Trends in State Legislatures

Legislatures are vital, strong, effective institutions. They are where the people and their representatives come together to debate conflicting values and interests, set priorities and shape public policies. They are the political institutions closest to the people and drive representative democracy. This essay describes the organization and work of state legislatures, identifies the trends shaping state legislatures and the challenges confronting them and briefly describes the critical policy issues legislatures faced in the 2003 legislative sessions.

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About the Authors
Rich Jones is the director of Legislative Programs at the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). He has written extensively about state legislatures and legislative operations and has consulted with a large number of state legislatures on issues relating to legislative procedures and staff structure.

Alan Rosenthal is a professor of public policy and political science at the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University. He has written extensively about state legislatures, including the Decline of Representative Democracy. He has collaborated in activities with The Council of State Governments, National Conference of State Legislatures and the State Legislative Leaders Foundation. He has worked with legislatures in most of the states.