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Monday, February 11, 2019

Polarized Legislatures

Timothy Williams at NYT:
Republicans continue to hold majorities in most of the nation’s state capitals, as they have in recent years, but Democrats now control six new legislative chambers, including the Minnesota House of Representatives. Along the way, though, Minnesota — where Republicans hold a narrow majority in the Senate — became the only remaining state in the nation where control of a legislature is divided.

Even in an era of single-party dominance in state legislatures, it is a stunning notion: It is the first time in more than a century that only one state has split control of its legislative chambers, and is one more indication of the depth of the nation’s bifurcated political sensibilities.
In the opening days, Democrats who have vaulted to positions of full control in their legislatures (Colorado, New Hampshire and New York), achieved parity (Minnesota), or solidified their power (California, Nevada and New Mexico, among others) have wasted little time.

In New Hampshire, one of 18 state legislatures controlled by Democrats after both of its legislative chambers flipped in 2018, lawmakers have already banned firearms in the House chamber over the objections of Republicans, and have voted to require every lawmaker to undergo sexual harassment awareness training. Up next, the Democrats say: a family medical leave bill.
In New York, where Democrats won full control of the Legislature, lawmakers have approved a bill that offers undocumented students access to state financial aid and scholarships and another that expands protections for the state’s abortion laws.
In Colorado, where Democrats took the Senate and already controlled the House, lawmakers have introduced bills to expand access to affordable health care, allow the importation of prescription drugs from Canada, and give 100 teachers as much as $5,000 a year each to help pay off college loans.

From NCSL:

 After legislative elections on Tuesday, Nov. 6, five legislative chambers flipped from Republican to Democratic. Democrats also took control of the tied Connecticut Senate and fully functional control of the New York Senate—it was a Democratic sweep. However, compared to past midterms, the gains were modest with Republicans maintaining a robust position in state legislatures.

Pre/post ElectionPre/post ElectionPre/post Election
Chambers (98 total)65 / 6131 / 37 tied: 2 / 0
Legislatures (49 total)31 / 30 14 / 18 
4 / 1
State Control
(49 total, 1 undecided)
25 / 21 8 / 14 
16 / 13

The big news is that Minnesota is the only state in the nation where the legislature is divided—the Senate remains in Republican control, and the House flipped to the Democrats. The last time there was only one divided state legislature was over 100 years ago in 1914.
Six legislative chambers flipped from Republicans to Democrats.