Welcome to the Tuesday, Jan. 10 Brew.
By: Douglas Kronaizl
Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:
- Total partisan composition of state legislatures changed by less than half a percentage point in 2022
- Where things stand with the federal COVID-19 public health emergency
- Ben Sasse resigns from U.S. Senate
Total partisan composition of state legislatures changed by less than half a percentage point in 2022
The partisan composition of all 7,386 state legislative seats in the country remained effectively unchanged following the 2022 elections.
Democrats had a net loss of six seats nationwide. Republicans had a net gain of 28 seats, and independent or minor party officeholders had a net loss of 20 seats. The net changes do not equal zero due to redistricting and vacancies.
Overall, the partisan composition of state legislative seats changed by less than half a percentage point in any direction, the smallest overall change in more than a decade.
Democrats had net gains in 16 states that held elections on Nov. 8, including six states where Republicans controlled one or both chambers. As a result, Democrats won majorities in the Michigan House and Senate, Minnesota Senate, and Pennsylvania House.
Democrats’ largest gains were in Vermont, where the party picked up 17 seats, representing 9.4% of the Legislature. This maintained the party’s existing veto-proof majority in the Senate and created a new veto-proof majority in the House. Vermont’s governor, Phil Scott, is a Republican.
Republicans had net gains in 21 states, including five states where Democrats controlled both chambers. Republicans did not gain majorities in any chambers.
Republicans’ largest gains were in West Virginia, where the party picked up 17 seats, representing 12.7% of the Legislature. This solidified the party’s trifecta in the state. Democrats now control 11.2% of all seats in the Legislature, the party’s smallest percentage in state history.
Independent or minor party candidates had net gains in two states: Alaska and Rhode Island. In Alaska, independents had a net gain of two House seats, where Republicans won a numerical majority. Talks are ongoing regarding creating a multipartisan governing coalition.
The partisan composition of seven state legislatures did not change in 2022.
The chart below shows each state where either or neither major party gained a percentage of the legislature.
Use the link below to view more data from this analysis, including interactive maps and chamber-specific figures.
Where things stand with the federal COVID-19 public health emergency
On Jan. 31, 2020, former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar signed an order declaring a federal public health emergency (PHE) regarding COVID-19. That PHE has been renewed every three months ever since. Secretary Xavier Becerra most recently renewed the PHE on Oct. 13, 2022.
The PHE expires tomorrow, Jan. 11. But, according to the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute, Becerra will likely renew the PHE for another three months since he has not sent out any notices saying he plans otherwise.
The current PHE has multiple stipulations regarding covering costs related to COVID-19 testing and care and modifying telehealth guidelines nationwide.
The PHE also includes continuous enrollment provisions, which allow Medicaid recipients to retain benefits without interruption, regardless of whether their eligibility changes. States normally re-evaluate that eligibility each year.
In December, a group of 25 Republican governors sent a letter to President Joe Biden (D) asking him to let the PHE expire in April, referring specifically to the continuous enrollment provisions. The letters said: “The PHE is negatively affecting states, primarily by artificially growing our population covered under Medicaid … regardless of whether individuals continue to be eligible under the program.”
White House Covid response coordinator Asish Jha, said keeping treatment options available to uninsured or low-income Americans was a high priority, saying, “I do not want a low-income senior unable to afford Paxlovid or unable to afford diagnostic testing.”
Following the end of the PHE, states will re-evaluate Medicaid recipients and remove ineligible recipients from the program. Medicaid coverage will end for between 5 and 14 million people according to Kaiser Family Foundation estimates.
Since 2005, the Department of Health and Human Services has declared PHEs in response to 40 different events. Thirty-four were natural disasters, five were diseases, and one was to prepare for crowd surges during the 2009 presidential inauguration.
Only 12 of those PHEs have been renewed at least once, as shown below:
In addition to the federal COVID-19 PHE, 10 states currently have active emergency declarations regarding the COVID-19 pandemic: seven have Democratic trifectas, two have Republican trifectas, and one has a divided government. Learn more about state-specific responses using the link below.
Ben Sasse resigns from U.S. Senate
Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) officially resigned from the U.S. Senate on Jan. 8 to become the University of Florida’s 13th president.
Sasse was president of Midland University in Fremont, Neb., before being elected to the Senate in 2014. Sasse was re-elected in 2020 with 63% of the vote.
Unlike the U.S. House, where every vacancy must be filled through a special election, the U.S. Constitution does not specify how to fill Senate vacancies.
Nebraska is one of 37 states where the governor makes a temporary appointment.
That responsibility falls to newly-inaugurated Gov. Jim Pillen (R). The appointee will hold office until a special election is held in 2024 to fill the remainder of Sasse’s term, which expires in 2026.
This means Nebraskans will have two U.S. Senate elections in 2024 since U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer’s (R) seat will also be up for regular election.
With Sasse’s resignation, the U.S. Senate consists of 48 Democrats, 48 Republicans, and three independents, two of whom caucus with Democrats.