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Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States, Partisanship Results, Appendix B
The two major political parties claim that their policies will lead to better outcomes. What does the data show?
At Ballotpedia, we explored these issues in a three-part study, Who Runs the States.
This page contains report section Appendix B.
Legislative Ties, Power Sharing, and Coalitions
Usually, the majority of legislators in a given legislators chamber are members of either the Republican Party or the Democratic Party and elect their leaders to preside over the chamber, determine committee chairmanships, and set the legislative agenda. Occasionally, however, a general election, special election, or a member’s switch from one party to another results in both parties have the same number of legislators. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, methods used to resolve ties include a coin toss, negotiated agreements between the two parties, a tie-breaking vote by the lieutenant governor, and state statutes determining which party (i.e., the governor’s party) selects the chamber’s leaders.
In classifying tied chambers, we tried to determine which party, if either, had functional legislative control not only in terms of filling legislative offices and committee chairs but also in terms of actually being able to pass bills with a tie-breaking vote. When a power sharing agreement was in place, we classified the tied chamber as split. When one party used a lieutenant governor’s tie breaking vote to organize a state senate, we classified the senate as being under the control of that party. In the three instances where the governor’s party used state law tie-breaking provisions to choose the officers of a state house of representatives, we classified the houses as split because that party did not have a secure tie-breaking advantage. When one party created a coalition with only some of the other party’s members instead of negotiating a genuine power sharing agreement with the other party’s leadership, we classified that chamber as being under the control of the party with the most members in the coalition.
|Legislative Ties, Power Sharing, and Coalitions|
|State||Chamber||Year(s)||Tie-breaking Method||Partisan Status|
|Indiana||House||1997-1998||Led by governor’s party (D)||Split|
|Montana||House||2005-2006||Led by governor’s party (D)||Split|
|Montana||House||2009-2010||Led by governor’s party (D)||Split|
|New Hampshire||Senate||2000||Led by existing leadership (D)||Split|
|New Jersey||Senate||2002-2003||Power sharing||Split|
|North Carolina||House||1993-1994||Democratic-dominated coalition||Democratic|
|Tennessee||Senate||2007-2008||Led by existing leadership (R)||Split|
On at least four occasions, the minority party in a legislative chamber allied with some, or even just one, of the members of the majority, and the resulting coalition ran the chamber. After the 2006 elections, the Democrats in the Alaska Senate allied with some of the Republicans. The mostly Democratic coalition controlled the chamber for the next two years and eventually became the Alaska Senate Bipartisan Working Group which held sway through four more years when the Senate was officially tied 10-10 (see above table). In 2009, the Democrats in the Tennessee House of Representatives, with 49 out of 99 seats, allied with Republican Kent Williams to make Williams the new speaker and organize the House. Although the Republicans won a special election later in 2009, Williams remained the speaker until the Republicans triumphed in the 2010 legislative elections. After the 2012 elections, Republicans were in the minority in both the New York and Washington state senates but joined with a few Democrats in each state to take control.
|Legislative Ties, Power Sharing, and Coalitions|
|Alaska||Senate||2007-2008||Predominantly Democratic coalition|
|New York||Senate||2013-||Predominantly Republican coalition|
|Tennessee||House||2009||Predominantly Democratic coalition|
|Washington||Washington State Senate||2013-||Predominantly Republican coalition|
We also classified the California Assembly as being under split control in 1995 and Republican control in 1996. Although the Republicans won a 41-39 majority in the 1994 legislative elections, they were unable to elect a speaker and take control until January 4, 1996. In 1995, the Assembly had three speakers at different times, including two Republicans who were supported by the Democrats, and two members were successfully recalled.
Although we have done our best to identify all instances of legislative ties, power sharing, and coalitions, we realize that we may have missed additional state legislatures that had special situations such as those described above, particularly in the earlier years covered by our study. We may have misclassified legislative chambers in several of the instances we did find because of misunderstanding how they were actually run during the years in question. However, the number of such errors and oversights, if there are any, would be very small and would not meaningfully affect our findings.
- Ballotpedia:Who runs the states
- Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States, Part One: State Partisanship
- Full report PDF
- State government trifectas
- National Conference of State Legislatures, “In Case of a Tie . . . . .,” accessed on April 24, 2013
- Republican Dick Eliason built a bipartisan coalition and was unanimously elected as Senate president.
- The law states that the party of the governor or the secretary of state, whoever was elected most recently, chooses the leadership of the Indiana House of Representatives in the event of a tie.
- After Senator Mike Williams left the Republican Party to become an independent on March 14, 2007, the Tennessee Senate was split 16-16-1. The post of Majority Leader became vacant, but the existing leadership and committee assignments remained in place. See Ken Whitehouse, Nashville Post, “GOP State Senator bolts party,” March 14, 2007, available at .
- Even after the Republicans won a 52-47-1 majority in the Virginia House of Delegates in the 1999 legislative elections, the House continued to be run under a power sharing agreement between the two parties in 2000 and 2001. Because the Republicans held a majority and used it to control the redistricting process, we classified the Virginia House as Republican for those two years in spite of the power sharing.
- After the Democrats won a fall 2001 special election, the power sharing ended, and the Democrats took sole control of the Washington House of Representatives.