State legislature

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State executive officials
State legislatures
A state legislature is a generic term referring to the legislative body of any of the country's 50 states. The formal name varies from state to state. In 24 states, the legislature is simply called the "Legislature," or the "State Legislature," while in 19 states, the legislature is called the "General Assembly." In Massachusetts and New Hampshire, the legislature is called the "General Court," while North Dakota and Oregon designate the legislature as the "Legislative Assembly."


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.


See also: State legislative elections, 2014

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 governorship and legislative chambers are controlled by the same political party.

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.

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 had 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."

Legend for State government trifecta visualization -- Figures 10 and 11

Legend for State government visualization with Presidential Voting -- Figures 19 and 20


Joint legislative committees

Ballot measures

See also: State legislatures measures on the ballot

See also