Capitol Comments

Last week I blogged about how the outcome of last Tuesday’s election is likely to impact plans for high-speed rail in some parts of the country and about the future of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in light of Rep. James Oberstar’s pending departure as chairman. Now a week later, we already know a bit more about how both issues could play out.

2004 Toll Fellow Trey Grayson shared the following thoughts regarding last week's elections. Grayson is currently serving as Kentucky's secretary of state.

More than 40 states currently have prescription monitoring programs aimed at reducing the growing epidemic of prescription drug abuse. While these programs are a significant accomplishment in the fight against prescription drug abuse, states still are largely unable to share information about prescription drug data on an interstate level. 

On November 4th, the Council of State Governments Justice Center held a congressional staff briefing to highlight the work being done nationwide to reduce recidivism. Experts from the CSG Justice Center, the Urban Institute, and the U.S. Department of Justice discussed the growing body of research identifying practices effective in reducing recidivism.

Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, Toll Class of 2009, reflects on the impacts Tuesday’s elections will have on his state.

"The results of the November election are going to have people rapt with attention for a long time. In Maine, all speculation about the staying power of the Tea Party movement is done--with sweeping victories in both the House and Senate as well as the office of Governor, Republicans will have full control over all elected bodies of state government for the first time since 1964.


Nearly lost among races for governor, Congress and key statewide races, voters in several states decided the fate of numerous measures affecting public education – in many cases, whether to increase or limit school funding. The voter sentiment was a mixed bag for school funding.

There were lots of transportation-related headlines to take away from Tuesday’s election: The chairman of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee going down to defeat and what it might mean for authorization legislation… The future of high-speed rail put in doubt by the election of three new Republican governors opposed to rail projects… And a somewhat mixed message from voters on revenues for transportation. Although it will likely take a long time to sort it all out, here are some initial thoughts.

State elected officials aren't immune from the frustrations voters are directing at Washington representatives--frustrations that translate into political volatility.  As Neil King Jr. of The Wall Street Journal reports, "Voters this week look set to do something not seen since the early 1950s: Oust a substantial number of sitting [U.S.] House lawmakers for the third election in a row."

As voters determined who would be governing their states and the nation on Tuesday, they also made decisions on a myriad of ballot initiatives, referendums and legislative measures.  In total, there were 160 ballot proposals in 37 states, many of which were related to fiscal and economic issues.  According to the Initiative and Referendum Institute, taxes – as in past years – were the number one issue on state ballots in 2010.  Measures concerning property taxes found their way on to a number of state ballots this year, along with income taxes, sales taxes, fiscal limits, fees and miscellaneous taxes, rainy day funds, and changes to legislative procedures and voting requirements related to budget issues. 

On Tuesday, Californians voted down Prop. 23, which sought to suspend California’s landmark global warming/clean energy legislation until unemployment dropped to 5.5% for 4 consecutive quarters.