time. A Missouri lawmaker thinks firing squads are a totally humane way to execute folks, which was shocking when a Wyoming lawmaker said pretty much the same thing last week, but now I guess is old hat.
|For the Week of January 22, 2014
The following 35 state legislatures are actively meeting this week: ALABAMA, ALASKA, ARIZONA, CALIFORNIA, COLORADO, DELAWARE, GEORGIA, HAWAII, IDAHO, INDIANA, IOWA, KANSAS, KENTUCKY, MAINE, MARYLAND, MASSACHUSETTS, MICHIGAN, MISSISSIPPI, MISSOURI, NEBRASKA, NEW HAMPSHIRE, NEW JERSEY, NEW MEXICO, NEW YORK, OHIO, PENNSYLVANIA, RHODE ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA, SOUTH DAKOTA, TENNESSEE, VERMONT, VIRGINIA, WASHINGTON, WEST VIRGINIA and WISCONSIN.
Also meeting: DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, PUERTO RICO
The United States Conference of Mayors will hold its Winter Meeting January 22-24 in Washington, D.C.
The Democratic Attorneys General Association will hold its Winter Policy Conference at The Loews Portofino Hotel January 23-25 in Orlando, Florida.
The Legislature convened the 2014 Legislative Session January 21.
The House Committee on Agriculture and Forestry will hold a hearing January 22 to hear H.B. 49 relating to water conservation and drought prevention.
The House Economic Development, Banking, Insurance, Commerce Committee will meet January 22 to discuss S.B. 6, which increases minimum wage to $8.25 per hour.
Governor Jack Markell (D) will deliver his State of the State Address January 23.
Governor Neil Abercrombie (D) delivered his State of the State Address January 21.
The Senate Local Government Committee will meet January 22 to discuss SB 353 which establishes an interim study committee to review and study education legislation.
The Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources committee will meet January 24 to discuss SJ0009, which relates to the right to hunt, fish and harvest.
The House Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice and Senate Committee on Judiciary B met January 21 to discuss the feasibility and practicality of authorizing Internet gaming in Louisiana.
The Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee will meet January 22 to discuss S.B. 30, which limits the collection of student data in higher education.
Governor Martin O'Malley (D) will deliver his State of the State addressJanuary 22.
The Joint Committee on Transportation will meet January 22 to discuss H.B. 3369 which allows the operation of autonomous vehicles on state roads for the purpose of technological testing.
Governor Jay Nixon (D) delivered his State of the State address January 21.
The Senate Seniors, Families and Pensions Committee met January 21 to discuss S.B. 518, which expands the Medicaid managed care program statewide.
The House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee met January 21 to discuss HB 1405, which prohibits an employer from using an employee's credit history in employment decisions.
The House Commerce and Consumers Affair Committee will meet January 23 to discuss HB 1288, which requires bottled water to label its source.
The Assembly Consumer Affairs and Protection Committee met January 21 to discuss A.B. 2648, which creates the "New York Safe Child Care Act," an act to ban unsafe toys from day care centers.
The Senate Health and Human Services Committee will meet January 22 to hear SSP 26, a study to propose ways to reduce the risk of death and disease among smokers by considering policies that encourage smokers to switch from cigarettes to other tobacco products that pose less risk. The Committee will also discuss HSP 3083, a study to investigate appropriate regulation of vapor and other emerging nicotine products.
A special primary election was held January 21 for Lisa Baldelli-Hunt's (D) former seat in House District 49 as a result of her resignation. It was pretty much the general, though, because the winner will be the only candidate on the ballot in the 2/25 general special.
Governor Nikki Haley (R) will deliver her State of the State Address January 22.
The House Committee on Technology and Economic Development met January 21 to discuss HB 2183, which creates goals for energy independence.
An executive session will be held January 22 for H.B. 2133, which addresses student personal identifiable data and issues of privacy.