Elections Bring Power Changes in State Legislative Control

The Republican takeover of the U.S. Senate and the GOP’s retention of many governors’ seats was mirrored on the state legislative level following November’s elections. The results of the elections show that in many legislative chambers considered “tossups” or “battlegrounds” prior to the elections, Republicans were consistently far safer than initially projected.

The Arizona Senate was considered a close race to watch for a Democratic takeover. Despite the concerns, Republicans maintain their control of the upper chamber with a 16-11 seat lead over the Democrats, with just three seats still undecided at the time of reporting. The Arkansas legislature, which up until 2012 had been considered strongly Democratic, saw a major uptick in Republican seats. Their narrow 51-49 lead in the House has been expanded to 64-36. GOP gains in California could derail Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown’s plans for a high-speed rail line, and the GOP took a two-thirds supermajority over the Georgia House. In the Kansas House, where Republicans were predicted to lose seats, the GOP picked up at least two seats.

Prior to Election Day, Republicans controlled 59 of the 98 partisan legislative chambers. According to the current polling data reported by NCSL, the Republicans flipped both chambers in Nevada and West Virginia, the Senate chambers in Colorado and Maine and the House chambers in Minnesota, New Hampshire, and New Mexico. This gives the party a net gain of six chambers for a total of 68. The numbers also signify Republican control in 24 states, where they hold both chambers of the legislature as well as the governor’s office. This number includes Nebraska, which is technically nonpartisan, though in practice Republicans control the chamber by a wide margin, the Washington Post reports.

With the U.S. Congress and President Obama in an ongoing deadlock, state legislatures will play a more crucial role in addressing key policy issues. If history is any indicator, the GOP’s strong showing on Tuesday is likely to portend the introduction of more laws governing taxes, voting and abortion heading into the 2015 legislative sessions.