The power of the Republican tsunami which swept Democrats from control of the U.S. Senate will probably be felt more outside of Washington, D.C. — in the states themselves.
Republicans have taken over state governments in the most dramatic fashion in nearly a century, claiming both chambers in state legislatures in 29 states and holding at least 31 governors' seats.
This will give the GOP new-found power to enact conservative policies such as cutting taxes and spending, restricting abortions, setting new collective bargaining and pension rules for state employees, cutting funding for social programs, expanding gun rights, demanding drug tests for those on unemployment and food stamps, and battling Obamacare, The New York Times reports
Democrats hold full control over state legislative chambers in just 11 states, whereas Republicans control 23 states where they hold both houses of the legislature and the governor's mansion — and possibly 24 depending on how the Alaska vote count turns out.
Tim Storey, analyst at the National Conference of State Legislatures, told ABC-TV
, "It's [the Republicans'] strongest position in nearly a century."
The Times noted that Republican state victories are "a critical development at a time when most major policy has been coming out of states, rather than Washington." Individual states have taken the lead on issues such as the implementation of Obamacare, gay marriage, abortion, minimum wage, and the legalization of marijuana.
Slate gives the example of Texas
, where the GOP held both houses and the governor's seat before the election and bills were passed banning abortion after 20 weeks, abortion clinics were restricted, standardized tests for students were reduced, action was taken on tort reform, and legislation was passed requiring ID cards to vote.
"What they're going to do now is move forward a Republican set of policies — lower taxes and a focus on job creation," Storey told the Times. "It will be much harder to see expansions of Medicaid and there may be fewer restrictions for gun owners."
Before the midterms, the Times reports, Democrats held full power — both chambers of state legislatures and the governor's seat — in 13 states, but that number dropped to seven on Tuesday.
Pat Hickey, Republican leader in Nevada where Republicans now hold full power, told the Times the new GOP hegemony creates "a historic opportunity as well as challenge to be able to implement some of the reforms and remedies that we've argued for many sessions, if not decades," and speculated that these might include tax restructuring, education issues, and collective bargaining rules.
In Texas, expansion of school vouchers and charter schools is under consideration.
In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker also plans expanded school vouchers as well as tax cuts and drug tests for those receiving government assistance.
In Kansas, re-elected Republican Gov. Sam Brownback told ABC-TV, "Our way is holding down taxes, holding down regulations, controlling spending."
In Arkansas, where Republicans hold full control, legislation that expanded health coverage to 200,000 people using Medicaid money to buy private health insurance enacted under former Democrat Gov. Mike Beebe is expected to come under GOP fire.
In Iowa, Jenifer Bowen, executive director of Iowa Right to Life, told Slate, "We know Gov. [Terry] Branstad is eager to sign pro-life legislation."
Matthew Walters, Republican State Leadership Committee president, told the Times, "We are confident that once all the final recounts are done that we will be at a new all-time Republican high for chambers and a new all-time high of Republican seats in state legislatures."
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