Showing posts with label 2011 state legislative session. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2011 state legislative session. Show all posts

Thursday, July 14, 2011

California Senate Passes June Presidential Primary Bill

Tory Van Oot at Capitol Watch has reported that the California Senate today passed AB 80 by a 34-3 vote. The bill would eliminate the separate February presidential primary and consolidate it with the primaries for state and local offices on the first Tuesday in June. The cash-strapped Golden state would save almost $100 million from the move.

Assuming the Senate made no changes to the bill on the floor, AB 80 has now cleared the legislative hurdle and will head to Governor Jerry Brown (D) for his consideration.

Friday, June 10, 2011

California Senate Committee Unanimously Passes June Primary Bill

During a Wednesday, June 8 hearing, the California state Senate Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee voted unanimously to recommend AB 80 for passage before the full chamber. The legislation would shift the date of the California presidential primary from the first Tuesday in February to the first Tuesday in June; eliminating the separate presidential primary election and consolidating it with primaries for state and local offices.

To this point AB 80 has received full bipartisan support on both the committee and floor levels in the Assembly and now in committee in the Senate. However, it is unclear as to whether the bipartisanship will continue as the bill approaches its likely final legislative hurdle. Senate Minority Leader Robert Dutton (R-31st, Rancho Cucamonga), earlier in the session, was quite vocal about the late primary within the context of the budget discussions. But that talk has dissipated of late. Any opposition will emerge soon enough, but will only be token at best -- especially if only from Republicans -- in the Democratic-controlled upper chamber.

A doff of the cap to Richard Winger at Ballot Access News for passing the news along.

Monday, April 11, 2011

California Primary Bill to Move Primary to June Unanimously Passes Assembly

On April 11, AB 80 came up for a third reading and vote before the California Assembly. Given the recent discussions over the Golden state's budget within the last few weeks and the list of counter demands from Republican legislators -- including moving the presidential primary to March instead of June -- it is mildly surprising that the bill passed 68-0 with full bipartisan support. The state stands to save $100 million if the legislation, which now goes on to the state Senate, passes the Senate and is signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown. But the Senate is where outspoken critic of the potential move, Minority Leader Robert Dutton (R-31st, Rancho Cucamonga), and his caucus will likely represent more resistance than was seen in the Assembly's consideration of the bill.

Though the benefits of the bill's savings are being touted, the partisan explanation, as in the case in the proposed moves in Democratic-controlled states like Maryland and Washington DC, is the main driver behind the legislation. The savings are just a byproduct of that move. Similar moves in legislation in other states -- Republican states -- while being introduced, have been largely unsuccessful to this point in the legislative cycle. March is becoming the likely destination for Republican-controlled states while Democratic-controlled states with exceptions are opting for April and later primary and caucus dates.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

California GOP, Budget and the 2012 Presidential Primary

Much is being made of the apparent discontent within the California Republican Party over proposed and Democratic-backed legislation to move the Golden state's presidential primary back to June. It started with talk coming out of the Republican convention in the state the weekend before last and has continued in the time since. For the record FHQ is not particularly swayed by either side of the argument over the timing of the presidential primary -- either political or budgetary -- in California next year.

Democrats have the luxury of not only having unified control over the state government, but because of that can also afford to save money combining the presidential primary with the primaries for state and local offices already scheduled for the first Tuesday in June. Republicans in the state are just out of luck. It doesn't seem entirely political, but the move to coordinate the two sets of primaries and save money in the process seems more like a means to an end. Yet, former California GOP chairman, Rob Nehring, is absolutely right that if the national Democrats had a contested nomination race in 2012, California Democrats would not be making this move to June. Instead, they would presumably be doing what California Republicans and the national parties want them to do: moving the primary back into compliance with a first Tuesday in March separate presidential primary. And would assuming Democratic control of the state and a competitive nomination race in 2016 make some effort to put California's primary back into the window of decisiveness.

What I think is being lost in all of this discussion is that we do and don't have an official Republican response to the Assembly bill (AB 80) that proposes the change to the presidential primary date. Sure, state Republicans have made their demands -- among them a March presidential primary -- but we have yet to see that plan manifest itself in the form of legislation. Well, we have, but most just don't know it yet. Senate Minority Leader Robert Dutton (R-31st, Rancho Cucamonga) just beat the deadline to introduce legislation last month when he introduced SB 782 which makes a non-substantial change to the portion of the California statutes dealing with the timing of the presidential primary. The removal of the comma will eventually be augmented by a change in committee; likely a rescheduling of the presidential primary from February to March.

Of course, it may seem more pragmatic to suggest that that new version would call for not only a March presidential primary, but concurrent primaries for state and local offices then as well. Now, it should be noted that California moved back before it moved forward in 2008. The assembly moved the primaries -- all of them -- from the first Tuesday in March to the first Tuesday in June for 2008 back in 2004 and then created the separate, February presidential primary in 2007 when a host of other states were shifting up to February primary dates. Part of the initial move back to June was triggered by what was deemed the "utter failure" of the March primary. Low turnout in the midterm election years and an overly long general election campaign were cited as problematic. With those issues out in the open, though, concurrent primaries in March seems like the compromise position on all of this. Democrats get the budgetary savings they want and Republicans get the date they want for the presidential primary and remove the necessity of inevitably moving the date again in 2016. But what about the turnout problem and lengthy and costly general election campaigns in midterm years? Why not keep the midterm primaries in June in midterm election years and the March primary in presidential election years? Other states do this. Pennsylvania, for example, hold concurrent primaries in presidential election years in April, but has May primaries in midterm years.

That would be the pragmatic, compromise approach in California, but we'll have to see what Republicans do with SB 782 first. If Republicans push this plan and Democrats quash it, then Nehring would have a point about the move to June being political.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Frontloading Starts with State Legislatures: The 2011 State Legislative Session Calendar

The National Conference of State Legislatures has this calendar as well, but in alphabetical order. FHQ is more concerned with sequence. Which state legislatures convene first, when do their sessions end and how does this impact the scheduling of presidential primaries?

2011 State Legislative Session Calendar
Date (Open)
Date (Close)
December 1, 2010Maine*
June 15, 2011
December 6CaliforniaSeptember 9
January 3, 2011Montana
late April
January 4Kentucky
Minnesota *
North Dakota*
Rhode Island
March 22
May 23
early April
late April
late June
January 5Connecticut
New Hampshire
New York
June 8
April 29
May 30
early June
July 1
mid May
January 10Arizona
late April
March 10
mid April
late March
late April
late May
April 24
January 11Delaware
South Carolina
South Dakota
June 30
June 2
mid March
mid May
May 30
early March
January 12Colorado*
New Jersey
West Virginia
May 11
early April
February 26
mid March
January 18Alaska*
New Mexico
April 17
March 19
January 19Hawaii*mid May
January 24UtahMarch 10
January 26North Carolina
early June
February 1OregonJune 30
February 7Nevada*
June 6
May 27
March 1Alabama
mid June
March 8Florida
May 6
April 25LouisianaJune 23
*States in italics are caucus states. State parties and not state legislatures control the scheduling of those contests.
**State legislatures with year-round sessions.

The table answers the first two of the three questions posed above. With the schedule of state legislative sessions down, though, what impact will this have on the 2012 presidential primary calendar? As has been mentioned several times in this space, the true impact of anything dealing with the 2012 calendar will be felt first in the 18 non-exempt states with primaries currently positioned prior to March. Those are the states where some action is necessary to pull the timing of their delegate selection event within the bounds set by the two national parties' 2012 delegate selection rules.

The most interesting note is that the state legislature in Florida does not convene until March 8; the next to last state to open its session. Why is this noteworthy? Well, Florida, a state whose election codes have the 2012 presidential primary scheduled for January 31, is technically scheduled ahead of when the parties want the exempt states -- Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina -- to hold their contests. To be sure, if Florida were to leave the law alone, those four states would likely move their contests to earlier dates than what the parties desire, but the end result is that Florida holds a tremendous amount of sway over what the eventual primary calendar will look like in 2012. The late state legislative start date in Florida, then, means that many states will have already missed the window to pre-file or introduce legislation to alter the section of state election laws concerning presidential primary timing; all before Florida has even opened its legislative session. Other states, like Virginia (another primary state scheduled in violation of the national party rules), will have already brought the gavel down on the 2011 state legislative session by the time Florida starts. In other words, a state could act on 2012 primary timing prior to when the true lynchpin in the process moves (or doesn't move). Now, states in that position are not without options. One way to circumvent that problem is to bring the issue up in a special session; one that is already scheduled or where that isn't the singular issue. The other is to add an amendment for moving the primary date to another piece of legislation as a means of passing it through the legislature. Though another state's actions were not the motivation, this is what happened in Georgia (see Georgia section of that post) during the 2007 session of its General Assembly. Efforts to pass a bill specifically designed to move the date on which the Peach state's presidential primary would be held in 2008 failed, but language accomplishing the same ends was inserted in another bill in the form of an amendment toward the end of the session.

An additional factor to note is that the above discussion only accounts for those states in violation of the national party rules; those states, again, that would technically require action to come into compliance. What it does not account for are those states currently in compliance with those rules that may choose to challenge and thus violate them. The bill that has been pre-filed in Texas is an example of this.

Let us also recall that the Republican nomination contest, as the likely only competitive one, will be where all of this matters most. First of all, the Republican rules governing the 2012 nomination process provide only one penalty for states that choose to violate the timing rule: one half of their delegation to the national convention. This was not enough of a penalty to prevent all those 2008 states with contests prior to February (New Hampshire and South Carolina included) from rolling the dice. Florida and others may choose influence over delegates again in 2012. Of course, some have speculated that since the Republican National Convention is in Tampa, Florida Republicans may desire having a full delegation at a convention they are hosting. For other states (and even Florida for that matter), it remains an open question.

Regardless of all of that, state legislatures will convene mostly over the next few weeks and will continue to do so throughout the first third of 2011. That is when the work to shape the 2012 presidential primary calendar will truly commence and is something we here at FHQ will be watching closely.

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