Legislative Branch

Stateline Midwest ~ May 2013

Legislating is not a full-time job for most of the Midwest’s 1,550 state lawmakers — at least when it comes to pay. In 2012, only legislators in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin were paid salaries above the nation’s per capita income of $42,693. And in Michigan and Ohio, the advent of term limits means state lawmaking is, at most, only a temporary career.

Nicholas Kusnetz of the Center for Public Integrity says voters have largely embraced the idea of a “citizen legislature” — individuals from different walks of life gather in the capitol, conduct the state’s business, and then return to their homes and places of employment.

It sounds good in theory, Kusnetz says, but he adds that states should do more to address an unavoidable reality: the slew of conflicts of interest that arise when lawmakers rely on outside income.

Stateline Midwest ~ April 2013

For most presidential candidates, the road to the White House begins in Iowa. Since the 1970s, the state’s presidential caucuses have served as the nation’s first real test of voter interest in competing candidates, and have launched the successful campaigns of presidents from Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama. As important as they are to the candidates themselves, the Iowa caucuses are significant in other ways as well. 
Rep. Linda Upmeyer, who serves as Iowa House majority leader, says the precinct caucus system — which features local meetings of neighbors in each of Iowa’s 1,774 election precincts — shapes the way voters think about politics and participate in the process.

Stateline Midwest ~ February 2013

Across the Midwest, the average state representative serves just over 58,000 constituents, while the average state senator represents almost 122,000. Both of these numbers are slightly lower than the corresponding national averages, and state-specific figures vary significantly, depending on population size and the number of seats in each legislative chamber.
In North Dakota, for example, each legislator represents just over 14,000 constituents (each of the state’s 47 districts includes two representatives and one senator), the smallest such number among senate constituencies nationwide.
At the other end of the spectrum, Ohio stands out as the state with the region’s largest legislative districts. The Midwest’s second-most populous state, Ohio is governed by one of the region’s smallest legislatures.

Stateline Midwest ~ March 2013

When Minnesota legislators opened hearings on a series of gun control proposals in February, interested onlookers packed committee hearings. And some of those in attendance were likely packing heat.

Mildred Edwards would like young women who look to her as a role model to learn one lesson from her life: “Anything is possible that they’re willing to work to accomplish,” she said. Edwards, the executive director for the Kansas African-American Affairs Commission and a 2012 CSG Toll Fellow, learned that lesson early in life simply by looking at the accomplishments of her grandmother. Bessie Pinner was born in 1900 and earned a doctorate. She was a pharmacist, a science teacher and was involved in many of the civic organizations in which Edwards herself is now involved.

Be Respectful and Do Your Homework

Delaware House Majority Leader Pete Schwartzkopf chairs several committees, including House Administration and Rules committees. He served in the minority party for years and learned lessons in that role. A former state police officer in Dover, Schwartzkopf believes the no-nonsense approach to police work also applies to chairing a legislative committee.

Stateline Midwest ~ December 2012

The 2013 legislative sessions in the Midwest will begin soon with hundreds of new lawmakers taking office, but with a balance of power between the two major political parties that remains largely unchanged.

Stateline Midwest ~ November 2012

When the 2012 session of the Kansas Legislature adjourned last May, lawmakers left one important piece of business unfinished. Their inability to come to closure on the politically charged issue of redistricting left Kansas alone among the 50 states without a new set of maps going into this year’s congressional and legislative elections, and eventually forced a panel of federal district court judges to finish the job.

This year’s stalemate may have been unprecedented in the Sunflower State, but Kansas’ redistricting process is unique among Midwestern states in other ways as well. Like all other states, Kansas relies on U.S. Census Bureau data as a starting point in the decennial process of drawing new district lines. 

But the Kansas Constitution requires that the population data provided by the federal government be adjusted before maps are drawn.

Stateline Midwest ~ October 2012

States laws seek to middle ground on lobbying and policymaking: Accept lobbying as a part of the policymaking process, but regulate the activity to guard against the dangers of lobbyists having an undue influence.

Stateline Midwest ~ September 2012

Ohio voters will decide in November whether the task of redistricting should be taken away from state elected officials and put in the hands of a 12-member commission. 

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