Legislative Branch


The 2014 election resulted in Republican dominance of state legislative control unmatched in nearly a century. Riding a surge of disaffection with a president in the sixth year of office, combined with low, midterm voter turnout among Democrats, Republicans won big. They also continued to benefit from a built in redistricting advantage stemming from the 2010 election success by the party. Essentially, everything went one direction in the 2014 election—the direction of the Grand Old Party.

Chapter 3 of the 2015 Book of the States contains the following articles and tables:

CSG Midwest
Best known today for its use in the U.S. Senate, the filibuster is a legislative tactic that dates back centuries — even to the days of ancient Rome. But for most legislators serving in the 11-state Midwest, this maneuver to stall debate or block a bill’s passage is much more a curiosity than a legislative reality or obstacle.
The one exception is Nebraska, home to perhaps the most unique legislative branch among the 50 U.S. state governments. In that state, where 49 senators serve in a one-house, nonpartisan chamber, the filibuster — or the threat of it — is a common occurrence.
“We operate more like a senate here rather than like a house in that we give the members great latitude to discuss, debate, cajole their colleagues,” says Patrick O’Donnell, clerk of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature.

On Tuesday, the Legislative Council, which handles budget and business when the full legislature is not in session, voted 10-1 to file a lawsuit against Gov. Bill Walker over his unilateral executive action to expand Medicaid eligibility, according to the Alaska Dispatch News.

Gov. Walker, after unsuccessfully trying to get the legislature to approve his budget proposal to expand Medicaid eligibility during the 2015 session, followed the lead of governors in Kentucky and West Virginia and took action without the legislature’s approval.

The new Medicaid rules are to go into effect on September 1 and would made Alaska the 30th state to expand Medicaid as allowed under the Affordable Care Act.

Unfunded mandates. Congressional imposition. The erosion of federalism. These terms often are tossed around as state and the federal governments continue to navigate the tricky waters of federal-state relations, particularly in the legislative branch. In the second in a series of three all-star webinars about the state of federalism as it applies to the states and the federal government, CSG explores the roles of the Congress and state legislatures, highlighting the inter-workings of congressional and elected state legislators. Panelists provide concrete examples, including health care reform, to clarify this relationship, which is crucial to the smooth functioning of the states, but can sometimes be blurry and complicated.

The opinion upholds the constitutionality of the redistricting commission as a method to draw congressional and legislative redistricting lines after a Census.     

CSG Midwest

Seeking to improve transparency and remove conflicts of interest for elected officials, Indiana lawmakers have revamped their state’s ethics laws. According to the South Bend Tribune, legislators will be required to report more on their financial-disclosure forms and on their statements of economic interest. They must now report close relatives who are lobbyists, for example, and also disclose any business interest worth at least $500,000.

CSG Midwest
Love them or hate them, lame-duck sessions are indisputably a time on the legislative calendar when big things often get done. In early 2011, for example, during the final days of Illinois’ 96th General Assembly, legislators passed an income-tax increase, legalized same-sex marriage and abolished the death penalty.
More recently, in late 2014, the Michigan Legislature approved a $1.2 billion plan to raise more money for the state’s roads. (Voters ultimately rejected this legislatively referred constitutional amendment.)
The term “lame duck,” used for decades in American politics, refers to an official leaving office due to retirement or an election loss.
For some states in the Midwest, lame-duck sessions don’t occur because of the typical calendar for a part-time legislature: Lawmakers adjourn well ahead of Election Day. But at the federal level, and in states such as Illinois, Michigan and Ohio, “lame duck” sessions occur regularly — after fall elections but before a new legislature convenes.
Some legislators in Michigan and Illinois say it is time to kill the lame duck in their states.

While oral argument is hardly a fool proof indicator of what the Supreme Court will do, it seemed the majority of the Justices favored the Arizona legislature in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.

The issue the Court will decide in this case is whether Arizona’s Proposition 106,...

Despite political gridlock and partisanship in Washington, D.C., Congress and the president recognize intellectual property as a driver of economic growth in America. Unfortunately, cybercrime is on the rise, and intellectual property is oftentimes the primary target of cyber criminals. To protect intellectual property, the White House, Congress, and state governments all are working diligently to enhance cybersecurity.

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