Legislative Branch

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.
 

An assessment of political parties in the legislature shows an imbalance in their performance of the overlapping functions of representation on the one hand and governance on the other. In every respect but mobilizing and educating voters, legislative parties are doing an excellent job representing their constituencies. But the performance of the governance function, and especially the tasks of consensus building and institutional maintenance, is more problematic.

This article examines the success of the states in redrawing state legislative-district lines after the 2000 Census of Population. It describes the trends of this decade and highlights state experiences in dealing with both old and new issues in redistricting. Whereas the redistricting round of the 1990s was quite litigious, the 2000 round was less litigious with the states having high levels of success in adopting plans without judicial interference.

Legislatures are the engines of representative democracy in the American states. They are the arenas in which the processes for choosing policies, setting priorities and reaching settlements among conflicting values and interests take place. This essay points out trends and directions in which state legislatures are moving, the significant issues confronting them and offers a framework for thinking about the current condition of state legislatures.

Chapter 3 of the 2002 Book of the States contains the following articles and tables:

Chapter 3 of the 2000-01 Book of the States contains the following tables:

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