Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Vote on Primary Bill Should Come in VA Senate Today, Hearings in WA & CA Later in the Week

Yesterday, SB 1246 received its second reading (consideration of amendments if any) and was engrossed, clearing the way for an up or down vote on the measure in the state Senate to shift Virginia's 2012 presidential primary from the second Tuesday in February to the first Tuesday in March. That vote should come, barring other pressing business, some time today. The clearest way for this bill to pass is if its companion in the House of Delegates (the exact same bill), HB 1843, is passed and largely avoids the problem of any hiccups in conference. The next stop would be Governor Bob McDonnell's desk. And if the preliminary votes in the Senate are any indication, this bill has bipartisan support and would be difficult for the governor to ignore.

Later this week, there will also be public hearings on the bills in Washington and California. The Washington Senate bill, SB 5119, passed its first hurdle, receiving a "Do Pass" designation from the Governmental Operations, Tribal Affairs and Elections Committee, and was subsequently referred to Ways and Means which will hold the hearing on Thursday, February 3.

On the same day, California's Assembly committee on elections is due to hold a public hearing on AB 80, the legislation that would eliminate the separate presidential primary in California and place it in June with the primaries for state and local offices. That status tracker has said "may be heard in committee February 3" since it was introduced. However, I spoke with someone from the LA Times yesterday about the 2012 calendar and the California bill who is planning on covering the hearing on Thursday. No, that doesn't cement that hearing time, but it does add more certainty to it.

Both hearings will be interesting to follow from the standpoint of the pros and cons arguments that are likely to be made. Washington's state parties have scarcely utilized the state's presidential primary system for allocating delegates, and the move there is somewhat understandable from a financial perspective. And certainly there are financial concerns with the California bill as well, but the most populous state in the country would be giving up quite a position and some influence over the nomination in the process by moving. Despite the fact that California was behind the several January states and among the Super Tuesday logjam, it was still the fifth most visited state (by the candidates) overall in the 2008 cycle.*

*[Now, visits are only one metric we could use to quantify attention paid to the states, and thus, potential influence that state has over the race. One could also look at spending in each state or ad buys. The latter has been used more often lately as the matching fund system crumbled and it became more difficult to ascertain where candidates were actually spending, not raising, their money.]

CORRECTION (2/2/11): The California Assembly's Elections and Redistricting Committee -- to committee to which AB 80 has been referred -- does not have a hearing scheduled for February 3 to discuss that legislation. It should be noted that the committee meets regularly on the first and third Tuesday of every month at 1:30pm. Yesterday would have been the first opportunity for the committee to have addressed this bill and it will not have another chance until February 15 according to that schedule. Thanks to Richard Winger at Ballot Access News for keeping FHQ apprised of the situation.

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