It's one-party rule across much of the South and Midwest, which could affect abortion, same-sex marriage and more
There’s a new superpower growing in the Great Plains and the South, where bulging Republican majorities in state capitols could dramatically cut taxes and change public education with barely a whimper of resistance from Democrats.
Contrast that with California, where voters have given Democrats a new dominance that could allow them to raise taxes and embrace same-sex marriage without regard to Republican objections.
If you thought the presidential election revealed the nation’s political rifts, consider the outcomes in state legislatures. The vote also created a broader tier of powerful one-party governments that can act with no need for compromise. Half of state legislatures now have veto-proof majorities, up from 13 only four years ago, according to figures compiled for The Associated Press by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
All but three states—Iowa, Kentucky and New Hampshire—have one-party control of their legislatures, the highest mark since 1928.
The result could lead to stark differences in how people live and work.
“Usually, a partisan tide helps the same party across the country, but what we saw in this past election was the opposite of that—some states getting bluer and some states getting redder,” said Thad Kousser, an associate political science professor at the University of California-San Diego who focuses on state politics. As a result, “we’ll see increasing policy divergence across the states.”
Democrats in California gained their first supermajorities since 1883 in both the Assembly and Senate. Republicans captured total control of the North Carolina Capitol for the first time in more than a century. The GOP set a 147-year high mark in the Tennessee statehouse and won two-thirds majorities in the Missouri Legislature for the first time since the Civil War.
Republicans also gained or expanded supermajorities in places such as Indiana, Oklahoma and—if one independent caucuses with the GOP—Georgia. Democrats gained a supermajority in Illinois and built upon their dominance in places such as Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
If the parties make full use of their enlarged majorities, residents of similar-sized cities in different parts of the country could soon experience a virtual continental divide in their way of life.
In one state, businesses could pay little to no taxes, the result of policies intended to spur hiring. Public schools might function at a basics-only level, with parents free to use public money to send their children to private schools. Only the poorest of the poor adults could expect medical care from the government.
In another state, residents would pay higher taxes, and the government would inject billions of dollars into public education with the goal of creating a highly skilled workforce to attract businesses. A social safety net would exist for the poor, including working adults not even considered to be in poverty.
States already have different approaches to taxes, the economy and care for the poor, but they have been tempered by compromise. Now the middle ground may begin to disappear in favor of stark extremes.
Supermajorities can allow lawmakers to override governors’ vetoes, change tax rates, put constitutional amendments on the ballot, rewrite legislative rules and establish a quorum for business—all without any participation by the opposing party.
In Indiana, the new Republican supermajority can now pass bills even if House Democrats repeat the walkouts they’ve held the past two years to protest the consideration of so-called right-to-work laws limiting union powers. In Oklahoma, Republicans are expected to use their huge majorities to move to slash state income taxes after efforts last year fell short.
Indiana Democrats acknowledge there is little they can do.
“It’s deeply troubling that my party has fallen in this position and left our state, in my view, so ill-represented,” said Democratic Rep. Ed DeLaney of Indianapolis. “It’s a huge challenge.”
Republican supermajorities in both North Carolina chambers are likely to push for income tax cuts and sweeping education changes, including broader merit pay for public school teachers and expanded tax credits for parents who send their children to private schools. Also on the agenda: a photo identification requirement for voting that was vetoed in 2011 by Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue.
Deflated Democrats, who haven’t been so shut out of control in more than a century, hope new Republican Gov. Pat McCrory will at least consider their concerns.
“We’ll go forward. We have no choice,” said minority whip Rep. Deborah Ross.
In Missouri, House Speaker Tim Jones wants to advance an agenda that includes tax cuts, business incentives and education reform. The new GOP supermajority could trump any objections by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, who vetoed some previous business-backed bills.
“The governor will need to understand the importance of true, actual negotiation during the legislative process,” Jones said.
Yet a supermajority is not a guarantee of success. With larger numbers can come more individual agendas and internal tensions.
“A very large majority ends up becoming factionalized,” said Charles S. Bullock III, a longtime political science professor at the University of Georgia who teaches legislative politics. There are “people who are vying with each other, looking down the road to the next election.”
Kansas is a good example of that. Republicans there gained a supermajority in both chambers in the 2010 elections but remained divided in conservative and moderate camps. They took their battle to the ballot box this year and conservatives prevailed—giving them a likely hold on 27 of 40 Kansas Senate seats and as many as 75 of 125 House seats.
After enacting massive tax cuts in 2012, some Kansas conservatives now are looking forward to trimming government and possibly pursuing more tax cuts.
“What we know from history is we can expect some overreaching of lawmakers using their newfound political might to shove things down the throat of the minority—to pass laws that are more extreme than they would have passed in the old days,” Kousser said.
In California, Democrats are looking forward to having things their way. Republican Assemblyman Jim Nielsen predicts an “unprecedented spending and taxing binge” as the new Democratic supermajority attempts to reduce some of the state’s recent deep budget cuts.
California Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has outlined an agenda that includes changing the tax code and ballot initiative process and perhaps asking voters to legalize same-sex marriage.
“We will exercise this new power with strength, but also with humility and with reason,” Steinberg said.
More Related Stories
- Developers evict historic women's shelter to build luxury hotel
- Guantánamo prisoner on hunger strike cries for help on Twitter
- 3 possible solutions to international tax avoidance
- “I just want the U.S. to send my father home”
- Army weapons engineer tied to white nationalist organizations
- Ted Cruz against the world
- David Vitter's hypocritical, punitive, horrible new amendment
- Louie Gohmert: Women should be forced to carry nonviable pregnancies to term
- Could hackers destroy the U.S. power grid?
- Democrats may be even worse than Republicans at regulating Wall Street
- Eric Holder versus journalism
- A progressive defense of drones
- There's no substitute for government disaster relief
- Holder signed off on search warrant for reporter
- Mississippi could begin prosecuting women for miscarriages
- Mike Judge: "Bowling for Columbine" made me pro-gun
- Closing Gitmo is not enough
- Murkowski: Palin too disengaged to run for Senate
- In IRS scandal, new GOP tactic is ignorance
- Code Pink activist berates Obama at national security speech
- Cuomo: "Shame on us" if New York City elects Weiner
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11