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Every state (except Nebraska) has a bicameral legislature, meaning that the legislature consists of two separate legislative chambers (or "houses"); Nebraska has a unicameral, or one-chamber legislature. In all bicameral legislatures, the smaller chamber is called the "Senate" and is usually referred to as the "upper house." (Nebraskan legislators are referred to as "senators" for historical reasons; when the legislature was reorganized, the lower house was abolished and the Senate renamed). The smaller chamber usually, but not always, has the exclusive power to confirm appointments made by the governor and to try articles of impeachment. (In a few states, a separate Executive Council, composed of members elected from large districts, performs the confirmation function.) Members of the smaller chamber represent more citizens and usually serve for longer terms than members of the larger chamber, generally four years. In 41 states, the larger chamber is called the "House of Representatives." Five states designate the larger chamber the "Assembly" and three states call it the "House of Delegates." Members of the larger chamber usually serve for terms of two years. The larger chamber customarily has the exclusive power to initiate taxing legislation and articles of impeachment.
Partisan Control (1992-2013)
Praise or blame is extended to political parties for the economic, educational, health and other quality of life outcomes that result from the policies those parties enact into law. To better understand which political party enjoys power in each of the states, Ballotpedia has analyzed state government control from 1992-2013 using the concept of a "partisan trifecta". A partisan trifecta is defined as when a state's voters elect the same party to the Office of Governor as they do to control of the state's two legislative chambers.
The two major political parties claim that their policies will lead to better outcomes. What does the data show?
At Ballotpedia, we are exploring these issues in a three-part study, Who Runs the States.
Part 1: Partisanship
- See also: Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States, Partisanship Results, Partisan Control of State Legislatures
We identified the party holding each state's legislature for the majority of time in each year from 1992 through 2013. Across the 49 states (excluding Nebraska with partisan legislatures, there were 827 years (76.7%) of legislature under the unified control of one party and 251 years (23.3%) of split legislatures. Among the unified legislatures, the Democrats had 443 years (53.6%) of legislative control, and the Republicans had 384 years (46.4%).
The trifecta analysis over this period shows a notable trend toward one-party control of state governments. At the outset of the study period (1992), 18 states had trifectas while 31 states had divided governments. In 2013, only 13 states have divided governments, while single-party trifectas hold sway in 36 states, the most in the 22 years we studied. The number of states with trifectas doubled between 1992 and 2013.
The trifecta analysis also allowed us to identify seven states that have experienced dramatic changes in partisan state government control from the first 11 years of the study to the last 11 years of the study. Studying the partisan composition of state governments as we do also allows a clean way to assess whether a state is "moving red" or "moving blue".
|Figure 10: Visualization of Trifectas from 1992-2013 -- Alabama-Missouri|
|Figure 11: Visualization of Trifectas from 1992-2013 -- Montana-Wyoming|
|Figure 19: Visualization of State Partisanship (with Presidential voting) from 1992-2013 -- Alabama-Missouri|
|Figure 20: Visualization of State Partisanship (with Presidential voting) from 1992-2013 -- Montana-Wyoming|
|Infographic of Partisanship Results|