NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

How Evenly Split State Legislatures Avoid Deadlock

June 5, 2001

As the Democrats prepare to take control of the U.S. Senate, senators on both sides of the aisle might want to consider how split legislatures have learned to function at the state level.

Political observers report that lawmakers in three states with deadlocked chambers -- Arizona, Maine and Washington -- avoided chaos through power-sharing arrangements. The three states reportedly enjoyed relatively peaceful legislative sessions through compromises.

  • With its Senate split 15-15, Arizona lawmakers divided leadership posts and committee chairmanships equally -- while also equalizing staff and office sizes.
  • When Maine's Senate wound up with 17 Democrats, 17 Republicans and one Independent, the Independent led discussions in crafting a power-sharing agreement much like Arizona's -- with committee chairmanships, staffs and offices divided equally.
  • Split 49-49, Washington's House crafted a deal with co-speakers, co-majority leaders and co-chairmen.
  • Two additional states emerged from last year's election with deadlocked chambers -- impasses which were resolved through special elections and party switching.

At least one of the nation's 99 state legislative chambers has emerged deadlocked in every election since 1984. Sixty-one state house and senate chambers have an even number of seats, which make such ties possible.

Source: Tom Squitieri, "States Show Split Legislatures Can Run Smoothly," USA Today, June 5, 2001.


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