Legislative Branch

A distinctive set of legislative rules in North Dakota, including allowing all bills to get a vote on the floor, reflect the state's commitment to openness. 

The state of Nebraska long ago chose a different model for its legislature, a single-chamber legislature that remains unlike any other in the United States.

The number of legislative committees in Minnesota will be significantly reduced over the next biennium, a move that leaders say will save the state money and free up lawmakers to spend more time with constituents.

Democrats have been on a roll in legislative elections and increased their numbers again in 2008. Buoyed by the strong campaign of President Barack Obama in many key states, Democratic gains last year leave them at their best political position in legislatures in well over a decade. Democrats control 24 legislatures, Republicans control 14 and 8 are divided between the two parties.

Using data from 17 state legislatures, we provide an overview of some of the changes in the representation of women, Latinos and African-Americans over the past 30 years. We find that there is variation in the pace at which diversity in state legislatures manifests. We also find that racial and ethnic diversity is more evident among women than among men, and that gender diversity is more evident among African-American and Latino legislators.

In the limited November 2007 election, voters delivered once again for Democrats although Republicans made gains in one key Southern state. Democrats won control of two state legislative chambers and have the majority in 23 state legislatures, more than they have held since 1994 —the year that Republicans drew to parity with Democrats at the state legislative level. Incremental gains in 2007 added to big wins in 2006 give Democrats a healthy lead in both total legislative chambers controlled and total legislative seats.

CSG South

These Legislative Orientation Programs in the Southern States were compiled for the Legislative Service Agency Directors (LSA) of the Southern Legislative Conference in May 2008.

CSG Midwest
From time to time, a legislator makes headlines by invoking “immunity” when he or she is stopped by law enforcement. The news stories almost always bring up this question: Do lawmakers really have a “get out of jail free” card? The answer is, almost always, “no.” Most states have in their constitutions privilege for legislators, but the actual protections can be misunderstood by law enforcement, the public and lawmakers alike.
Legislative privilege has historical roots that date back to 17th-century Britain, says Steven Huefner, a professor at The Ohio State University. That tradition eventually took hold in the United States, but today, the immunity language in state and federal constitutions has very little relevance.
“It’s a bit of a historical anachronism from when there existed a ‘civil arrest’ to detain people. We no longer even have that in any meaningful sense; if you’re being arrested by the police, they have probable cause [for criminal arrest],” he says.
But the provision still grabs headlines today.

2002 was a major election year for legislatures, with over 85 percent of all seats up for election, resulting in more than 26 percent turnover among legislators in election states. The Republican Party netted more than 175 legislative seats across the country and wound up with more seats than the Democrats for the first time in 50 years. Republicans now hold control of 21 state legislatures, compared to 16 for the Democrats. Twelve legislatures are split between the two parties and Nebraska is nonpartisan.

Until recently, literature about the effects of term limits was by necessity speculative in nature. However, a recent multistate study undertaken by three legislative organizations and a team of political scientists has begun to outline the changes taking place in term-limited state legislatures.