Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Clock is Ticking on States to Change 2012 Primary Dates: Connecticut

One comment that I have consistently encountered from academics when I have presented my research on presidential primary and caucus movement in various venues is that it seems like an area of study that could benefit from some case studies. The research I have done to this point has focused on explaining the factors that overall promote and impede states from shifting the dates on which their delegate selection events occur, but it is a fair point that there is a significant amount of variation in procedure from one state to another. One need look no further than the situations in Arizona and Minnesota as well as the various ways in which state legislatures have acted this far into their 2011 sessions for examples of this.

As such, it may be instructive to take a step back and look at what is happening in the currently non-compliant states with 2012 presidential primaries scheduled in January and February. Of those 19 primary states (DC included), ten of them have at various points of the legislative process bills to move their primaries into compliance. Among the nine remaining states where nothing has been done, one, Louisiana, has yet to convene its 2011 state legislative session. That leaves eight states with primaries at various calendar positions throughout February 2012 that are just as much in violation of the Democratic and Republican National Committee rules as Florida is. The only difference is that they are scheduled for dates that are not quite as early as the primary in the Sunshine state. In other words, even if the national parties were able to force Florida legislators to shift the primary there back into a date on or after March 6, there are still a fairly sizable number of states that are in violation of the delegate selection rules regarding the timing of contests.

The main question here is whether there is something functioning as a means of delaying action in these eight states relative to others where legislation has been introduced. More importantly, how quickly must each of these state legislatures act before the session is over? Each of the eight will be examined in individual posts, but here's the context in Connecticut to start:

  • Current Primary Date: February 7, 2012
  • Legislature Convened: January 5, 2011
  • Deadline to Introduce Legislation: January 24, 2011
  • Legislature Adjourns: June 8, 2011
The Story: On the surface the situation with Connecticut seems perhaps more dire than Florida. There is at least legislation that has been introduced in the Sunshine state. Nothing specifically addressing the timing of the 2012 presidential primary has been introduced in the legislature of the Nutmeg state. And on top of that, the deadline to introduce legislation passed over a month ago.

A glance back at Connecticut's 2008 move may prove instructive. During the 2007 legislative session no bill on the timing of the presidential primary was introduced ahead of the deadline either. The bill -- SB 1184 -- that ultimately provided for the shift from the first Tuesday in March to the first Tuesday in February started out ambiguously enough as a bill to have the joint standing committee "conduct a study of election statutes". That was it. It wasn't until late March that the Government Administration and Elections Committee voted to pass a substitute version of the bill, a substitute that included a provision to move the primary. And, in fact, while the deadline for proposing legislation is typically in January, committees can draft their own legislation as well (a "raised bill") and usually have until mid-February to do so. Beyond that, a committee is required to have acted favorably upon a bill (reporting it "joint favorable" to the two chambers) if it is going to by late March or early April (depending on the committee). That point also serves as the point at which a committee has to have reported on a substitute bill as well. [For the Government Administration and Elections Committee that deadline is April 4, 2011.] Even if the committee does not act on the bill a petition can be filed by a week after the aforementioned deadline to pull the bill out of committee.

While there are no similar bills before the General Assembly in Connecticut in 2011, there are several bills dealing with primaries in some capacity. The most interesting of those -- that could, as in 2007, be substituted in committee -- are HB 5226 and HB 5228. The former would end the convention system that is typically used in conjunction with a primary for nominations to statewide offices and replace that with a direct primary only system. The latter seeks to move the state's primaries for state and local offices from August to June (presumably because of the MOVE act). Each could have provisions concerning the timing of the presidential primary added during, because of and/or after public hearings -- should one be scheduled -- before the deadline to report bills from committee next month.

Clock is ticking rating: Medium. With one month to go the Connecticut legislature needs to act quickly. That said, this is well within the timeframe in which a similar change was made four years ago. Keep in mind also that Connecticut is one of the few states in which the Democrats emerged with unified control of the state government following the 2010 elections. Given the DNC rules, those legislators have to act to change the primary date in Connecticut to avoid having the Rules and Bylaws Committee stiffen the 50% delegation penalty. With close to two to one advantages in both chambers of the General Assembly, Democrats have no real obstacle to moving the primary date into compliance with national party rules.

Up next: Delaware


astrojob said...

I guess the logical question is: *Why* are some states not proposing any legislation to move their primary later?

In the case of Florida, the state legislative leaders have already gone on the record as saying they want the earlier primary, because they think that, even with any delegate penalty, an earlier primary gives them more influence.

But in Connecticut and other such states, have state legislators spoken publicly about this? Are they trying to go early to get more influence, or is the issue of primary timing just so low on the issues radar that the legislators don't really care? Have they just not bothered presenting legislation out of some combination of apathy and ignorance of the new national party rules?

Josh Putnam said...

I don't think it is apathy or ignorance. In cases like Connecticut and Delaware it is a lack of urgency based on the combination of the Democrats being in control in both states (and not having a contested 2012 nomination race) and the timing of the legislative session (both when and the length of the session).

No, no one in these states, that I'm aware of, has spoken out on the issue and I think that speaks to the above and the fact that there are bigger fish to fry early in the session.

Florida is obviously a unique situation because the Republicans are defiant and the Democrats are exhibiting some urgency in filing bills so that they can meet the rules laid down by the DNC (to do everything in their power to move the primary back into compliance).