Election delivers veto-proof majority to half of legislatures
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — There's a new superpower growing in the Great Plains and the South, where Republican majorities in state capitols could cut taxes dramatically and change public education with barely a whimper of resistance from Democrats.
Contrast that with California, where voters have given Democrats a 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 established a broader tier of powerful one-party governments that can act with no need for compromise. Half of state legislatures have veto-proof majorities, up from 13 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 super majorities since 1883 in the Assembly and in the 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 gained or expanded super majorities in places such as Indiana, Oklahoma and — if one independent caucuses with the GOP — Georgia. Democrats gained a super majority in Illinois and built upon their dominance in states including Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
Super majorities 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.
Yet a super majority 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.”