Discover more from This Week in Statehouse Action
This Week in Statehouse Action: Thnks Fr th Mjrts edition
Does it feel weird to anyone else that Thanksgiving is less than a week away?
Time moves oddly in November, y’all, I dunno.
So happy early Thanksgiving! Obviously, I’m incredibly grateful for you, and I feel ridiculously fortunate that you take a little time out of your week to read this missive.
You’ll get that time back for the next few, though – TWISA is taking a little break while I also take a little break.
But statehouse action waits for no one, not even me, so I’ll be keeping up on stuff in that time and invite you to share any thoughts/questions/comments/complaints/plans/ploys/plots/schemes etc. in the interim – please don’t hesitate to lob them my way!
And yes, (most of) 2023’s elections are more than a week behind us, but statehouse action is unrelenting.
First, I should probably expand on that “most of” comment. It’s an important qualifier because Louisiana isn’t quite done with its elections.
Elections in Louisiana are fun, because candidates run first in all-party primaries, which, if more than two folks are on the ballot, frequently results in no one candidate receiving more than 50% of the vote. When that happens, the top two vote getters move on to a runoff.
In federal (even-numbered) election years, those runoffs happen in December, but the state-level odd-year election calendar works differently, because we wouldn’t want to, like, confuse voters or anything.
This year, the primary occurred on Oct. 14, which is why we already know that Republican Jeff Landry is going to be the state’s next governor (yup, he cleared 50% despite the fact that he shared the ballot with 14 other candidates).
On Saturday, Nov. 18, Louisiana voters will return to the polls to decide runoff elections for secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer, two state Senate seats, and 18 state House seats.
Not-so-fun fact: Republicans have already secured their supermajority in the state Senate and have to defeat the Democratic candidate in just one House seat to keep it there, too.
… is how I feel about the Democratic majority in the Pennsylvania state House passing a rule last March preventing a death or resignation from unraveling their teeny tiny hold (102 D/101 R after last fall’s elections) from unraveling proceedings in the chamber yet again.
As an erudite consumer of this missive, you may recall that a death and two resignations kept the state House in majority limbo for the first few months of this year.
Shenanigans ensued, and the upshot was that absolutely nothing got done until February special elections restored the 102-101 post-2022 election status in the chamber.
Democrats weren’t too keen on dealing with GOP efforts to upend majority control every time someone in their caucus resigned or died, so they passed a new rule in March that preserves the most recent post-general election status quo until a special election is held to fill the seat.
If Republicans flip a formerly-Democratic seat, fine, then the majority becomes theirs.
So Democrats could absolutely lose close votes if more than one seat they hold becomes vacant, but Republicans can’t just up and boot the speaker, reshuffle committees, and generally restructure the House until they actually win majority control instead of just lucking into it.
Anyway, this is just a long windup to saying that Pennsylvania House Democrats are about to be down a member yet again.
On Nov. 7, Democratic Rep. John Galloway (HD-140) won an uncontested race for a judicial post in Bucks County, so pretty soon he’ll have to resign to assume his new post.
It’s a pretty blue seat – it went for Biden 55-44 in 2020 – so Democrats are probably fine, and a Democratic candidate has already announced she’s running to fill it.
Donna Petrecco is a former Philadelphia Eagles cheerleader who moved back to the area in 2005 after working in cosmetics PR in New York. She currently works in real estate and is involved with local Democrats and various local government-adjacent commissions.
A date for the special election will be set after Galloway formally resigns.
And now we’re about to enjoy a little deja vu all over again, because Michigan Democrats’ itty bitty baby House majority (56 D/54 R) is also being blown up by resignations.
Specifically, two members just won mayoral races in the southeastern part of the state, so they’ve resigned to assume those offices.
Which [[does math]] gives us a 54 D/54 R tied House of Representatives.
The seats are blue as hell (Joe Biden won HD-25 59-40 and HD-13 64-35 in 2020), so they won’t be hard for Democrats to keep in their column, but the issue is the timetable for filling those upcoming vacancies.
Democrats had originally hoped to have the specials coincide with the Feb. 27, 2024, presidential primary, but early and absentee voting requirements make that pretty infeasible.
One alternative option is to hold the primaries for these vacant seats on the date of the presidential primary and then hold the general elections concurrently with the Aug. 6, 2024, statewide primary.
That leaves the seats vacant and the House tied for the better part of a year, though, so it seems more likely that a special general election will be scheduled in May.
To absolutely no one’s surprise, Michigan Republicans are already trying to use the tied-House situation to their advantage.
Minority Leader Matt Hall attempted to introduce a measure this week calling for a power-sharing agreement in the chamber, but House Speaker Joe Tate shut that nonsense down.
Similar to the current situation in Pennsylvania, the House rules adopted by the chamber in January would require a leadership change only if a tie (or flip) existed in a fully-seated chamber.
Okay, just one more special to put on your radar … and I confess, I’m a little reluctant to do it, because I can’t stand to get my or anyone else’s hopes up over Florida.
But I’ve been involved in Virginia politics for too long to classify any cause as truly lost, so I’mma just do it.
After tapping GOP Rep. Fred Hawkins to serve as president at South Florida State College in June (never mind that he had absolutely no experience in higher education outside of, like, going to college), Gov. Ron DeSantis draaaaaaaagged his feet in scheduling a special election to fill the seat (HD-35).
He finally set the special for Jan. 16, 2024, and last week Democrats selected their nominee: businessman Tom Keen.
A Democratic win in this seat wouldn’t meaningfully loosen Republicans’ grip on the state House (35 D/85 R/2 vacancies), but it is winnable (Biden won it 52-47 in 2020, although DeSantis carried it 56-43 in 2022).
And this Virginian is here to tell you that the path to flipping a legislature starts in some humble-ass places.
Finally, let’s take a little swing through Ohio, where lawmakers last week seemed to be contemplating all kinds of inventive ways to undo Issue 1, the just-passed constitutional amendment enshrining reproductive rights in the state constitution.
Republican Rep. Jennifer Gross – seen here missing the ‘80s – proposed a measure that would remove all judicial authority over cases involving the abortion rights guaranteed by Issue 1.
And reportedly Senate President Matt Huffman was talking with his GOP colleagues about maybe putting another constitutional amendment on the ballot next year – a year they hope presidential and other federal races will attract more Republicans to the voting booth – to repeal this reproductive rights-protecting amendment and replace it with a 15-week ban.
But a week and some bad press later, GOP leaders seem to be walking back their undemocratic schemes to negate the clearly expressed will of Ohio voters (Issue 1 passed 57-43).
Despite his ardent personal opposition to abortion, Republican House Speaker Jason Stephens this week derided Gross’ proposal to remove the judiciary’s jurisdiction over enforcing any part of the state’s constitution as “Schoolhouse Rock-type stuff” (... Schoolhouse Rock was good, though) and made it pretty clear that Gross’ effort to usurp the power of the state judiciary is going nowhere.
Also this week, Huffman rejected his own purported talk of placing a contradictory abortion amendment on the Ohio ballot in 2024 (although he still seems really into pushing a 15-week ban).
Thank you, as ever, for hanging in.
I’m so grateful for you – not just Thanksgiving week, but, like, all the time.
I hope your holiday is amazing, and I look forward to reconnecting in December.
In the meantime, take care of yourself.
We need you.
Okay, one final editorial note: I haven’t done this in a hot minute, but sometimes when I do music-themed newsletter section headings, I do more than just embed links to the songs in the heds — I also pull together a full-on themed playlist. In observance of my upcoming absence, I decided to do that this week, so, for your turkey-day (or whenever) listening pleasure, behold: Your gratitude-vibed playlist.
Play it for the fam at dinner next week, they’ll be confused as heck and you can blame me!