TagState leg

108 new state legislative leaders elected

Forty-five states have begun their 2023 state legislative sessions. At the start of these sessions, legislators typically select new House and Senate leadership. So far, at least 266 leadership elections have taken place. Here’s a rundown of what we know so far:

Legislators re-elected 158 leaders in 38 states. Legislators elected 108 new leaders. Of those changes in leadership, 55 occurred in states with Republican trifectas, 31 occurred in states with Democratic trifectas, and the remaining 22 changes happened in states with divided government.

Thirty-nine Senate president elections have taken place as of this writing. Out of those, 13 Senate presidents changed. A Senate president presides over legislative sessions and ensures that members of the chamber abide by procedural rules.

Just one Senate president change resulted in a change in party leadership. In Minnesota, whose divided government became a Democratic trifecta as a result of the 2022 elections, Democratic legislators elected Bobby Joe Champion as Senate president, replacing Republican Rep. David Osmek.

Out of all the Senate president elections, 12 Democratic presidents remained the same, and three changed leaders. On the Republican side, 14 Republican presidents remained the same while nine changed leaders.

Forty-three House speaker elections have taken place. Out of those, 14 speakers of the House changed. A House speaker serves as the chief spokesman for the lower chamber, presides over legislative sessions, directs the legislative process, and performs additional administrative and procedural duties.

Two House speaker changes resulted in a change in party leadership. In Michigan, Republican House Speaker Jason Wentworth was replaced by Democratic Rep. Joseph Tate. In Pennsylvania, Republican House Speaker Bryan Cutler was replaced by Democratic Rep. Mark Rozzi. Michigan’s divided government became a Democratic trifecta as a result of the 2022 elections. Pennsylvania is under divided government.

Out of all the House speaker elections, 13 Democratic speakers remained the same, and three changed leaders. On the Republican side, 15 speakers remained the same while 10 changed leaders.

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Rouse defeats Adams in special general election for Virginia State Senate District 7

Aaron Rouse (D) defeated Kevin Adams (R) in the January 10, 2023, special general election for Virginia State Senate District 7. Rouse’s victory gave Democrats a 22-18 majority in the state Senate. The special election was called after the previous incumbent, Sen. Jennifer Kiggans (R), resigned on November 15, 2022, after being elected to represent Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District.

Going into the election, Democrats had a 21-18 majority in the state Senate (with the District 7 vacancy). According to Daily Kos’ David Nir, District 7 “has been very swingy: In 2019, Kiggans won it by less than one point, while Joe Biden carried it by 10 points the following year, only to see Youngkin prevail by 4 points in 2021.”

Rouse, a former NFL player, has been an at-large member of the Virginia Beach City Council since 2018. Rouse said “So much is at stake in this upcoming election, from a woman’s fundamental right to choose, which I will fiercely defend, to the efforts that will set us back on voting rights, to addressing climate change, protecting the Chesapeake Bay and waterways, to criminal justice reform.” Rouse listed education as his top priority, including raising teacher salaries and expanding access to preschool. Rouse also listed the economy, healthcare, and public safety as priorities.

Adams is a retired U.S. Navy lieutenant commander who founded and operated a handyman business. Adams said he will “continue working to pass Governor Glenn Youngkin’s pro-veteran agenda, cut taxes, ease regulations, keep our communities safe, and make it easier for small business owners like me to get started and stay in business.” Adams’ platform included working to improve education and workforce training, supporting veterans, lowering gas, grocery, and sales taxes, and growing “school funding while shrinking the power of left-wing idealogues.”

New state legislative maps took effect on January 11, 2023, at the start of the 2023 legislative. However, this special election took place under previous district lines. Click here to compare Virginia State Senate Districts before and after the 2020 redistricting cycle.

Abortion was an issue in the race. Rouse said, “Right now, that’s what we need in Richmond. Extreme Republicans are trying to take away the right to choose in Virginia, rolling back women’s freedom to make their own personal medical decisions.” On his campaign website, Adams said, “We need to pass laws that respect the rights of the mom and baby, limit late-term abortion by passing Glenn Youngkin’s 15-week legislation, while providing reasonable exceptions to protect the life of the mother or in the instance of rape or incest.”

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia endorsed Rouse, and its associated PAC said it would spend around $100,000 on the race. Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America said it would spend $30,000 in support of Adams.

Initiative to legalize recreational marijuana in Ohio submitted to state legislature

On Jan. 4, 2022, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) sent a letter to legislative leaders announcing that he is resubmitting to the Ohio General Assembly an indirect citizen-initiated measure to legalize the use of recreational marijuana for adults aged 21 and over. 

The initiative was originally filed in 2021 by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, and signatures were submitted at the end of 2021. Due to disagreements about the timeline for submitting signatures and legislative consideration, the campaign filed a lawsuit against legislative leaders in 2022. A settlement allowed for the signatures to be submitted at the start of the 2023 legislative session.

“The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol is pleased that our proposal was re-transmitted to the Ohio General Assembly and that the secretary of state clarified that the General Assembly’s four-month clock to consider our proposal has begun,” said Tom Haren, a spokesperson for the campaign.

In Ohio, the state legislature will now have four months to consider the proposal. If the measure does not pass the legislature, it may appear on the ballot for Ohio voters on November 7, 2023.

Haren stated, “As we have always said, we intend to work with legislative leadership in good faith to legalize marijuana for all adults through the legislative process. If the General Assembly fails to act, however, we will place our proposal before Ohio voters this November and it will pass.”

Recreational marijuana has been legalized in 21 states. Marijuana was most recently legalized statewide in Maryland and Missouri in 2022 by ballot measures in those states (measures in South Dakota, Arkansas, and North Dakota failed to pass in 2022). Petitions are also currently circulating in Florida and Nebraska to put the question to voters on the 2024 ballot.

Ohio voters may see the issue on their ballots in 2023, depending on whether or not the General Assembly passes the measure and the campaign collects a second round of signatures after the legislative period.

Initially, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol filed 206,943 signatures to the secretary of state in December 2021. Of these signatures, 119,825 were found valid by Secretary LaRose on Jan. 3, 2022, but 13,062 more were needed. In Ohio, campaigns are given an additional week to collect more signatures. The campaign submitted 29,918 additional signatures on January 13, 2022, and the state legislature did not decide on the measure within the four-month window. Additionally, the committee became aware of conversations among legislative officials and the attorney general’s office pertaining to whether or not it submitted signatures in time, due to the interpretation of the Ohio Constitution regarding the signature deadline. This prompted the committee to file a lawsuit, and the settlement allowed for the submission of their collected signatures at the start of the 2023 legislative session rather than starting the process over again.

The Ohio General Assembly will have four months to vote on the measure. If they vote to reject the measure or take no action on it, an additional number of signatures will be required to place the initiative on the ballot for Ohio voters in 2023. An additional number of signatures that is equal to 3% of the votes cast in the preceding gubernatorial election are required to place the initiative on the ballot.

The last citizen initiative on the Ohio ballot was in 2018, a measure relating to drug offenses that was defeated by voters. From 1985 to 2022, 24 citizen initiatives appeared on the ballot in Ohio. Eight of those measures were approved and 16 were defeated.

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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 as a result of the 2022 elections.

After the Nov. 8 elections, Democrats lost a net six seats nationwide compared to the pre-election totals. Republicans gained a net 28 seats and independent or minor party officeholders lost a net of 20 seats.

Overall, the total partisan composition of state legislative seats changed by less than half a percentage point in any direction, the smallest overall change ever recorded by Ballotpedia.

Democrats had net gains in 16 states that held elections on Nov. 8, including five where Republicans controlled both chambers. This resulted in Democrats winning a majority of seats in the Michigan House and Senate, and the Pennsylvania House. Democrats also had a net gain in Minnesota, which had a split legislature, with the party retaining the House and gaining the Senate.

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 where Democrats controlled both chambers, but the party did not gain majorities in any chambers in 2022.

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 lowest point 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 seats in the House, where Republicans won a numerical majority, but talks are ongoing regarding the creation of a multipartisan governing coalition.

The partisan composition of seven state legislatures did not change in 2022.

Click here to view an interactive version of this map.

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 chamber-specific figures.

Election results, 2022: State legislative seats that changed party control

Sixty-eight legislative districts in five states were either renamed or eliminated after the 2020 census

As state legislatures nationwide convene for their first sessions after the 2022 elections, 68 legislative districts in five states were either renamed or eliminated and no longer exist.

Forty-six of the 68 renamed or eliminated districts are in Vermont, one of three New England states—along with Massachusetts and New Hampshire—that include the town as part of the legislative district name. Those three states use district names that refer to both the town and a number, such as “New Hampshire House of Representatives Rockingham 17.” Population shifts in these states may result in one town or area needing more or fewer districts than after the last census, resulting in renamed or eliminated districts.

Here is a list of states and the number of renamed or eliminated legislative districts in each:

  1. Maryland (11)
  2. Massachusetts (1)
  3. North Dakota (2)
  4. New Hampshire (8)
  5. Vermont (46)

Maryland, New Hampshire, North Dakota, and Vermont are among nine states that use multi-member districts in their legislatures. This may also result in renaming during redistricting if legislators change a district from single member to multi-member, or vice versa. For example, when North Dakota redistricted after the 2020 census, it converted North Dakota House of Representatives District 4 from a multi-member district that elected two members into a District 4A and 4B that elected one member each. The same thing happened with House of Representatives District 9. The state’s other 45 multi-member House districts remained the same.

The total number of state legislators nationwide changed slightly, from 7,383 before the 2022 elections to 7,386, and the overall number of legislators remained the same in 49 states. Wyoming was the only state to change the size of its legislature after the 2020 census, creating one new Senate seat and two new House seats during redistricting. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Wyoming changed its number of legislators five times between 1964 and 1992.

It is relatively uncommon for states to change their numbers of legislators during redistricting. New York increased its number of state Senators by one after both the 2010 and 2000 censuses. Also, after 2000, two states—North Dakota and Rhode Island—reduced their number of legislators in both chambers.

After the 2020 census, West Virginia adopted a redistricting plan that changed the state House from having 47 single-member and 20 multi-member districts to having, instead, 100 single-member districts. While the number of districts changed, the number of seats remained the same at 100.

No signatures submitted for Washington Initiatives to the Legislature by Dec. 30 deadline

The deadline to submit signatures for Initiatives to the Legislature in Washington (ITL) was Dec. 30, 2022. Initiatives to the Legislature is the name of indirect ballot initiatives in Washington. The Washington Secretary of State’s office confirmed to Ballotpedia on January 3 that signatures were not submitted for any of the 179 filed initiatives. If proponents of any of the initiatives had submitted 324,516 valid signatures by Dec. 30, those initiatives would have been sent to the Washington State Legislature during its 2023 session, set to begin on Jan. 9.

The legislature would have then taken one of three actions:

  1. The legislature can adopt the initiative as proposed, in which case it becomes law without a vote of the people.
  2. The legislature can reject or refuse to act on the proposed initiative, in which case the initiative must be placed on the ballot at the next state general election.
  3. The legislature can approve an alternative to the proposed initiative, in which case both the original proposal and the legislature’s alternative must be placed on the ballot at the next state general election.

The last ITL to appear on the ballot was Initiative 976 sponsored by Tim Eyman to limit car tab renewal fees to $30 in 2019. During the 20-year period from 1999 to 2019, 12 Initiatives to the Legislature were on the ballot, of which, six were approved and six were defeated.

The first day to file Initiatives to the People (ITP) in Washington is Jan. 9. For Initiatives to the People—which are direct initiatives in Washington—a total of 324,516 valid signatures are required to qualify for the ballot. The last day to submit signatures for ITPs is July 7, 2023. As of Jan. 4, 2023, no Initiatives to the People had been filed. ITPs do not have to go before the legislature, and if enough valid signatures are submitted, ITPs are placed on the next general election ballot for a vote of the people.

The last time an ITP was on the ballot was in 2018 when voters decided on three initiatives concerning a carbon fee, firearm restrictions, and taxes on groceries. From 1999 to 2018, 49 Initiatives to the People were on the ballot, of which, 32 were approved and 17 were defeated.

A total of 61 measures appeared on statewide ballots in Washington during odd years between 1999 and 2021. Thirty-four measures (56%) were approved, and 27 measures (44%) were defeated.

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Montana Districting and Apportionment Commission submits final legislative district boundary proposal to legislature

The Montana Districting and Apportionment Commission (MDAC) voted 3-2 to submit its final legislative district boundary proposal to the legislature. The commission’s nonpartisan chairperson, Maylinn Smith, and two Democratic-appointed commissioners voted to approve the map, and the two Republican-appointed commissioners voted against it.

According to Nicole Girten of the Daily Montanan, “The legislature will have 30 days after submission on Jan. 6 to comment on the map before it gets kicked back to the commission, which will…meet again in February to receive recommendations from the legislature and will then have 30 days to submit the final map to the Secretary of State’s Office.”

MDAC Commissioner Jeff Essmann, who was appointed by Senate Majority Leader Fred Thomas (R), stated his opposition to the final proposal: “This map does have compromises, but I would not call it a compromise map. There are still significant differences that we have in viewing this map, as was evidenced even today.” Commissioner Kendra Miller, who was appointed to the MDAC by House Minority Leader Casey Schreiner (D), said that both the Republican and Democratic commissioners knew Smith, who was appointed to the MDAC by the Montana Supreme Court, would cast the tie-breaking vote: “They needed to put up what they thought was the very best map they had, that met the criteria and could get her vote…We had to put up a map that we knew was going to be superior on criteria, and that’s what we did.”

After the MDAC voted 3-2 to advance the proposal on Dec. 1 for consideration at a public hearing. Arren Kimbel-Sannit of the Montana Free Press wrote that the proposed map “yields 60 House seats that, to varying degrees, favor Republicans, and 40 that favor Democrats. Ten of the seats are considered competitive based on metrics the commission adopted earlier in the process, with five that lean Republican and five that lean Democratic.”

The MDAC voted 3-2 to enact the state’s new congressional district boundaries on Nov. 12, 2021. Both Republican commissioners and Smith voted in favor of that map, and the two Democratic commissioners voted against it.

More information about the final legislative map proposal—named “Tentative Commission Plan-3″—along with population and statistical reports and GIS shapefiles, can be viewed by visiting the MDAC’s website.

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State legislative special elections 2022 review

Fifty-four state legislative special elections have been scheduled in 24 states this year. All but one of those specials have taken place already. Heading into those races, Democrats controlled 35 of the seats, and Republicans controlled 18.

The final special election of the year is being held in District 129 of the Georgia House of Representatives. A Democratic primary is being held on December 20 to fill the seat that would have been won by unopposed incumbent Henry Howard in November. Howard passed away in October, after the replacement deadline.

Two seats changed in partisan control as a result of special elections. Democrats flipped Michigan House of Representatives District 74 on May 3. Republicans gained District 39 of the Montana State Senate on November 8.

  • In special elections between 2010 and 2022, one party (either Republicans or Democrats) saw an average net gain of three seats nationally each year.
  • An average of 56 seats were filled through special elections in each of the past seven even years, including this year (2010: 30, 2012: 46, 2014: 40, 2016: 65, 2018: 99, 2020: 59, 2022: 54).
  • An average of 85 seats were filled through special elections in each of the past six odd years (2011: 95, 2013: 84, 2015: 89, 2017: 98, 2019: 77, 2021: 66).

State legislative special elections 2023 preview

Ten state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2023 in six states. Heading into those races, Democrats and Republicans each controlled five of the seats.

Three seats previously held by Democrats are up for election in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. The partisan balance of the Pennsylvania House currently stands at 99 Democrats, 101 Republicans, and three vacancies. The special elections are taking place on February 7. Candidates running for special elections in Pennsylvania are selected by their respective political parties.

On December 7, Representative Joanna McClinton (D) was sworn in as majority leader on the grounds that Democrats won 102 seats in November. The special elections in February will settle any dispute over control of the chamber.

  • Anthony DeLuca (D) won the District 32 seat after having passed away in October. DeLuca had represented the district since 1982.
  • Summer Lee (D) won re-election in District 34. She was also elected to Congressional District 12 and will be sworn in on January 3.
  • Austin Davis (D) won re-election in District 35 while also being elected as lieutenant governor. Davis will take office on January 17.

November Partisan Counts: 54.49% of state legislators are Republican, 43.97% Democratic

At the end of November 2022, 54.49% of all state legislators in the United States are Republican while 43.97% are Democratic. There are 7,383 state legislative seats in the country.

Democrats hold 848 state Senate seats and 2,398 state House seats, gaining 10 seats since last month. Republicans hold 1,105 state Senate seats and 2,918 state House seats, losing five seats since last month.

There are 66 vacant state House seats across 17 states and 14 vacant state Senate seats across 13 states. There are a total of 29 independent or third party seats in Houses across 10 states, and there are a total of five independent or third party seats in Senates across four states.

Compared to November 2021, Democrats have lost 13 state Senate seats (861 v. 848) and 41 state House seats (2,439 v. 2,398). Republicans have gained 15 state Senate seats (1,091 v. 1,105) and gained six state House seats (2,912 v. 2,918).

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