The over-riding theme of the legislative session this year was how toresolve a $4 billion budget deficit. However, unlike many states,Oregon's legislators successfully avoided the worst cuts through fairrevenue generators and spending cuts. They also continued to pushforward on key issues like the environment, worker's rights, andhealthcare. On several issues, such as climate change, the governorput forward an agenda to lead the nation and in other areas strongprogressive legislators set out similarly ambitious goals. In manyinstances compromises tempered the boldness of the final product, butin most cases some real progress was made.
For the first time since Reconstruction, Republicans held control
of both legislative chambers. However, the moment was fleeting. At
the start of this year's session, Republican Representative Kent
Williams seized the Speakership from his GOP colleagues, who had a one seat majority, by teaming up with the House Democrats, who elected him Speaker. The Tennessee Republican Party responded by banishing Speaker Williams from the Party, although he says he remains a Republican.
The Missouri legislature adjourned after delivering approximately 160 bills to Governor Nixon.
Budget: The Missouri legislature passed a $23 billion operating budget
for the fiscal year beginning July 1, plus a two-year $600 million
capital improvements budget that includes various projects funded with
federal stimulus money. Governor Nixon used the line-item veto to cut $22.8
million from the operating budget and $82.2 million from the capital
improvement budget. For specific initiatives vetoed click here. The Governor also placed on hold an additional $325 million of expenditures since the state faces declining revenues.
A contentious atmosphere during the general session lingered into a special session as legislators overrode a record total 38 of 53 vetoed bills by Gov. Linda Lingle. Despite the budget shortfall of over $600 million
(estimates differ) for 2010 and 2011, legislators were able to enact a
number of highly progressive reforms including a majority signup bill,
strengthening workers comp and family leave policies, requiring large
parking lots to have dedicated electric vehicle spaces with charging
stations, and reviving basic universal health insurance for children.
Florida’s 2009 legislative session was dominated by extreme fiscal stress and a leadership crisis. While May 1st marked the official end of the 60-day legislative session, lawmakers had to extend the regular session by a week in order to reach an agreement on the budget.
The Texas legislature only meets once every two years, and this year
there was enough drama, both real and fabricated, to last until they
reconvene in 2011. The biggest story by the end of the session was the
minority parties ability to kill voter ID legislation in the House by
"chubbing" or running out the clock by meticulously debating
non-controversial legislation. The need to prevent the
disenfranchising ID bill has the unfortunate consequence of killing
much good legislation. And the primary reason there was good
legislation to pass in the House was the big intrigue from the
beginning of the session - the election of a compromise speaker with
minority party support, replacing long-time speaker and conservative
stalwart Tom Craddick.
The Maine legislature gets high marks
for succeeding on many vital issues despite the tough economic
climate. Lawmakers expanded equality by legalizing gay marriage,
shored up future health coverage expansions, increased transparency and
regulatory oversight of health insurance products, and created a
court-supervised mediation process to prevent home foreclosures.
The Indiana legislature had to go to a special session and still barely
averted a state government shutdown, to turn in a budget that made no
one happy. Leading editorials called the session a "failure." The state went from the 2008 session in the best financial shape
it has been in several years with a fiscal surplus exceeding $1
billion, to an acrimonious session that was dominated by budget
disagreements due to a desire to preserve the state's $1 billion financial cushion,
even after using $300 million in reserves. Nonetheless, the session
produced some progressive legislation including online voter
registration and a fix to the state's broken unemployment insurance
In 2009 the South Carolina General Assembly fought intensely with Gov. Sanford and
passed arguably little significant legislation outside of its annual
budget. After ending the session two weeks early, the legislature
reconvened on June 16th to finalize the approval of bills in conference and to consider vetoes.
This year the big story out of the Mississippi legislative session was
the governor's high profile refusal to accept all of the federal
recovery act dollars. Aligning himself with some other likely 2012
presidential contenders, Governor Barb our decided to put politics
above the needs of his constituents, who suffer some of the highest
poverty and unemployment rates in the nation.