Increasing Democracy

Oregon Legislative Session Roundup

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.

Tennessee Session Roundup

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.

Missouri Session Roundup

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. 

Hawaii Session Roundup

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 Session Roundup

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.  

Budget: Despite an earlier pledge against raising taxes, Republican Gov. Charlie Crist recognized the extremity of the fiscal crisis and signed Florida's $66.5 billion budget, including more than $5.6 billion in stimulus dollars — including money for one-time expenditures, like road construction -- and  approximately $2 billion in higher taxes and fees.  Much of the new revenue comes from a $1-a-pack cigarette tax and higher fees on driving licenses and motor vehicle tags.  

Texas Session Roundup

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.

Maine Session Roundup

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.

2009 Indiana Session Roundup

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 system.

South Carolina Session Roundup

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. 

Mississippi Session Roundup

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.