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.

Chapter 4 of the 2003 Book of the States contains the following articles and tables:

Chapter 5 of the 2003 Book of the States contains the following articles and tables:

The roles and activities of interest groups and lobbyists in the states have received increased attention with the shift of additional responsibilities to the states in recent years and continuing state revenue problems. The authors have been studying this issue since the early 1980s and report a number of important trends regarding the changing nature of the lobbying game in the state capitals: greater representation; more sophisticated lobbyists and multifaceted lobbying campaigns.

This article synthesizes research findings on organizations registered to lobby state legislatures in the last 20 years. According to data collected and analyzed by the authors, the rapid growth in numbers of registered interests in the 1980s slowed by the end of the 1990s, and institutions became more dominant as a form of organizational representation.

Medicaid stands out as the program hit hardest by the economic downturn and rising health care costs. Governors, legislative leaders and Medicaid officials around the country see the program’s current cost trajectory as unsustainable in both the short-term and the long-term. Yet, states have faced similar situations before. As in previous eras of runaway cost growth, state leaders are marvelously adept at developing coping mechanisms. Emerging trends in state responses to the Medicaid crisis may indicate the future direction of Medicaid policy.

The regulation of political money continues to rank high on most states’ list of priorities. Experimentation continues in many areas as reform measures have been adopted both by state legislatures and statewide initiatives. Some discernable trends are clear, including more emphasis on public-funding programs (the “clean elections” movement); regulating the scope, nature and use of contributions; disclosure of political advertisements; stronger enforcement of existing laws and concern regarding independent expenditures.

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.

Most states have initiated various cutback-management strategies in the past two years to deal with budget shortfalls and projected deficits. However, restructuring state agencies has emerged as the most popular approach to the current financial crisis. State agencies are likely to continue to privatize some of their programs and services as a cost-saving tool, although the rate of savings has been moderate. A growing number of states are using performance measures in their budgeting, although they are not widely used as an efficiency tool in state agencies.

Chapter 6 of the 2003 Book of the States contains the following articles and tables: