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Most lopsided state legislatures in America

  • Most lopsided state legislatures in America

    Any casual political observer can tell you which states are red (Republican) and which states are blue (Democratic), which colloquially corresponds to the way most of their citizens vote and the way their electors vote in presidential elections. The makeup of each state’s legislature usually, but not always, corresponds to the color it is assigned on a national political map, with liberal Hawaii having the most overwhelmingly Democratic legislature and Wyoming having the most reliably Republican.

    But sometimes having a majority isn’t all it’s cracked up to be for the governing party. Nuances in policy proposals and details of bills can weigh down even seemingly innocuous bills in endless committees. And a state’s governorship can throw another wrench into even the most stacked of legislatures. A governor from one party and a legislature from another is more common than a simple red and blue map might indicate, and a governor’s veto can negate months or even years of hard legislative work with a simple stroke of a pen.

    Stacker looked at each of the 50 states to see which governing bodies were the most bipartisan and which were the least, and then overlaid that data on each state’s recent legislative accomplishments, missteps, priorities, and headlines. The results offered confirmation that there is no one road to progress in a democracy, with some of the most significant legislative accomplishments coming from states with the heaviest skew toward either party, and others coming from states in which one might think hardly any consensus would be possible.

    Stacker compiled information on each state legislature’s partisan makeup using information from a variety of sources, including the AP, National Conference of State Legislatures, and Ballotpedia. Each state is ranked by how lopsided/unequal its political party makeup is in the state senate, but state house/assembly information is included, as well. Members of state legislatures who are not affiliated with either of the two parties are not mentioned, but they are counted in the advantage percentages.

    Note that Nebraska has a unicameral state legislature, and therefore data are available for only its state senate. The 49 members of the Nebraska Legislature are technically nonpartisan, but de facto there are 18 Democrats, 30 Republicans, and one Libertarian in the senate. Additionally, Minnesota is currently the only state in which the state senate and the state house are controlled by different parties.

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  • #50. Minnesota

    - Total state legislature seats: 201 (state senate: 67; state house: 134)
    - Senate seats held by Democratic Party: 33 (49.25%)
    - Senate seats held by Republican Party: 34 (50.75%)
    --- Advantage: Republican Party (1.49%)
    - House/assembly seats held by Democratic Party: 75 (55.97%)
    - House/assembly seats held by Republican Party: 59 (44.03%)
    --- Advantage: Democratic Party (11.94%)

    Minnesota has the most bipartisan legislature in the country. And that sense of moderation translates into post-election analysis and calculations, like the assessment of Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka. “You can’t call it a blue wave,” he said after Democrats narrowly took back control of the Minnesota House in November 2018. “You can say it was a midterm adjustment.”

  • #49. Virginia

    - Total state legislature seats: 140 (state senate: 40; state house: 100)
    - Senate seats held by Democratic Party: 19 (47.50%)
    - Senate seats held by Republican Party: 21 (52.50%)
    --- Advantage: Republican Party (5.00%)
    - House/assembly seats held by Democratic Party: 49 (49.00%)
    - House/assembly seats held by Republican Party: 51 (51.00%)
    --- Advantage: Republican Party (2.00%)

    The Virginia Legislature is the oldest legislative body in the country. But neither its bipartisan makeup nor its longevity has spared the legislature from controversy and discord in recent years. Redistricting has been a particularly contentious issue, with Democrats accusing Republicans of unconstitutional and racially motivated gerrymandering. Courts agreed with the Democrats, and the Republicans’ appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was ultimately dismissed.

  • #48. Colorado

    - Total state legislature seats: 100 (state senate: 35; state house: 65)
    - Senate seats held by Democratic Party: 19 (54.29%)
    - Senate seats held by Republican Party: 16 (45.71%)
    --- Advantage: Democratic Party (8.57%)
    - House/assembly seats held by Democratic Party: 41 (63.08%)
    - House/assembly seats held by Republican Party: 24 (36.92%)
    --- Advantage: Democratic Party (26.15%)

    From the Rocky Mountains to the eastern plains, Colorado is known for its natural beauty. So it’s no surprise that some of the most bipartisan legislation to come out of the state is meant to preserve just that. Legislators from both parties are actively involved in conservation efforts like water management, forest fire prevention, and crop protection. Gun control is a more contentious issue—with a “red flag” law passing recently by a narrow margin, and the support of no Republicans in the state legislature.

  • #47. Arizona

    - Total state legislature seats: 90 (state senate: 30; state house: 60)
    - Senate seats held by Democratic Party: 13 (43.33%)
    - Senate seats held by Republican Party: 17 (56.67%)
    --- Advantage: Republican Party (13.33%)
    - House/assembly seats held by Democratic Party: 29 (48.33%)
    - House/assembly seats held by Republican Party: 31 (51.67%)
    --- Advantage: Republican Party (3.33%)

    Arizona’s control by the GOP in both the state Senate and the State House has resulted in several conservative bills passing in recent months, including a measure requiring local governments to cover the costs to the state of a minimum wage hike. Democrats view the measure as a threat to cities to not raise the minimum wage for their workers. “The message is: Other cities, do this at your peril,” said state Representative Randall Friese, a Democrat.

  • #46. Pennsylvania

    - Total state legislature seats: 253 (state senate: 50; state house: 203)
    - Senate seats held by Democratic Party: 21 (42.00%)
    - Senate seats held by Republican Party: 28 (56.00%)
    --- Advantage: Republican Party (14.00%)
    - House/assembly seats held by Democratic Party: 93 (45.81%)
    - House/assembly seats held by Republican Party: 110 (54.19%)
    --- Advantage: Republican Party (8.37%)

    While many state legislatures debate hot-button issues like climate change and gun control, the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania Legislature has pursued a more inward-focused agenda in recent years. To wit, when atheist Carl Silverman asked the legislature if he could deliver the opening invocation in 2014, he was told by Speaker Samuel H. Smith that only people who believed in God could deliver the invocation. A lawsuit ensued, escalating to a federal court, which ruled in favor of the atheists.

  • #45. Washington

    - Total state legislature seats: 147 (state senate: 49; state house: 98)
    - Senate seats held by Democratic Party: 28 (57.14%)
    - Senate seats held by Republican Party: 21 (42.86%)
    --- Advantage: Democratic Party (14.29%)
    - House/assembly seats held by Democratic Party: 56 (57.14%)
    - House/assembly seats held by Republican Party: 42 (42.86%)
    --- Advantage: Democratic Party (14.29%)

    Although a divided legislature can sometimes lead to gridlock and little consensus, the latest activities of state Rep. Matt Shea have led to a bipartisan investigation by Washington House leadership and calls for his resignation. The six-term Republican lawmaker has been recently linked to an extremist group that advocates “patriotic and biblical training on war for young men” and has advocated for political violence against liberals in the past.

  • #44. Delaware

    - Total state legislature seats: 62 (state senate: 21; state house: 41)
    - Senate seats held by Democratic Party: 12 (57.14%)
    - Senate seats held by Republican Party: 9 (42.86%)
    --- Advantage: Democratic Party (14.29%)
    - House/assembly seats held by Democratic Party: 26 (63.41%)
    - House/assembly seats held by Republican Party: 15 (36.59%)
    --- Advantage: Democratic Party (26.83%)

    One of the most interesting bipartisan activities in Delaware’s legislature doesn’t take place during the session at all. Delaware is one of the few states whose legislature operates part time. This means that most state lawmakers have other jobs, which can lead to real or perceived conflicts of interest on both sides of the aisle, most commonly when employed by other public agencies. For example, both a Republican and a Democrat in the legislature teach at Delaware Technical Community College—for which the legislature also sets policy and funding.

  • #43. Florida

    - Total state legislature seats: 160 (state senate: 40; state house: 120)
    - Senate seats held by Democratic Party: 17 (42.50%)
    - Senate seats held by Republican Party: 23 (57.50%)
    --- Advantage: Republican Party (15.00%)
    - House/assembly seats held by Democratic Party: 47 (39.17%)
    - House/assembly seats held by Republican Party: 73 (60.83%)
    --- Advantage: Republican Party (21.67%)

    Florida’s Legislature may be relatively even when it comes to political party, but that’s not good enough for state Sen. Lauren Book when it comes to debating the charged issue of abortion. Book, a Democrat, has called for a moratorium on abortion debate until the Legislature is at least 50% female. Currently, the state Legislature is 70% male. “No vote about us without us,” Book told the Tallahassee Democrat.

  • #42. Wisconsin

    - Total state legislature seats: 132 (state senate: 33; state house: 99)
    - Senate seats held by Democratic Party: 14 (42.42%)
    - Senate seats held by Republican Party: 19 (57.58%)
    --- Advantage: Republican Party (15.15%)
    - House/assembly seats held by Democratic Party: 35 (35.35%)
    - House/assembly seats held by Republican Party: 64 (64.65%)
    --- Advantage: Republican Party (29.29%)

    Wisconsin’s legislature was given one of the highest grades by the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiatives, which tracked how likely states were to use cost-benefit analyses when shaping public policy. Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled legislature ranked in the top 10 states in the country in performing such analyses, which have been shown to lead to more effective uses of public funds.

  • #41. Michigan

    - Total state legislature seats: 148 (state senate: 38; state house: 110)
    - Senate seats held by Democratic Party: 16 (42.11%)
    - Senate seats held by Republican Party: 22 (57.89%)
    --- Advantage: Republican Party (15.79%)
    - House/assembly seats held by Democratic Party: 52 (47.27%)
    - House/assembly seats held by Republican Party: 58 (52.73%)
    --- Advantage: Republican Party (5.45%)

    For the first time in a decade, a divided Michigan government will be forced this fall to agree on how to spend the state’s $60 billion budget. With a Democratic governor and a Republican-controlled Michigan Legislature, the two parties will have to compromise on issues ranging from environmental protection to criminal justice reform, in addition to the size and shape of the budget.

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