Share This Page

Election delivers veto-proof majority to half of legislatures

| Monday, Nov. 19, 2012, 5:58 p.m.

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.”

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.