Session Review

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. 

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.