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Session Review

Alaska Legislative Session Roundup

Alaska's 2009 legislative session was full of strife between lawmakersand Gov. Sarah Palin, but resulted in little legislative action otherthan passage of the state budget.  Much of this session was spentdeliberating about what to do with the budget, the federal economicstimulus plan and funding. 

Georgia Legislative Session Roundup

Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue signed around 350 pieces of legislation into law, but took few steps forward as budget debates consumed the legislature. Some better bills included the nation's first mandatory reporting of food contamination tests by food processors, enacted after a Georgia plant released salmonella-laced peanuts. The passage of the budget bill (HB 119) trimmed the state's spending by $3 billion rather than raise taxes.

New Mexico 2009 Legislative Roundup

A number of progressive reforms were enacted in New Mexico this year.  Green jobs and energy bills were some of the biggest measures that passed, along with a death penalty repeal and an anti-bias law.

Virginia 2009 Legislative Roundup

Virginia made steady gains in the environment and clean energy, actedto further clean up payday lending practices, and used federal stimulusfunds to ward off deeper cuts to vital programs like health care,education and public safety.  However, the conservative-dominated Houseblocked a measure to expand the state's unemployment benefits- which are among the most meager in the country - and cost the statean additional $125 million in federal stimulus funds to the state.

Arkansas 2009 Legislative Roundup

Like most states, this year Arkansas faced a budget shortfall, yet there was enough money from previous surplus years to make balancing the budget much less painful than in most places.  The majority of the noted achievements relate to taxing and budgeting, though some important gains were made in other areas, principally in education and health care.  However, the majority of progressive gains were incremental.

Utah Legislative Session Roundup

Lawmakers adjourned Utah's 45-day regular session, having spent most of their time balancing the state's nearly $10.9 billion budget.  In order to keep Utah out of the red in 2009 and 2010, legislatures  had to cut state programs across the board and utilize $561 million from the Federal stimulus package.  Despite budget woes the legislature did find time to pass hundreds of pieces of legislation, including the most sweeping changes to the state's liquor laws in 40 years, which eliminated a much criticized system under which customers were required to fill out an application and pay a fee before being allowed to enter a bar.   All in all the 2009 legislative session in Utah produced mixed results.  Some bills produced small steps forward, but on the whole, the session fell short of creating necessary reform.

Wyoming Legislative Session Roundup

Despite a budget surplus of $257 million, Wyoming lawmakers failed to act substantively on big issues like health care reform, prison reform, and development of a coordinated energy policy, as WyoFile.com reports in its end of session recap.  Still, progressives made important gains in workers' compensation, health insurance regulation, and beat back an anti-gay "defense of marriage act," a voter ID initiative, and an anti-choice measure.  However, lawmakers failed to expand health care for kids and, most regrettably, passed laws making it easier for people convicted of domestic violence to regain their gun ownership.

Kentucky Legislative Session Roundup

This year was Kentucky's short session lasting only 30 days.  Like most states, patching a budget shortfall consumed much of the session.  Lawmakers were able to agree to a set of spending cuts and revenue increases that will fix the budget in the first year of their biennial spending plan.  The expectation is that the governor will call the legislature back in for a special session this summer to work out year two.  While recent sessions have been marked by partisan acrimony and end of session chaos, both problems moderated significantly this year allowing more work to get done.  The result was that lawmakers generally gave the session good reviews, though many key issues still failed to be resolved.

2008 Session Roundups: Louisiana

Louisiana
has had three sessions this year, with two specials before the regular
session that ended last month.  The state moved on a series of
significant measures to mixed results, but in the end controversy over
a legislative pay raise and the governor’s unanticipated line item
vetoes of over 200 legislative spending items dominated the news. 
Coming into the session the spotlight was focused on new Governor Bobby
Jindal who, at age 36, is the youngest current governor in the United
States. He also became the first non-white to serve as governor of
Louisiana since Reconstruction, and the first elected Indian American
governor in U.S. history.  Dubbed a "conservative reformer," he
achieved enough in his first session to earn Newt Gingrich's regard as "America's most transformational governor."

2008 Session Roundups: Virginia

For the first time in modern history the two houses of the legislature were controlled by different political parties, leading to gridlock on a number of issues and resulting in a relatively unproductive legislative session.  In fact, the majority of time clocked by legislators this year was in special session.  The regular session has been over since the middle of March, but lawmakers kept coming back to try to reach agreements on crucial issues.