With few exceptions, the Midwest’s legislatures have more women serving in them this year than in 2018. And in six of the region’s states — Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota and Ohio — the numbers are at historic highs.
Why the jump? Why is there a gender gap in politics? What kind of effect does more female representation have on policymaking? Those questions have been the subject of much political science research over decades, and the answers are sometimes simple, sometimes complex. Here is what CSG Midwest learned in a interview with Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.
This year, the region's legislators tackled some of the nation's biggest issues, from school safety to labor shortages. Notable changes in state tax policy, gun laws, retirement systems and legislative pay also marked the 2018 legislative year.
With the pending shift in partisan control of the Iowa and Minnesota senates to the Republican Party, nearly every legislature and governor’s office in the 11-state Midwest will be led by the GOP over the next two years.
Power will be divided among the parties in only two of the region’s states: Illinois, Republican governor and Democratic legislature; and Minnesota, Democratic governor and Republican legislature. (Nebraska’s Unicameral Legislature is nonpartisan.)
Nebraska lawmakers voted in early 2016 to maintain the Unicameral Legislature’s secret-ballot method of selecting committee chairs and other leaders. Every two years, each of the state’s 49 senators casts votes for these leadership positions (including the top position of speaker). Under this system, the jockeying among members to become speaker or chair of one of the 14 standing committees can go on for months.
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.