According to March’s partisan count of the 7,383 state legislators across the United States, 54.27% of all state legislators are Republicans, and 44.91% are Democrats.
Ballotpedia tallies the partisan balance of state legislatures, or which political party holds the majority of the seats in each chamber, at the end of every month. Republicans control 61 chambers, while Democrats control 37. One chamber (Alaska’s state House) has a power-sharing agreement between the two parties.
Republicans held 1,089 of the 1,972 total state senate seats—up five seats from February—and 2,918 of the total 5,411 state house seats—up one seat from last month. Democrats held 869 state senate seats (up three seats) and 2,447 state house seats (down two seats). Independent or third-party legislators held 38 seats. There were 22 vacant seats.
In March, Democrats saw a net increase of one seat, while Republicans saw a net increase of five seats. Compared to March 2020, Democrats have lost five state Senate seats (874 v. 869) and 139 state House seats (2,586 v. 2,447). Republicans have gained four state Senate seats (1,085 v 1,089) and 139 state House seats (2,779 v 2,918).
On April 6, the Arkansas General Assembly overrode Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s (R) veto of House Bill 1570 (H.B. 1570), a bill prohibiting physicians and healthcare professionals from providing chemical or surgical gender-affirming treatments—including hormone therapy and puberty blockers—to individuals under the age of 18. The bill also prohibits providers from referring minors elsewhere in order to receive such treatments. Gender-affirming treatment, also known as gender reassignment treatment, refers to the process of changing a person’s body to conform with their gender identity.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Flippo (R), a proponent of the bill, described the prohibited treatments as “something that oftentimes could be irreversible,” adding that “it is not simply too much to ask to let [children’s] minds develop and mature a little bit before they make what could be a very permanent and life-changing decision.”
In his veto announcement, Hutchinson said the bill would create “new standards of legislative interference with physicians and parents as they deal with some of the most complex and sensitive matters involving young people. … This would be, and is, a vast government overreach.”
Hutchinson vetoed H.B. 1570 on April 5. In Arkansas, a majority of votes in both chambers is required to override a gubernatorial veto. At the time of the veto, Republicans held veto-proof majorities in both the state House and Senate.
The House and Senate voted 71-24 and 25-8 in favor of the override, respectively. All Democrats, one independent, and three Republicans voted against the override. The remaining Republicans voted in favor of the override. Seven assembly members—one Democrat and six Republicans—did not vote.
This is the third noteworthy gubernatorial veto override Ballotpedia has identified in 2021.
A special election is being held on April 6 for District 22 of the Oklahoma State Senate. Molly Ooten (D) and Jake Merrick (R) are running in the general election.
The seat became vacant after Stephanie Bice (R) was elected to represent Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District on Nov. 3, 2020. Bice had represented the district since 2015. She won re-election in 2018 with 68.3% of the vote.
Heading into the special election, Republicans have a 38-9 majority in the Oklahoma Senate with one vacancy. Oklahoma has a Republican state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.
As of March, 33 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 16 states. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 75 special elections took place each year.
A special election is being held on March 23 for District 38 of the Virginia state Senate. Former Radford City Councilwoman Laurie Buchwald (D) and Tazewell County Supervisor Travis Hackworth (R) are running in the general election.
The seat became vacant after the death of A. Benton Chafin (R) on Jan. 1, 2021, from complications due to COVID-19. Chafin had represented the district since 2014.
Heading into the special election, Democrats have a 21-18 majority in the Virginia Senate. Virginia has a Democratic state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.
As of March, 30 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 16 states. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 75 special elections took place each year.
Election officials have scheduled a special election for the District 22 seat in the Pennsylvania State Senate for May 18, 2021. The seat became vacant after John Blake (D) resigned on March 8 to work for U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright (D). There are no primaries, and candidates will be nominated directly by political parties.
Three public-sector union bills advance from state senates
Since our last newsletter, three public-sector union bills have advanced from state senates in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. Of the 83 pieces of public-sector employee union legislation that we are currently tracking, eight have passed upper chambers so far this year. Here’s a run-down of the three most recent bills.
The Arkansas state Senate passed Republican-sponsored SB341 on March 9. This bill would prohibit collective bargaining for public-sector employees.
SB341 says in part:
(a) A public employer shall not recognize a labor union or other public employee association as a bargaining agent of public employees.
(b) A public employer shall not collectively bargain or enter into any collective bargaining contract with a labor union or other public employee association or its agents with respect to any matter relating to public employees, public employees’ employment with a public employer, or public employees’ tenure with a public employer.
The bill was referred to the Senate Public Health, Welfare, and Labor Committee in February and amended on March 4. The Senate passed the bill 24-6 along party lines. It was referred to the House Public Health, Welfare, and Labor Committee on March 9 and amended on March 11. To view the latest version of the bill, click here.
Republicans have had trifecta control of Arkansas state government since 2015.
The Oklahoma state Senate passed SB634 on March 4. This Republican-sponsored bill would require annual authorizations for payroll dues deductions for school employees. Employee authorization forms would state:
I am aware that I have a First Amendment right, as recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court, to refrain from joining and paying dues or making political contributions to a professional employee organization. I further realize that membership and payment of dues or political contributions are voluntary and that I may not be discriminated against for my refusal to join or financially support a professional employee organization. I hereby authorize my employer to deduct dues and/or political contributions from my
salary in the amounts specified in accordance with my professional employee organization’s bylaws. I understand that I may revoke this authorization at any time.
SB634 was referred to the Senate Education Committee at the beginning of February. The bill was then referred to the Judiciary Committee, where it was amended. To view the current text of the bill, click here.
The Senate approved SB634 25-21, with 12 Republicans voting against it. It was referred to the House on March 8.
Republicans have had a trifecta in Oklahoma since 2011.
Republican-sponsored SJR0002, a proposed right to work constitutional amendment, passed the Tennessee state Senate on March 8. The amendment would add the following new section to Article XI of the state constitution:
It is unlawful for any person, corporation, association, or this state or its political subdivisions to deny or attempt to deny employment to any person by reason of the person’s membership in, affiliation with, resignation from, or refusal to join or affiliate with any labor union or employee organization.
The Senate Judiciary Committee recommended the bill for adoption on Feb. 9, and the Commerce And Labor Committee did the same on Feb. 23. The Senate passed the bill 24-7 on March 8. One Republican, Todd Gardenhire, voted against it.
If the bill receives a two-thirds approval vote in the House, where Republicans hold a 73-26 majority, it will appear on the Nov. 8, 2022 ballot. The legislature passed the amendment in 2020 in the first part of the two-session amendment process, which required a simple majority vote in each chamber.
Tennessee Republicans have had a trifecta in the state since 2011.
In 2020, states passed five pieces of legislation dealing with public-sector employee union policy. By mid-March, four bills had passed lower chambers and three had passed both chambers.
We are currently tracking 83 pieces of legislation dealing with public-sector employee union policy. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking.
Number of relevant bills by current legislative status
Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s)
Recent legislative actions
Below is a complete list of relevant legislative actions taken since our last issue.
Arizona SB1268: This bill would establish annual disclosure requirements for public-sector unions.
House second reading March 9.
Arkansas SB341: This bill would prohibit collective bargaining for public-sector employees.
Senate passed March 9. Referred to the House Public Health, Welfare, and Labor Committee.
Florida H0835: This bill would require that unions certified as bargaining agents for educational support employees include certain information in registration renewal applications. The bill would also require such unions whose full dues-paying membership is less than 50 percent to petition the state for recertification.
House Government Operations Subcommittee reported favorably March 9.
Florida H0947: This bill would require that public employees sign membership authorization cards in order to have dues deducted from their paychecks. It would also require a union to revoke that membership upon the employee’s request.
House Government Operations Subcommittee reported favorably March 8, now in House State Affairs Committee.
Idaho S1120: This bill would extend collective bargaining rights to peace officers.
Senate Commerce and Human Resources Committee hearing March 9.
Illinois HB2521: This bill would allow electronic signatures on petitions submitted for selecting an exclusive bargaining representative. It would allow certification elections to be conducted electronically. It would also prohibit an employer from promising or taking action against an employee for participating in a strike.
Referred to House Labor and Commerce Committee March 9.
Maine LD449: Current law says the obligation of a public employer and a bargaining agent to bargain collectively includes their mutual obligation to meet within 10 days after receipt of written notice from the other party requesting a meeting for collective bargaining purposes, as long as the parties have not otherwise agreed in an earlier written contract. This bill would eliminate that exception.
Labor and Housing Committee hearing scheduled for March 17.
Maryland HB1321: This bill would bar employers from requiring employees to become, remain, or refrain from becoming members of a union as a condition of employment.
House Economic Matters Committee hearing March 5.
New Hampshire HB206: This bill would establish that collective bargaining strategy discussions in which only one party is involved would not be subject to the state’s right-to-know law.
House Judiciary Committee reported favorably March 9.
New Hampshire SB61: This bill would prohibit collective bargaining agreements that require employees to join a labor union.
House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee executive session scheduled for March 30.
Oklahoma SB634: This bill would require annual authorizations for payroll dues deductions for school employees.
Senate passed March 4. First reading in the House March 8.
Oregon HB2061: This bill would prohibit public employers and unions from entering into fair-share agreements.
House Business and Labor Committee work session March 8.
Oregon HB3300: This bill would prohibit public employers and unions from entering into fair-share agreements.
Referred to House Business and Labor Committee March 9.
Oregon SB580: This bill would amend the law’s definition of “employment relations” to include class size and caseload limits as mandatory collective bargaining subjects for school districts.
Senate Education Committee hearing March 10.
Pennsylvania HB845: This bill would require any proposed public employee collective bargaining agreement to be made available on the public employers’ publicly accessible Internet website within 48 hours. This bill would also establish that proposed collective bargaining agreements and any documents presented by the public employer or received from the employee organization in the course of collective bargaining are to be public records subject to the state’s right-to-know law.
Referred to House Labor and Industry Committee March 9.
Tennessee HJR0072: This bill proposes a constitutional amendment that would bar any person, corporation, or governmental entity from denying employment due to an individual’s affiliation status with a union or other employee organization.
House Banking & Consumer Affairs Subcommittee reported favorably March 10. House Commerce Committee hearing scheduled for March 16.
Tennessee SJR0002: This bill proposes a constitutional amendment that would bar any person, corporation, or governmental entity from denying employment due to an individual’s affiliation status with a union or other employee organization.
Senate passed March 8.
Washington SB5055: This bill would establish an “arbitrator selection procedure for grievance arbitrations for law enforcement personnel that applies to all disciplinary grievance arbitrations.”
House Labor and Workplace Standards Committee executive session scheduled for March 17.
The Republican precinct committees of Kansas Senate District 38 appointed Ronald Ryckman (R) to the state Senate on March 4. Ryckman replaces Bud Estes (R), who passed away on Feb. 13.
Since the vacancy occurred before May 1 of the second year of Estes’ term, a special election will be held in November 2022. The winner of that election will serve until Estes’ term expires in January 2025.
Before his appointment, Ryckman served in the Kansas House of Representatives from 2011 to 2017, representing District 115. He did not run for re-election to the state House in 2016. Ryckman’s son, Ron Ryckman, currently serves in the Kansas House of Representatives, representing District 78 since 2013. Ron Ryckman also serves as the speaker of the House.
As of March 11, there have been 31 state legislative vacancies in 21 states so far this year. Fifteen of those vacancies have been filled. Ryckman is one of five Republicans to fill state legislative vacancies in 2021.
Pennsylvania state Sen. John Blake (D) resigned on March 8 to take a position on U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright’s (D) staff. Cartwright represents Pennsylvania’s 8th Congressional District in Congress. Blake represented District 22 in the state Senate, which includes Lackawanna County and parts of Luzerne and Monroe Counties.
“It has been a very difficult and emotional decision for me,” Sen. Blake said at a news conference. “I have served the 22nd District for more than a decade. I’ve given ten years of my life to the office and the people of the district, and I have been privileged and honored to serve.”
Blake first took office as a state senator representing District 22 in 2011. He was re-elected in 2014, defeating Republican challenger Joe Albert. He most recently won re-election in 2018, defeating Republican Frank Scavo III, 61% to 39%.
A special election will be held to fill Blake’s seat. When there is a vacancy in the Pennsylvania General Assembly, the presiding officer of the chamber where the vacancy occurred must call for an election. The winner of the special election will serve out the remainder of Blake’s term, which expires on November 30, 2022.
The Pennsylvania state Senate is the upper chamber of the Pennsylvania General Assembly. After Blake’s resignation, the current partisan breakdown of the Pennsylvania state Senate is 27 Republicans, 20 Democrats, one independent, and two vacancies.
A special election is being held on March 9 for District 14 of the Maine State Senate. Small business owners Craig Hickman (D) and William Guerrette (R) are running in the general election.
The seat became vacant on December 2 after Shenna Bellows (D) declined to be sworn in for her new term. The Maine Legislature elected her on December 2 to become the state’s new secretary of state. Bellows had represented District 14 since 2016. She won re-election in 2020 with 56% of the vote.
Heading into the special election, Democrats have a 21-13 majority in the Maine Senate with one vacancy. Maine has a Democratic state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.
As of March, 28 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 16 states. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 75 special elections took place each year.
The special general election for Connecticut State Senate District 27 is on March 2, 2021. Patricia Miller (D), Joshua Esses (R), and Brian Merlen (Independent Party) are competing in the special election. No primary election was scheduled, as candidates running for special elections in Connecticut are nominated through party conventions.
The special election was called after Carlo Leone (D) resigned effective January 5, 2021, to become a special advisor to Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner Joseph Giulietti. Leone served from 2011 to 2021.
As of February, 27 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 16 states. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 75 special elections took place each year. Connecticut held 40 special elections between 2010 and 2020.
Connecticut has a Democratic state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers. Democrats control the Connecticut State Senate by a margin of 23-12 with one vacancy.