Monday, May 11, 2009

Time Running Out for Frontloading Bills in 2009

As was witnessed recently here in Georgia, a bill to shift the Peach state's presidential primary back to March for 2012 was introduced on the last day of the General Assembly's session. The intent in that instance was to introduce the bill in order for it to carry over to the 2010 session, but it got FHQ thinking about the time left in other states where frontloading (or backloading) bills have been introduced. And in reality, there isn't much time left.

Frontloading Bills (2009 Legislative Session)
Session Adjourns
HB 1021
May 1
moves presidential primary from first Tuesday in February to the Tuesday after the third Monday in May
HB 759/SB 2304
died in committee
May 8
moves presidential primary from last Tuesday in January to the second Tuesday in March
HB 848
carried over to 2010 session
April 4
moves presidential primary from first Tuesday in February to first Tuesday in March
HB 2308/SB 46
in committee
moves state and local primaries from first Tuesday in February to third Tuesday in March/first Tuesday in June
SCR 28
passed Senate, no action in House
April 29
forms commission to investigate moving presidential primary
HF 31/SF 157
in committee -- House/out with "Do Pass" -- Senate
May 18
creates presidential primary and moves to first Tuesday in February
New Hampshire
HB 341
in committee
July 1
allows only Iowa caucus to precede presidential primary
New Jersey
A 2413
in committee
moves presidential primary from first Tuesday in February to first Tuesday in June
North Carolina
S 150
in committee
early July
moves presidential primary from first Tuesday after first Monday in May to first Tuesday in February
North Dakota
SB 2288
May 2
eliminates state involvement in presidential preference caucus
HB 1340
in committee
May 29
shifts financial burden of presidential primary from state to state parties
SB 412
in committee
late June
moves presidential primary from third Tuesday in May to first Tuesday in February
HB 246
in committee
June 1
moves presidential primary from first Tuesday in March to first Tuesday in February
Source: National Conference of State Legislatures

Arkansas and North Dakota were able to move on their respective bills prior to the close of their legislative sessions and Indiana's Senate was able to sign off on a resolution forming a committee to examine the possibility of frontloading. In the remaining states, however, things are either dead or stuck in committee.

Florida's adjournment last week killed the two bills proposed to move the state's controversially scheduled primary back to spot in line with both parties (2008) nomination rules. Frontloading bills in North Carolina, Oregon and Texas have all been left twisting in the wind in committee while the bill to eliminate the separate February presidential primary in New Jersey has met the same fate. The difference -- and it is a slight one considering the New Jersey bill was one introduced in 2008 and will die prior to elections there this fall -- is that the clock is running out in North Carolina, Oregon and Texas. By the middle of July, all three states' legislatures will have adjourned and without action, will kill these bills in the process.

Meanwhile, the creation of a presidential primary in Minnesota is down to its last week with the legislature closing up shop next week on May 18. The Senate bill has emerged from the committee concerned with elections with a "Do Pass" designation and has been re-referred to the Finance Committee, but the House bill has gone nowhere since being introduced in January.

In Oklahoma, the bill to have parties pay for their own presidential primaries -- something that has elicited more and more talk recently -- like the Minnesota House bill mentioned above, hasn't seen any action since being introduced. That isn't really the type of momentum you'd like to see if you're a proponent of this measure before the session goes sine die at the end of the month.

Similarly, the two bills to separate state and local primaries from the presidential primary and shift them to later dates in Illinois have been stuck in committee as well. Like New Jersey, though, the legislature in the Land of Lincoln is a professional legislature (For those outside of political science, that professional refers to a legislator's duties being his or her main profession, not that a part-time legislaure is any more or less professional than a full-time one.). The clock then, won't run out until the next election changes the membership of the chambers.

Finally, the bill in New Hampshire stipulating that only Iowa's caucuses could precede the Granite state's presidential primary is likewise stalled in committee.

None of this is particularly surprising given that 1) it is still really early for 2012 primary movement and 2) most states are playing the wait-and-see game with how the parties will set their nomination rules for the 2012 cycle. And that largely fits with the cyclical logic espouced here. Of course, if that trend holds, we should expect to see even fewer bills regarding presidential primaries introduced next year.

Woe is FHQ, woe is FHQ! Eh, we'll find something to talk about.

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Robert said...

It's interesting to see how many states are backloading based on the 2008 season. Sort of like farmers planting the crop that sold well last year bringing down prices for everyone. I suspect that the early states with a winner-take-all format will be the ones that choose the Republican nominee this time, a la Florida in 2008. The proportional split of the Democratic vote should not be a factor if Obama is running.

Josh Putnam said...

There are certainly some caveats to some this backloading.

1) Arkansas has just repeated what it did 20 years ago after the Southern Super Tuesday didn't provide any return on investment.

2) That New Jersey bill has been stuck in committee for well over a year. I think it is safe to surmise that the Garden state primary is staying put.

...for the time being.

3) Georgia and Florida were never states I took terribly seriously in regards to backloading. The bills introduced in each state were pushed by Democrats in Republican-controlled legislatures.

4) That aside, 2008 may not have been the direct impetus for change in this instance. I can't speak for Florida, but I do know that the Georgia bill was introduced in reaction to some language in the resolution forming the Democratic Change Commission -- the body charged with setting the Democrats' nomination rules for 2012.

I'll need to see the calendar before I follow you on your winner-take-all proposition, Rob. Iowa and/or New Hampshire could render those W.T.A states moot anyway. But that would depend more on the candidates than the calendar. [I'll shoot my own point down.]