Four state legislators in three states stepped down from their positions on June 30, bringing the number of state legislative vacancies that have occurred this year to 75.
The former legislators had a cumulative total of more than sixty years of legislative experience among them. Gary Jackson (R) had served in the Mississippi State Senate since 2004. Gary Chism (R), another Mississippi legislator, first began serving in the state’s House of Representatives in 2000. Jerry W. Tillman (R), who left the North Carolina State Senate, was first elected to the chamber in 2002. Chris Richey (D) first joined the Arkansas House of Representatives in 2013.
The process by which state legislative vacancies are filled varies by state. In both chambers of the Mississippi state legislature and in the Arkansas House of Representatives, the governor must call a special election to fill the vacant seat. In the North Carolina Senate, the governor is responsible for appointing a replacement senator.
As of July 2020, 48 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for this year in 25 states. The elections will decide 17 previously Democratic and 31 previously Republican seats. The partisan composition of state legislatures nationwide as of July 1 is 46.8% Democratic and 52.2% Republican, which has remained consistent since April of this year.
A Ballotpedia survey of all 50 state constitutions and administrative procedure acts (APAs) revealed that 42 states place limits on access to state courts to challenge agency actions.
For this survey, Ballotpedia set out to learn whether states limited who could challenge the outcome of agency adjudication actions in court. Most states allowed any aggrieved party to challenge agencies in court. Aggrieved parties include those involved in the case and anyone adversely affected by the agency’s decision.
Agency adjudication is a quasi-judicial process that takes place in the executive branch of the state government instead of the judicial branch. Often, the procedural protections associated with adjudication are different from those found in a traditional courtroom setting. State constitutional provisions declaring state courts open to those who suffer injuries might not apply to all actions by state agencies.
Anyone who suffers an injury or wrong to their person, property, or character because of an agency action might have the constitutional right to challenge that agency in the state court system. These constitutional provisions are not any more specific and do not explain who exactly has the standing to challenge the results of agency adjudication actions in court but imply broad access to the courts.
Understanding limits on access to state courts for judicial review of agency actions provides insight into procedural rights at the state level. Procedural rights is one of the five pillars key to understanding the main areas of debate about the nature and scope of the administrative state.
The procedural rights pillar refers to debates about individual due process and standing before administrative agency adjudication and enforcement actions. Procedural rights also include citizen access, agency rulemaking processes, and decisionmaking proceedings.
To learn more about Ballotpedia’s survey related to procedural rights, click here.
Want to go further? Learn more about the five pillars of the administrative state here.
- Five pillars of the administrative state: procedural rights
- Five pillars of the administrative state: a 50-state survey
- State administrative procedure acts
- State constitutions