Increasing Democracy

Colorado Session Roundup

As with most states this year, the budget process and response to the recession dominated Colorado's legislative session.  Within that lens, lawmakers are getting high marks from Colorado advocates like the Bell Policy Center and the Colorado Center on Law and Policy for advancing key priorities like unemployment insurance, health care coverage and budget reform while limiting the deficit's impact on the state's most vulnerable residents.  Notably, lawmakers extended health care to 100,000 low-income and uninsured Coloradans.  Still, advocates note some disappointments and missed opportunities, like failing to make qualified undocumented students eligible for in-state tuition rates and neglecting to better regulate payday lenders. 

Nebraska Session Roundup

The Nebraska Legislature ended three days ahead of the originally scheduled adjournment date.  During the 2009 session, 236 bills were passed, including budget bills and issues ranging from encouraging wind energy development and establishing lethal injection as the state’s method of execution.

Kansas Session Roundup

Kansas underwent a change in leadership at the top when Gov. Kathleen Sebelius joined the Obama administration as Secretary of Health and Human Services and was replaced by her lieutenant governor, Mark Parkinson, a former chair of the state Republican party before switching parties to serve under Sebelius.

West Virginia Session Roundup

While not under the fiscal pressures of most states due to rising prices for minerals, the 60 day session proved too fleeting, and the legislature and governor had to use two brief special sessions to complete their work. They did manage to pass some promising election reforms and a solar tax credit, but big reforms of health care didn't materialize and environmental policy moved backward on a couple fronts.

Vermont Session Roundup

Despite the economic downturn, Vermont lawmakers made important gains in several areas, notably in gay marriage, reducing Rx costs, renewable energy, transportation, and an economic stimulus package that utilizes federal stimulus resources.

Minnesota Session

2009 proved to be one of the most challenging sessions yet for Minnesota lawmakers, with the legislature and the Governor clashing over how to balance the budget. Governor Tim Pawlenty had originally advocated borrowing $1 billion, a plan that met with near universal disdain in the House, which voted 130-2 against. Lawmakers held listening sessions throughout the state to hear from over 10,000 citizens on how best to handle an unprecedented deficit of $6.4 billion. Ultimately, after the legislature passed two omnibus budget bills including a balanced budget and failed to overcome the Governor's veto,  Pawlenty decided to use his unilateral power of unallotment to slash $2.7 billion of funding over the next two years, hitting cities, counties and health services the hardest. 

Nevada Session Roundup

The contentious 120-day Nevada legislative session was marked by the Governor vetoing approximately 48 bills, 25 of which were overridden by lawmakers.   

Oklahoma Session Roundup

This was the first session after the Senate switched to a Republican majority, giving the party control of the entire Legislature for the first time in the state's history.  With conservative members firmly in charge, they began the session promising to remake government.  Progressives had good reason to worry that draconian measures were on the way. While there were some bad laws passed this year, a combination of compromise and gubernatorial vetoes meant that conservative gains were evolutionary, not revolutionary.

Legislative Session Roundup: Iowa

With Iowa lawmakers facing not only fiscal problems similar to many states, but the need to pass flood and tornado recovery bills, lawmakers met both challenges by the end of the session.   However, the rest of the agenda for progressives saw a mix of wins and losses, with most high profile reforms falling short, but many good progressive policies becoming law. And, the leadership of Iowa legislators stepped up to support the Iowa supreme court decision support marriage equality for same sex partners, refusing to advance a proposed constitutional attack on the groundbreaking decision.

Legislative Session Roundup: Idaho

Idaho faced a historically bad budget projection, with projected consecutive negative growth in two years. This challenge resulted in the second longest session of all time, with the federal recovery act allowing significant opportunities for the legislature to use one-time funds to shore up the budget, even as reductions were made to education for the first time in state history.  Without a doubt, this was one of the most contentious sessions in state record.