During this year’s legislative session, Florida lawmakers passed, and Gov. Rick Scott is in the process of signing, a raft of ambitious new laws, from a measure ending teacher tenure to a proposed overhaul of the state’s Medicaid system that will shift almost all its patients to HMOs and other forms of managed care.
Combined with spending cuts that allowed lawmakers to balance the state’s budget without raising taxes, it was an ambitious set of accomplishments that sent their poll numbers south. But how does it compare with legislative action around the country?
Stateline, the news arm of the Pew Center on the States, is taking a look at the legislative sessions wrapping up around the country, and notes that Florida is one of 20 states operating under one-party Republican rule in the wake of the 2010 elections, where “GOP conservatives advanced an agenda that may change the face of state government for decades.” Democrats controlled the governor’s mansion and both houses of the Legislature in just four states, all of which were pretty deep blue to begin with:
Dan Smith, a political science professor at the University of Florida, says it is indisputable that Republicans were the big winners in 2011 legislatures, based on the laundry list of legislative victories they claimed. At the same time, he says, the huge differences in the laws approved in Republican- versus Democratic-run states underscores just how consequential state-level elections can be.
Meanwhile, in an op-ed in her hometown paper, former Republican state Sen. Nancy Argenziano argues that the this year’s legislative accomplishments are not what the GOP agenda ought to look like.