Midterms generally refers to elections in the middle of a US Presidential election, and the focus right now is on US Congressional races and which party will retain or flip power in Congress. But at the state level midterms typically mean the biannual election of representatives as well as some contests in state senate districts (and a few governor’s races). And that’s where results this term may make an impact on adoptee rights legislation in the near future.
As part of an upcoming gathering of national and local adoptee rights advocates in Austin, Texas, I am putting together resources on what to expect from key states after upcoming elections. Those attending the “Austin House Party”—as we are calling it— will be discussing the results of midterms to assess what the political landscape holds for passing clean adoptee rights legislation in three of the major states likely to see action in 2019. Here’s a quick rundown of what to know before midterm elections in those states (and a few others). One thing to remember: adoptee rights legislation, particularly around the issue of original birth certificates, does not break neatly by party. It is a bipartisan issue affected typically by issues unrelated to party affiliation.
31The Texas Senate has 31 members. The chamber is currently Republican controlled, 20-11. Fifteen seats are being contested on November 6, including the seat held by Donna Campbell, who has steadfastly opposed adoptee rights legislation. Republican control of the Senate is not expected to change. Two new senators will be elected. Otherwise, 13 of the 15 contested races involve incumbents.
House of Representatives
150The Texas House has 150 members. The chamber is currently Republican controlled, 95-55. All 150 seats are up for election on November 6, though 47 seats are unopposed. Twenty seats will be filled by new legislators. Significantly, the former Republican Speaker of the House, Joe Straus, is not seeking reelection. The Texas House is considered a “safe” Republican controlled chamber.
Who’s Staying, Who’s Going?
House Speaker Joe Straus is not seeking reelection. While it is expected that Tan Parker will be the new Speaker, five representatives have already filed for the position. Rep. Parker was a co-author of a clean OBC bill last legislative session. Lt. Governor Dan Patrick is expected to win reelection, and he will continue to wield power as the President of the Texas Senate, controlling what bills are considered by the chamber.
Senator Brandon Creighton, committed to sponsoring and moving clean bills, will remain in the Senate. Three Senate sponsors of prior clean OBC bills, however, are not seeking reelection or were defeated in primary races. Joe Deshotel, a Democratic member of the House of Representatives and another solid supporter of adoptee rights legislation, is running unopposed for his current seat.
The Race to Watch
The Senate District 25 race between Donna Campbell and Steven Kling is the one to watch. If Kling defeats Campbell, an uphill battle in a heavily conservative and Republican district, the ability to pass clean legislation in Texas will be vastly improved.
I’ve written a lot already about Florida. You can read about last session’s legislation here as well as a more recent open letter to Representative Richard Stark here, which asks him to commit to enacting a clean OBC law.
40The Florida Senate has 40 members. The chamber is currently Republican controlled, 22-16. Sixteen seats are being contested on November 6, and control of the Senate is considered to be in play. Seven new senators will be elected, though one is unopposed. Of the contested races, 10 of the 16 involve incumbents, including the only Republican challenge to a Democrat, Annette Taddeo, who has sponsored a clean bill in the past.
House of Representatives
120The Florida House has 120 members. The chamber is currently Republican controlled, 79-41, with 80 votes needed to overcome a governor’s veto. All 120 seats are up for election on November 6, though 38 seats are unopposed. Twenty three seats will be filled by new legislators. It is not expected to move to Democratic control and is considered a “safe” Republican chamber.
Who’s Staying, Who’s Going?
The most significant potential change could be the change in the governorship from Republican to Democrat. Andrew Gillum faces Ron DeSantis in a closely watched race. The winner will replace current Florida Governor Rick Scott, who is seeking a US Senate seat. Scott is believed to have been opposed to adoptee rights legislation involving original birth certificates, using abortion as the basis for opposition.
Florida has term limits for its legislators and at least one major opponent of OBC legislation—who is also an adoptee—has been termed out and is not eligible to run this election cycle.
63The New York Senate has 63 members. The chamber is currently a Democratic majority, 32-31, but one Democrat, Simcha Felder, caucused with Republicans and allowed the Republicans to retain majority control this past session. All Senate seats are up for election on November 6, though 16 seats are unopposed. Control of the New York Senate is being hotly contested and most predictions have it “leaning” toward a switch to Democratic control as a result of upcoming elections. Ultimately, however, the party controlling the Senate may not control OBC legislation. For that, you have to look to governor’s office and whether it pushes to enact legislation in New York.
150The New York Assembly has 150 members. The chamber is solidly controlled by Democrats, currently 107-42. All 150 seats are up for election on November 6, though 41 seats are unopposed. Fifteen seats will be filled by new legislators. Assembly Member David Weprin, the primary sponsor of prior OBC legislation, is unopposed this election cycle.
Who’s Staying, Who’s Going
While Governor Cuomo is running for his third term, he is widely expected to win. His administration has recently been solidly behind changing the OBC law. The only coalition working in New York, the New York Adoptee Rights Coalition, is in touch with senior Cuomo administrative officials and is working with the administration toward enactment of a new law in the coming session.
Former Assembly Members James Skoufis and Dean Murray, reliable supporters of clean legislation, will each be leaving the Assembly to seek a state Senate seat. Tony Avella, who is a staunch supporter of adoptee rights in the Senate, lost his primary race for reelection but has recently mounted an independent bid to retain his current seat.
I don’t expect legislation in California, the lone big state holdout in pursuing adoptee rights legislation recently. Other states for which we will likely see legislation in 2019 include Minnesota, North Dakota, Iowa, and continuing efforts in Massachusetts and Connecticut, which are trying to close date-based loopholes in their laws. For Minnesota, where I live, a clean bill is being circulated and may be the next direction, though it would involve a difficult task of unraveling forty years of bad legislation and disclosure vetoes. It will help immensely in Minnesota if the State House flips to Democratic control: in that case, a supporter of past OBC legislation may become the next State House Speaker.
Intercountry Adoptee Legislation
The Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2018 continues to sit in assigned US House and Senate subcommittees. The impact of federal midterm elections on this legislation is unclear. Another bill, the Intercountry Adoption Advisory Committee Act of 2018, was recently introduced by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Rep. John Curtis (R-UT).
Are you looking do do something in your state or on intercountry adoption issues? Let me know. Finally, please vote on November 6. Get more information on voting here.