Recapping 2022’s state legislative special sessions

Welcome to the Wednesday, January 18, Brew. 

By: Samuel Wonacott

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. A look back at 2022 state legislative special sessions
  2. Two veto referendum campaigns and California executive departments disagree on when referendums suspend fast food workers and oil and gas laws
  3. Subscribe to Hall Pass to stay up to date on school board politics and education policy  

A look back at 2022 state legislative special sessions

State legislative sessions are underway this year. Legislatures hold both regular sessions and, from time to time, special sessions. Governors or legislators call special sessions, usually to deliberate on a specific topic. Although all 50 states will hold regularly scheduled legislative sessions in 2023, it’s impossible to predict how many will call special sessions. 

Eighteen states held special sessions in 2022

  • Eight states—Florida, Louisiana, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin—held more than one special session in 2022. Florida and West Virginia held the most special sessions with three each. Florida, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and West Virginia are Republican trifectas, meaning Republicans control both chambers of the legislature and the governor’s office. Louisiana, Virginia, and Wisconsin have divided governments. Louisiana and Wisconsin have Democratic governors, while Virginia’s governor is a Republican. New York has a Democratic trifecta
  • Across all 18 states, each special session lasted an average of six days. Including multiple sessions, each state spent an average of nine days in a special session. 
  • South Carolina had the longest special session of the year between Aug. 30 and Nov. 9—72 days. In five states, special sessions lasted only one day.

Here’s the list of states and session dates we tracked last year:

  • Arkansas: Aug. 9-11
  • California: Dec. 5
  • Connecticut: Dec. 28-29
  • Florida: April 19-22, May 23, and Dec. 12-14
  • Idaho: Sept. 1
  • Indiana: July 25-Aug. 5
  • Kentucky: Aug. 24-26
  • Louisiana: Feb. 1-18 and June 15-18
  • Mississippi: Nov. 2
  • Missouri: Sept. 14-Oct. 4 (veto and special session)
  • New Mexico: April 5
  • New York: June 30 and Dec. 22
  • Oklahoma: May 18 and June 13-15
  • South Carolina: Aug. 30-Nov. 9 and Sept. 6-8 (special senate session)
  • Utah: March 25
  • Virginia: April 4 and Sept. 7
  • West Virginia: April 24-26 (special veto session), July 25-29, and Sept. 12
  • Wisconsin: June 22 and Oct. 4

Thus far in 2023, one state—Illinois—held a special session from Jan. 4 to Jan. 10. We’ll keep you updated as states call special sessions throughout the year. 

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Two veto referendum campaigns and California executive departments disagree on when referendums suspend fast food workers and oil and gas laws 

Let’s turn now to look at a potential 2024 ballot measures in California.  

On Dec. 5, 2022, the Save Local Restaurants campaign filed one million signatures for a veto referendum to overturn California Assembly Bill 257 (AB 257), also known as the FAST Act. At least 623,212 signatures must be valid. Counties have until Jan. 25 to check a random sample of signatures. In California, a veto referendum is a type of citizen-initiated ballot measure that asks voters whether to uphold or repeal a law. There are 23 states with a process for veto referendums.

The FAST Act was designed to establish a fast food council that could raise the minimum wage of fast-food workers to $22 per hour and establish working hours and conditions. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed the legislation on Sept. 5, 2022.

The FAST Act was set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2023. 

However, the Save Local Restaurants PAC and California Industrial Relations Department disagree on whether the Fast ACT was suspended when the campaign filed signatures on Dec. 5. While both the campaign and state agree the bill would be suspended ahead of the election on Nov. 5, 2024, the campaign says the bill was suspended once it submitted signatures for verification. The state says the bill wouldn’t be suspended until and unless enough signatures are verified.

The Save Local Restaurants PAC filed a lawsuit on Dec. 29, 2022, to prevent the FAST Act’s implementation. On Jan. 13, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Shelleyanne W. L. Chang granted a preliminary injunction keeping the bill from taking effect until the petition is verified by the state. Judge Change wrote, “The harm to the California citizens and electors … is great given the Court’s duty to ‘jealously guard’ the people’s right to referendum and the confusion that would occur if AB257 were temporarily implemented while signatures were verified.”

Besides the veto referendum on the FAST Act, signatures are also being verified for a veto referendum on Senate Bill 1137 (SB 1137). The bill would prohibit new oil and gas wells within 3,200 feet of homes, schools, nursing homes, and hospitals and require companies to monitor leaks and emissions and install alarms. Like the FAST Act, SB 1137 was set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023. The California Independent Petroleum Association (CIPA) is leading the campaign, Stop the Energy Shutdown, for the veto referendum. Rock Zierman, the CEO of CIPA, said the law should be suspended pending signature verification, but that CIPA decided not to sue as the group expects the law to be suspended when signatures are verified on or before Feb. 7.

California voters have decided 50 veto referendums, upholding laws 21 times (42%) and repealing laws 29 times (58%). The most recent veto referendum was on the ballot in Nov. 2022, when voters upheld a bill to ban flavored tobacco products.

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Subscribe to Hall Pass to stay up to date on school board politics and education policy 

Hall Pass is a weekly newsletter that keeps you informed about the conversations driving school board politics and education policy. New editions reach your inbox Wednesday afternoons. 

Here’s a look at some of the stories we’ve featured in the first few weeks of 2023: 

  • On Jan. 4, we looked at the debate over allowing students to retake tests and shared what our 2022 Recall Analysis had to say about school board recall efforts (114 school board members faced recall campaigns!). 
  • On Jan. 11 we looked at arguments for and against the four-day school week and plunged into Peltier v. Charter Day School, Inc., a potential U.S. Supreme Court case with significant implications for charter schools across the country.  

Each edition also features survey responses from school board candidates, a look at upcoming school board elections, and a trove of links to the latest research and news in the world of education. 

The next edition of Hall Pass comes out this afternoon (Jan. 18). Click the link below to subscribe!

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